The overriding features of the garden this month are the rich colours of the autumn leaves and the bright red berries so loved by the birds. The birds have just about finished off the Pyracantha berries but the Cotoneaster still remain for the time being. I am sure these will be next.
Usually October sees the finest autumn leaf colour but this year the leaves seem to have held right into November. The high, gusty winds of the last few days (22/23 Nov) have removed a lot of the leaves but the stunning bronze shades of the flowering cherries (Prunus incisa ‘Paean’) still remain.
There are, however, sparks of interest all around the garden. The Fatsia japonica which sits in full shade just behind the house has been in full flower for a good month now with is large, white architectural flowers. These flowers, along with the ivy, are a great source of late autumn pollen and nectar for a wide range of insects and bees.
Still in full flower throughout the garden is Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily) in its range of intense red and pale pink flowers. Even in November it is still throwing up new fresh buds. In our recent visit to Ludlow we managed to pick up a new variety (to us) of Schizostylis ‘Pink Princess’ which is a delicate blush pink and we look forward to it settling well into the flower garden. The plant was already established enough to divide into three so we already have a reasonable clump for next season.
There are also a number of unseasonal surprises including Astrantia and Centranthus which have thrown up a second (or even third) flush of flowers having been cut back after flowering earlier in the year. The Centranthus (Valerian) in particular is looking very fresh and almost glows in the dim autumn light of the afternoon.
It is noticeable that some of the evergreen shrubs are putting on a last flush of new growth before the temperature gets too cold. Our variegated Pittosporum is looking particularly fresh and healthy at the moment. It is something we use often in our floristry and it is pleasing to see it growing so well. Also growing well are our recently planted Rosemary bushes which are putting on long straight stems that will come in useful for both attractive, fragrant wedding buttonholes as well as kitchen use over the coming months.
One of the major jobs for the winter months is to prune back and refresh all the roses around the garden. This is a significant piece of work and something that we spread over a number of weeks once the cold weather sets in and the roses have lost their leaves. All the climbers will be untied from their supports, the old stems taken right out and a few new stems selected on each plant to tie back in. Any remaining flowers heads will be taken off and all the small side branches will be pruned back to 3 or 4 buds making a neat and tidy look throughout the winter.
But the shrubs are not all going to sleep. Some of the winter flowering shrubs like Viburnum x Bodnantense are now coming into bloom. This is one of those shrubs that offers a wonderful waft of scent on those cold winter days as you wander around the garden.
Another main stay of the late summer and autumn garden are the hardy fushias. These really are low maintenance shrubs and continue producing the characteristic blooms way into November.
Rather unexpectedly the Japenese Quince (Cheanomeles) is already flowering, something we would not normally expect to see until after Christmas. Other spring flowering perennials like Bergenia are also already in bloom and looking fresh and bright.
Before the winter sets in a lot of of preparation has been going on to ensure that we have a wonderful flush of colour in the spring. Tubs have been emptied and planted up with tulips, crocus and topped with winter flowering Viola’s and Panies.
All of the dahlias have now been lifted from the old rose garden and the areas cleared. Tulips, English Iris, Crocus and Alliums have all been planted. We have planted a number of Allium cristophii which we hope will establish and create a real statement throughout the flower garden next year and beyond.
The biennials that were seeded last June and planted out in September (wallflowers, sweet william, foxgloves, sweet rocket, hollyhocks and campanula) are all establishing well and look like they are now big enough to survive the winter without problems. The hollyhocks have grown into large plants already but do seem to be suffering from a little rust. Hopefully this will not cause problems further down the line.
Things in the garden may be slowing but the greenhouse is full of newly seeded perennial plants that will over winter under protection and be planted out in the spring. These include Lupin ‘Noble Maiden’ (white) and Lupin ‘Chandelier’ (yellow), Aquilegia ‘Blue Star’, Delphinium ‘Black Knight’ and Achillea ‘Summer Berries’. Sown in September, these have all developed into good strong little plants for the winter.
Also in the greenhouse we continue to grow on our fresh herbs (coriander and rocket) for use in the kitchen.
In preparation for the cold winter weather we have now brought all the Agapanthus in pots into the cold greenhouse. The hardier, deciduous varieties with their narrow leaves will need little further attention until the spring but the non-deciduous larger leaved varieties will be covered in fleece or bubble wrap when we get very cold nights. We have also brought the Ornithogalum into the greenhouse to overwinter.
The non-hardy Chrysanthemum’s that have been flowering profusely outside in the flower garden have all been dug up, cut back and potted up in the greenhouse to overwinter.
In the orchard pretty much all of the apples have fallen now. Some remain on the Tydeman’s Late Orange and the Bramley for later picking. We have had a huge, wonderful crop and those that have not been used for cider making, putting in the freezer or been given away are unfortunately now falling to the ground and need to be cleared and put on the compost heap. I keep thinking I need to find someone that keeps a pig to help me out at this time of year.
The woodland walk is quiet at the moment but there are already signs of the promise of spring. We are slowly developing a snowdrop walk in this part of the garden complemented by cyclamen and beautiful yellow primroses that we were given from an Aunt’s garden on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
The yellow-stemmed willow that is close to this wooded area has now lost its leaves and stands straight and tall at the edge of the copse. This will look stunning right through the winter particularly on days where the weak winter sun shines through the bare stems of the copse.
We have also recently planted a new Acer palmatum in this sheltered area. This was one of those irresistible buys from our recent autumn visit to Hergest Croft Garden in Herefordshire. We have not been very successful with Acers in the past but the one in our neighbour’s garden looks stunning in the autumn so it is certainly possible to grow them in this part of the world. Fingers crossed this time.
As we move towards December the gardening will continue. Seventy new roses will shortly be arriving from Griffin Roses and these will be planted into the new flower garden. All the beds are now dug over and prepared to receive these bare rooted shrubs. Busy times ahead!