The month of November is a time to put in the work for a beautiful year ahead, says Sue Bradley, who is looking forward to tiptoeing through tulips next spring
Sue Bradley reveals what to do in the garden this month, plus our blogger’s seasonal column
The last of the summer colour may be draining away but there’s no need to be glum; instead make the most of the opportunity to plan ahead for fabulous displays throughout the coming year.
Start off with the trees and shrubs that provide the backbone to the garden and note any gaps that would benefit from being filled. November is a great month to put in bare-rooted plants while the soil is still reasonably warm; over the coming weeks their roots will start to spread and the entire plant will be ready to burst into life when the temperatures start to rise next year. And they’re a lot cheaper than buying potted equivalents next spring.
Be cautious, however, when replacing trees affected by disease, the sites of which could still be contaminated with infectious spores or, in the case of honey fungus, the long black rhizomorphs known to gardeners as ‘boot laces’.
November is a good month to take a good look at the perennials gradually dying back ready for their winter sleep. Dig up any that have been in for a couple of years and may be jostling for space with their neighbours and split them, either using back to back garden forks to force the stubborn ones apart or teasing more delicate specimens into smaller units with the hands.
Replant what’s needed and distribute other clumps in other parts of the garden or give them away to friends.
Any remaining gaps can be filled with bare-rooted perennials, often sold as a spider-like tangle of roots. Once in the soil their location should be marked so that their impending growth is not disrupted by a misplaced fork next spring.
All gardens benefit from a splash of colour in April and there’s no finer way to achieve this than by planting tulip bulbs. Buy them now and organise in drifts that will look stunning next year.
Tulips come in a multitude of colours and sizes and, with a bit of thought, can be planted to ensure a display that will last for several weeks, starting with single- -flowered earlies such as ‘Apricot Beauty’ and Tulipa kaufmanniana hybrids that bloom from March to early April.
Look for double-flowerers, ‘Triumph’ hybrids and the tiny Tulipa greigii to start at the beginning of April, Fosterianas for mid-spring and ‘Darwin’ hybrids, single lates, ‘Parrot’, double lates and lily-flowered cultivars to take over in May.
Tulips are one of the glories of spring but their leaves can quickly look untidy as they begin to die back. One way to disguise this fading foliage is to plant mound-forming geraniums nearby to draw the eye and gradually spread their attractive leaves over what’s gone before.
Early bloomers include the delicate G. phaeum, with its Victorian bonnet-style flower, while G. ‘Rozanne’ – voted the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant of the Century in 2013 – will follow up with large blue flowers from late May.
The dark days are on their way but, with a little planning and a bit of work, there’s lots to look forward to next year.