Gifts of the November garden
The November garden is particularly beautiful at sunrise.
Cool overnight temperatures and moist air paint the garden with sparkling ice crystals, turning everyday leaves, flowers and seedpods into miniature works of art.
A scattering of leaves from our neighbours’ Norway maple has settled against the dry-stone edging along the front garden, as if to capture the last bit of warmth from the stone. A ruffle of bright green periwinkle, with delicately frosted edges, softens the edge of the border. The sombre wine-red leaves are nondescript for most of the year, but their last hoorah sees the flat leaves twist and curl, with topsides painted in rich shades of copper and mahogany; the deeply ribbed backs are dusted with frost.
Leaves with a hairy surface specialize in catching the frost. The front border features a patch of big-root geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum) with deeply scalloped, olive green leaves that seem to hug the ground when the weather turns cold. On closer inspection, the fuzzy leaves are delicately coated with tiny ice crystals — the patch is a study of texture and interesting form.
Given a week or two of cold weather, the evergreen leaves will take on shades of red, orange and yellow, adding a carpet of warm colours to the winter garden. Brush against the leaves and they will release a gentle lemon scent.
Other perennial geraniums also prove their worth in this late season. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ refuses to shut down for the season, offering cheerful violet blue flowers, and the finely cut leaves of geranium sanguineum, known as bloody crane’s bill, are finishing the season in brilliant shades of red and orange.
The November garden holds pockets of promise, if you are willing to really open your heart and look for the magic.
A late-blooming stalk of echinacea, is a good example. Echinacea usually wind up their blooming cycle in the early fall, the chocolate brown, spiked seed heads that fill the border are a testament to the late season. Spurred on by warm October weather, a late crop of echinacea have decided to flower. The overnight frost has speckled the prickly orange cones with ice crystals. The edges of the purple/pink petals and matte green leaves look as if they’ve been painted with a fine brush dipped in white paint.
Once the sun hits the garden, tightly wrapped cylinders of fall blooming crocus (Crocus Speciousus) unwrap six folded silk petals and stretch out above a carpet of woolly thyme. I’d just about given up hope of seeing any sort of show from a handful of bulbs planted in late September, but here they are.
The silvery-blue petals are etched with delicate purple lines, the centre is a masterpiece of golden yellow and deeply divided saffron-orange styles — this exquisite creation was definitely worth the wait. Native to Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus, this autumn flowering crocus is said to multiply quickly and is suitable for naturalizing — I’m looking forward to the day when my dozen or so corms populate the garden with their charming flowers.
When the weather permits, November is good month for tidying up the garden. Pull any stray weeds, cut back perennials that will collapse with the first snow, remove spent annuals (fill the empty spaces with tulip and daffodil bulbs for spring colour).
Do note prune any shrubs or trees that bloom in the spring, next year’s buds are already in place.
Before putting away my pruners, I scoured the garden for flowers and branches for a simple bouquet. Even at this late date, the garden offers plenty of colour if you really look: the last of the dahlias (red and yellow), butterfly bush (deep purple), pink
shrub roses and hips, burning bush (brilliant red/pink leaves and tiny orange fruit), hydrangea blossom and leaves (dried, but with nice bronze colouring), stalks of lemon balm and peppermint (surprisingly green and fresh-looking and deliciously fragrant), and sedum Matrona (wine/red dried flower heads).
November is a month of mixed emotions: we are sorry to see the end of the gardening season, but vibrant foliage and crisp autumn air encourages us to get outside and make the most of our day. A brisk walk in the woods or an hour spent on fall garden chores is guaranteed to both energize and inspire.
A brave patch of echinacea, speckled with frost, makes a memorable show in the November garden.
An impromptu bouquet from the November garden includes dahlia, butterfly bush, pink shrub roses, burning bush, hydrangea, lemon balm and sedum Matrona.
Fall-blooming crocus (Crocus Speciousus) unwrap six folded silk petals and stretch out above a carpet of woolly thyme. This crocus is a good choice for naturalizing in the garden.
Big-root geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum) with deeply scalloped leaves coated with tiny ice crystals — the patch is a study of texture and form. Cold nights will turn the evergreen leaves red and orange for the winter.