By Geoff Carr
What picture comes to your mind’s eye when you think of the month of November? Bitingly cold, frosty mornings? Ever shortening days, wet and windy weather, trees shedding their leaves? None of these images are particularly uplifting or positive and it’s no wonder we look forward to November the 5th and the warmth of a bonfire and the brightness of fireworks. The thought of sparkly tinsel and twinkling Christmas lights are on the horizon too. Thoughts of gardens and gardening have probably been put to the back of your mind, not to be retrieved until the first glimmers and stirring of spring.
There are however, early winter, garden related activities that can be done in this most unpromising of months. A couple of very rewarding activities involve taking a critical look at your garden before heading off to look at some of the fabulous ‘Big House’ gardens that surround us in Gloucestershire. I find that black and white, winter photographs of a garden really do help me to see the strengths and weaknesses of its structural planting and features. If the photo’s of your garden reveal weaknesses such as little or no evergreen planting or the opportunity for a focal point (a sculpture, bird bath, striking plant shape, emphasised view), a visit to a well established garden might well provide inspiration.
Many people regard this season as the end of the gardening year, but really it should be seen as the beginning. Work done now will lay the foundations for a better garden next year. We all make mistakes when planning a border and now is the perfect time to move plants around. Start with the big plants and take as much soil with the roots as you can. Mulch them and water well when not frosty; and continue watering until this time next year.
More practical garden tasks for this time of year include planting next year’s tulip bulbs. Make a hole 4 times the bulbs height and put a generous sized fistful of horticultural grit into the bottom of the hole. The grit will stop the bulb sitting in cold, sodden rot inducing soil. Other seasonal jobs are the clearing of ponds of autumn debris, collecting leaves for making next winters leaf mould, manure vegetable beds, taking cuttings to increase your stock of plants, planting bare-rooted roses, trees and shrubs, cleaning and disinfecting the greenhouse and used pots, cleaning bird boxes of old nesting material, checking tree ties and stakes, (they can be either too tight or falling off).
The two photographs shown here illustrate how evergreen structural planting can give winter interest and how a simple focal point comes into its own in winter.
Geoff Carr @GeoffCarr2