The Gar­den in Novem­ber

Landscape (UK) - - Contents -

Kari-Astri Davies is de­cid­ing what needs tidy­ing this au­tumn and is also pre­par­ing for the months to come

The glo­ri­ous flush of bright yel­low leaves on birches and hazels sur­round­ing the gar­den is fad­ing. As they fall, fewer and fewer are left to light up the bar­ing branches. Drifts of multi-hued leaves on the lawn form waves of wind-scur­ried flot­sam, but the horn­beam hedge will cling to its shriv­elled clat­ter­ing leaves un­til spring.

Pri­or­ity tasks

The morn­ing walk now is about as­sess­ing what needs se­lec­tive tidy­ing and what will be left over the win­ter as plant pro­tec­tion and refuge for bugs. Some of these may not be quite so ben­e­fi­cial as over­win­ter­ing la­dy­birds.

Once the peonies have died down, I will en­deav­our to cut and burn all the leaves, as a num­ber of plants seem to be af­flicted with pe­ony wilt. This causes black­ened leaves, and few or no flow­ers de­velop. Burn­ing the leaves re­duces the op­por­tu­nity for over­win­ter­ing spores. The plants were sprayed with Rose Clear a few times in late spring, which seemed to stem the prob­lem a bit. In the grass bed, I will leave pen­ste­mon ‘Fire­bird’ and the grasses to pro­tect them in win­ter. They will not be cut back un­til mid or late March, de­pend­ing on the weather. Suc­ces­sive frosts have downed dahlia fo­liage and re­duced ten­der bed­ding plants to sorry ghosts of their for­mer selves. Te­tra­panax pa­pyrifer ‘Rex’, which is re­port­edly hardy to ap­prox­i­mately -10°C, has made real head­way this year, de­spite the harsh win­ter. The big­gest leaves mea­sure 36in (90cm) across. The stout leaf struts will start to buckle and break af­ter a few more frosts. The fail­ing leaves will be used as tem­po­rary swad­dling, and then the main stem will be cov­ered with bub­ble wrap. How­ever, for now, he still stands tall.

Lay­er­ing bulbs

Bulb ‘lasagne’ is a term I do not care for much; it seems some­how lumpen. A tri­fle or a con­cate­na­tion would be bet­ter. But what­ever the term used, it is all about lay­er­ing var­i­ous bulbs in pots to give a rolling spring show. On the bot­tom layer are tulips. Last to flower, they pro­vide the fi­nale. Tulips are planted tra­di­tion­ally on Lord Mayor’s Day in early Novem­ber. Later plant­ing is said to re­duce the risk of fun­gal dis­ease. I am of­ten a bit later, even plant­ing them into De­cem­ber. This year, I had in­tended us­ing rusty pur­ple tulip ‘Dom Pe­dro’ and ‘Orange Favourite’ to­gether. As usual, I did not check flow­er­ing times. He is late April to early May, whereas ‘Orange Favourite’ is mid May. Never the twain shall meet; or pos­si­bly only in pass­ing. I had also or­dered highly scented, orange lily-flow­ered tulip ‘Bal­le­rina’, which has a sim­i­lar flow­er­ing time to ‘Dom Pe­dro’. ‘Orange Favourite’ can go else­where. The next layer will be a pale yel­low and fra­grant jon­quil

“Dull Novem­ber brings the blast, Then the leaves are whirling fast” sara Co­leridge, ‘The Gar­den Year’

daf­fodil, ‘Pipit’, from Peter Nyssen, then a hy­acinth new to me, the multi-stemmed, looser-look­ing ‘Blue Fes­ti­val’. Above them comes ‘Mus­cari Artist Colour Card’, which ap­par­ently is dis­tinctly green in bud, con­trast­ing with the blue. At the top will be cro­cus ‘Orange Monarch’, a change from the usual ‘Cream Beauty’ or ‘Blue Pearl’, and plump, pale blue iris ‘Sheila Ann Ger­maney’, which will be first in flower. That should pro­vide colour from Fe­bru­ary into May. When I cleared the green­house for over­win­ter­ing plants last month, the three sum­mer res­i­dent amaryl­lis had their leaves cut back and were re-pot­ted in small­ish pots, necks well above the soil. Be­ing ten­der, these are now in­side. They will not flower for Christ­mas, but will give me a full red trum­pet blast show in a few months’ time.

Re­wards for ef­fort

Rak­ing the gravel drive and paths is a te­dious but worth­while job. Get­ting rid of moul­der­ing fallen leaves and per­sis­tent weeds smartens ev­ery­thing up. I will be check­ing on the pre­pared hy­acinths, ‘Delft Blue’. Once their noses are suf­fi­ciently up, I will move them out of the cool, dark lean-to and into the con­ser­va­tory. I will not lift or mulch any dahlias, ex­cept D. cam­pan­u­lata, which I shall lift. I lose some in the ground over win­ter and some come back. It gives me space to try more.

Left to right: Horn­beam hedges hold their leaves un­til spring; leaf lit­ter pro­vides a win­ter home for la­dy­birds; build­ing bulb lay­ers for a con­tin­u­ous spring show.

Left to right: A pe­ony seed­pod; the late au­tumn flow­ers of Te­tra­panax pa­pyrifer; burn­ing leaves in­fected with fun­gus to re­duce the pro­duc­tion of air­borne spores; ten­der amaryl­lis bulbs need to stay in­doors.

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