Jackie Power’s gardening tips for a bracing November
Geraniums, shrubs, and Mahonias are still up for a cloudy, chilly month – so get planting!
Low cloud, grey skies and chilly days characterise November’s weather – with occasional bright and clear conditions.
This is the likely seasonal pattern of wintery days ahead.
Autumn leaf colour is not spectacular this year (summer was cooler than usual and heat makes the red tints in autumn). Leaves are in the yellow range – still beautiful but generally without the fiery reds and oranges. Field maples are a buttery yellow; London Planes have bronze tints. The run-away climber Virginia creeper always turns iridescent red whatever the summer temperatures.
Leaves need clearing regularly; small piles can be used in the garden as mulch to protect tender plants from frosts; and to provide cover for wildlife. Composting is the best way to dispose of leaves, but they take a year or so to break down and need dedicated bins. Small amounts can be put in with the general compost (leaf material should not dominate the mix).
Until the first frosts many autumn and late summer plants will remain in bloom. Geraniums are still flowering; roses are now in the habit of blooming long into winter. Rosemary has produced another flush of little blue flowers, giving the bees a late source of nectar.
Shrubs which provide a backdrop to the late autumn/winter garden include Myrtle, Mahonia aquifolium and Viburnum tinus. Myrtle is a rather talented and mysterious shrub; it can reach 5 metres (the size of a small tree) but is a slow grower, has glossy dark green aromatic leaves – and when crushed smell similar to Rosemary or Eucalyptus (without the heavy camphorous note). Myrtle has delicate white fragrant flowers in summer – followed by purple-blue berries.
Myrtle is steeped in folklore; it was a sacred herb linked to the Greek Goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite; planted next to Temples and used in funeral rites and wedding bouquets. Myrtle is used in Aromatherapy and reputed to have medicinal properties – useful to calm anxiety and stress; for the respiratory system and also urinary tract. (Caution: if unwell always seek advice from a qualified health care professional; do not self medicate with herbs/plants). Grow Myrtle in a container or a sheltered spot in the garden – a special shrub with fascinating qualities.
The striking Mahonia is instantly recognisable with its holly-like foliage and clusters of yellow flowers borne on arching stems. Viburnum is a large evergreen shrub producing white flowers in winter through to spring; followed by blue-black berries.