November has been kind to Edinburgers. We’ve had plenty of blue skies, no winds, and several days of good hard frost to zap the molluscs, as well as some rain to keep the soil moist. As autumn slips uncertainly into winter, every day has brought new sights through the window: golden trees that gradually defoliate to become stark against the bright clear sky, a lawn of blue-white frozen grass, the emergence of the first tiny Helleborus niger buds, and that most satisfying of things, a steady gathering of terracotta pots freshly planted with bulbs and top-dressed with grit.
Looking Good in November
It would be easy to say, ‘not much’, for the dahlias have blackened and gone, the roses pruned back, the sweetpeas and salvias have been thoroughly frosted, and even the Cyclamen hederifolium that have been cheering the area beneath the cherry tree are beginning to tire, though there are another few weeks in them yet. Yet I still feel a great deal of satisfaction when I look out of the window at both front and back gardens. All of the annuals have been cleared out of the beds, the edges cut, and the bulbs planted, leaving the ground neat and tidy for winter. My pots are neatly top-dressed, and indeed labelled (a first for me!), and arranged tidily around the edges. The garden is not pretty, but it is under control, with a great deal to look forward to as the first bulbs emerge.
Gardening jobs for November
1) November is the month in which I plant tulip bulbs. We have usually had a frost to help wipe out tulip disease by this time. It is also not too late to plant any other bulbs that were not planted during October, especially those that flower later in spring, such as alliums and late narcissi.
2) After November’s first frost, the time is ripe to attend to dahlias. I wait until the leaves have blackened and the frost has sent them into dormancy. Those to be overwintered I then mulch heavily to protect against wet and cold. This year I am going to experiment with a layer of shredded paper that will be covered over with home-made compost. Those that need lifting (if, for example I wish to reposition them for next year), will be hung upside down for a couple of weeks and then stored in our cold back corridor in bags of dry material such as sawdust, shredded paper or dry compost.
3) I have just spotted the first buds of my Christmas rose, the beautiful and delicate Helleborus niger. Tomorrow I will carefully cut back the hellebore’s old foliage to prevent black leaf spot and allow the white flowers to shine through.
4) We had our first hard frost last week, so I made sure to lag taps and waterpipes with fleece, bubble wrap or polystyrene caps, and disconnect and empty the hosepipes.
5) November is the month in which I prune roses for winter. I shorten stems by about a third to the first outward facing bud to prevent windrock, and cut back and tie in my climbing roses too.
6) In October, I emptied my leaf-mould bin and spread the delicious, crumbly leaf mould around my cyclamen and hellebores. With November’s huge leaf-drop both in our back green and on our tree-lined street, I was able to refill the leaf-mould bin with fallen leaves.
7) Although the garden is now empty of flowers, November is a perfect time to get out and go foraging for all the best that autumn has to offer: acorns, pine cones, mossy sticks and berry-laden branches make beautiful indoor decorations. I collect seedheads from the garden too, but always leave some in situ for overwintering insects.
8) November is a good time to cover or store garden furniture. I have put mine in the back passageway, where it will stay dry and frost-free until the first warm days of next spring.
An embarrassment of containers
My annual over-enthusiasm in ordering bulbs left me short of pots and containers in which to plant them, once again. Thus I was on the lookout for pots, or any suitable containers I could convert. While staying with my parents last month, I found two old wooden crates, which my father said I might take away with me. To convert them into well-draining tubs, I drilled several holes in the bottom of them, then lined them with old pet-feed sacks in which I had made cuts for drainage. Each one was able to hold over 30 bulbs.
Then I found these on eBay…
…a haul of over 40 vintage terracotta pots, some bearing the famous ‘Sankey’ marque (and others looking suspiciously like B&Q’s finest).
The haul included a large and slightly wobbly terracotta urn.
I also planted a good many tulip bulbs in the ground around both gardens.
Finally, here are some views of both gardens back and front:
The back garden, with furniture cleared away for the winter, edges cut, tender perennials moved closer to the house, and sweetpeas left in situ to shelter the Salvia ‘Amistad’ from the worst of the frosts. Christmas tree is inching its way towards the house…
And here follows the front garden, with pots, tubs and window boxes planted up with bulbs, the latter to replace the ones still bursting with erigeron and apple mint once they become exhausted.