November is tough. The clocks have gone back, the days are shortening rapidly, it rains (wettest month of the year) and it blows or else settles down into gloomy fog. But it can be a month with bright fresh days and then there is a sense of panic when we see the debris of this summer display still hanging around every flower bed.
There is colour everywhere, but it requires a little more effort to notice it. Rejoice in berries. Cotoneasters glisten red with berries and leaves on the turn, the spindle berries in the garden and hedgerows are like neon with pink and orange berries and bright red leaves: the best is on the M4 verge between here and Reading where it must struggle with poor soil.
The mountain ashes, rowans, service trees are all Sorbus and members of the Rosaceae family and should be weighted down with red, yellow or orange berries. No wonder new gardeners struggle with plant names when the same plant can have so many different proper and local names. The converse is the experienced gardener can show off the multi-various names he knows for the same thing!
Brightest of all are the hollies with their glistening red berries set against the shiny dark green leaves; very seasonal. There is a fine specimen by the path in the graveyard – but will the berries last until Christmas?
To work - the first priority is to lift anything that is not hardy and store it in shed, garage, greenhouse, conservatory or cellar if you are lucky. This will include perennials that were place outside for a summer display such as geraniums, fuchsias and tropical things like cannas. Dahlia tubers need lifting and storing carefully to keep them ready to regrow next year. A few cannas and dahlias might survive if the winter is mild, the soil is free draining and they were planted deep, but a cold wet winter and waterlogged soil is killer for many of the borderline plants.
Most vegetable gardeners will have cleared up by now. The rotten greenery of tomatoes, beans and other harvested plants can all go for compost and the canes and the other paraphernalia for growing cleaned and put away. When the plot is clear there is less chance of disease being carried over from year to year and it is easy to dig over burying debris and leaving it tidy.
When the weather is fine leaf sweeping and digging are both really worthwhile garden tasks with the added benefit of building a few muscles, breathing in some good fresh air and burning a few calories.
Happy Gardening, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Tuesday 20 November 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Annual General Meeting followed by wine and nibbles. Do join us to hear about what we have done this year and our plans and ideas for 2019. We also need stimulating with new ideas for next year: talks, visits, workshops etc. We are not too proud to copy the ideas of others!