Gifts of the No­vem­ber gar­den

The Welland Tribune - - Arts & Life - Theresa Forte is a lo­cal gar­den writer, pho­tog­ra­pher and speaker. You can reach her by call­ing 905-351-7540 or by email at there­sa_­forte@sym­pa­tico.ca. THERESA FORTE Spe­cial to The St. Catharines Stan­dard

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.

THERESA FORTE SPE­CIAL TO THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

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.

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