Cheshire Life: November 2018
Woodsmoke, walks and gathering-in are the essence of November – a month that flies by like the geese congregating here for winter. The harvest season might be over, but the hedgerows still hold a trove of ripe, bloom-covered sloes that when picked, pricked with a pin and steeped in gin make a lusciously warming winter tonic.
There’s the autumn leaves that drift like wind-blown confetti on lawns and at the feet of fences to collect too. Gathered together they turn into a rich and crumbly soil-improver that boosts the water-holding capacity of dry, sandysoils and encourages worms that aerate sticky clays. Plant Of The Month: Euphorbia x pasteurii With their whorls of evergreen leaves, spurges are stunning architectural plants thriving in shelter either by the house or in the dappled shade under a tree. Biggest of them all is Euphorbia x pasteurii, a hybrid of the widely grown Honey Spurge E. mellifera. It has larger leaves and a sturdier constitution growing into a shoulder-high dome of glossy foliage. Like its parent the lime-yellow flowers put the zing into spring and have a sweet honey scent. Prune after flowering, cutting the oldest fifth of stems to the ground, and as with all spurges wear long sleeves and gloves to keep the irritant sap off of your skin. Make leaf-mould by packing leaves into empty compost bags with a few airholes punched in the sides with a fork or make a corral from chicken wire and pile the leaves inside. Keep them moist and they’ll be ready to use next year. To speed up the process rake leaves onto the lawn and collect with a mower as chopping makes composting twice as fast. After tidying through borders, cut weatherbeaten stems right down to the ground, tickle over the soil with the tines of a fork to remove foot-marks and leave an attractive finish.
It’s the ideal time to plant tulip bulbs as well as bareroot trees, hedges and roses – they’ll quickly establish as the soil is still warm from summer.
Feed high-fat peanuts and suet treats to birds to fatten them up and see them through winter and put out proprietary hedgehog feed or pet food to help hedgehogs about to go into hibernation. Collect any mummified fruit that’s still in the branches of apples, pears and plums. They are infected with ‘brown rot’ and collecting stops the disease from spreading.
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