Magnificent late autumn days

November days are becoming visibly shorter and colder weather conditions prevail, but so far this Autumn we have enjoyed magnificent days with temperatures several degrees above average for the time of year. Late autumn flowers looked superb; lawns recovered, and we harvested the abundance of vegetables and stored for winter use and soil was readily workable for digging over. The one downside has been an infestation of whitefly, that have multiplied in the warm, humid conditions.

Autumnal leaves final display

In November, leaves reach their peak of autumn colours, which is over all too soon, as winds and rains come cascading down, putting an end to the final display. However, now is the time for winter-coloured stems and evergreen plants to come into their own to give a backbone to the garden. Many have interesting leaf shapes from green to variegated colours and offer attractive flowers and some winter flowering varieties are deeply scented.

Feed the birds

This is also the time for berries and fruit to enjoy the spotlight in your garden. Crab apples are superb this year and it makes an ideal specimen tree and is suitable for small gardens. The fruit ripens into glorious shades of golds, reds, oranges, and pinks and is great for making jelly, or leave them on the trees for the winter birds to feed on.

Blackbird feasting on Crab Apples

Advice from our horticulturists

As herbaceous perennials start to fade and die back, the Van Hage horticulturalists leave the seedheads on to provide winter food for the birds. They also prefer not to cut back old stems until the spring as they provide insulation and protect next year’s new growth, which is lying just below the soil surface, from the coldest weather. They recommend removing any wet, soggy leaves that could cause the crown of plants to rot and cutting back any plants that need support.

Formal or informal hedging

Plant hedging is more natural than fencing and provides privacy and can act as a windbreak or be used to screen off part of a garden. Hedging can be clipped, and either formal, or informal, with arching branches covered in summer flowers or mixed planting with evergreen and deciduous plants. You could also add roses for colour and fragrance, or philadelphus with clusters of creamy white scented flowers in June and July. Evergreens are ideal for hedging, dense and green throughout the winter. New growth of photinia provides bright splashes of red. Yew, holly, and Japanese holly, or Ilex crenata, is similar to Box, in leaf shape and habit but grows without the problem of caterpillar and blight. Privet and Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica) are also great tor creating hedges or for a low growing decorative hedge round different sections of your garden.

Lavender Hidcote (left) and Mock Orange 'Philadelphus' (right)

Plant Lavender Hidcote dwarf, which grows to approximately 60 centimetres but needs a sunny position. For an informal look include cotoneaster lacteus, which has glossy dark green foliage, large clusters of white flowers in spring and attractive red berries in late summer, and also berberis, Chaenomeles with beautiful cup shaped flowers and Forsythia for a mass of yellow flowers in March and April.

Plant now for glorious spring colours

Choose tulips for glorious spring colours. November is the best month for planting tulips whether in tubs and containers or in borders. Large, showy, and available in a wide range of colours, orange, scarlet and yellow or softer pastel colours. Whites and bicolours look superb planted within a blue flowering mist of forget-me-nots, pansies, and violets. Spring daisies are great companion plants to wallflowers and polyanthus in a wide range of colours.

Think colour, height, flowering times

When selecting bulbs think about colours, heights, and precise flowering times. The tulip provides about three weeks of colour so select early, mid-season and late varieties for continuous colour from March to end May. For impact in containers, plant two layers, known as lasagne planting, with the top layer at least ten cm below the soil’s surface. Use one variety per pot for the brightest display after the winter’s gloom.

Lift and store dahlia tubers

Dahlias have given us a fantastic show of colours all summer, but now is the time to lift dahlia tubers because if they are left in the ground over the winter, the cold and wet conditions can kill them, especially in heavy damp loam soils. Cut back the stems, lift the tubers and leave them to dry for a couple of hours. After giving them a good clean, store the tubers in boxes in a frost free shed or garage. The tubers need to be placed with the hollow stems facing downwards so any moisture drains out rather than rotting and surround them with straw, dry leaves, dry compost, or sand. We recommend you regularly inspect them over winter to check for signs of rotting.

Pink Dahlia 'Jowey Winnie' in flower

Prepare for winter

Prepare your garden for winter and check for anything likely to be affected by cold, wind or waterlogging. This is the time to plant trees and shrubs. New season roses are available. November is also the month to plant out soft fruit including black currants, gooseberries, white & red currants, and raspberry plants. Tidy up your strawberry plants, removing any dead leaves and runners. Start pruning apple and pear trees between now and February. Apply ‘glue bands’ to the trunks of fruit trees as they prevent wingless female winter moths from climbing the stems and laying eggs in the branches. Prune your roses to prevent wind rock from destabilising the plant and loosening the root system. We recommend cutting plants back by a third now, and then a further third next spring. When replanting tubs and containers re-use the old compost as garden mulch in beds and borders.

 Strawberry Tree 'Arbutus Unedo'

November plant highlights

Arbutus Unedo, the Strawberry tree, is a compact slow growing shrub, or small tree with reddish brown bark, which produces clusters of white ball shaped flowers, followed by fruit which don’t look like strawberries at all! Eleagnus ebbingei is an evergreen with silver bronze foliage and in November it produces very small greenish white bell-shaped flowers with a wonderful fragrance. Skimmia japonica rubella produces clusters of pale pink buds which open out to scented white flowers in spring. This plant thrives in well-drained lime free soil with some organic matter in light shade. Other highlights include viburnum davidii, a small evergreen shrub with strong ribbed oval foliage which grows well in sun or light shade in well-drained soil. Erica carnea or winter flowering heather is a dwarf shrub which keeps flowering even in cold, windy conditions. Plant these up in containers with Nandinias for winter interest.

Skimmia Japonica Rubella

Watering reminder

The Van Hage team remind you to keep an eye on potted evergreens, topiary, and conifers to see if they need watering. Although the weather can be wet, due to the umbrella effect, the water can cascade over the edge of the container and doesn’t always reach the roots. They also need a monthly feed.

A houseplant for every room

If the weather is wet outside, let’s turn our attention to houseplants. Over recent years, houseplants have become increasingly popular and the secret to successful growing is providing the exact conditions each one requires. Talk to the knowledgeable Van Hage team for advice as there is a right plant for every room, all requiring different light, heat and humidity levels. Houseplants are available in a wide range of leaf shapes, sizes and colours and some produce amazing flowers such as the orchid family and bromeliads and they all improve air quality.

Popular Palms

One of the most popular houseplants is the palm. With its architectural elegance it gives a tropical feeling in all settings, whether traditional or contemporary and in offices. Some popular palms include Chameodorea elegans originating from the rain forests of southern Mexico and northern Honduras. The name Chameodorea comes from Greek and means gifts due to the easily reachable fruits. Great for removing airborne household toxins, it is highly air purifying and easy to care for in indirect light. In dry conditions stand the plant on a tray of damp pebbles to increase humidity. Small varieties are available and a 5cm plant looks good in a bottle garden. 

Native Madagascan Palms

Areca palms were first mentioned by Hermann Wendland in 1878, when travelling to Madagascar. They require a bright position away from direct sunlight. With all palms, to prevent browning leaf tips in dry conditions, stand on a tray of damp pebbles or use moss raked from the lawn for a natural look, providing no chemicals are used on the lawn. Palms need feeding every two weeks in summer and once a month in winter. Do not position them near radiators or in cold draughty spaces as they need a minimum night temperature of 10-13 degrees Celsius.

Kentia Palm (left) and Areca Palm (right)

Majestic Kentia Palms

Majestic Kentia palms, endemic to Lord Howe Island, off the East Coast of Australia, were discovered by a horticulturalist, on Cooks second voyage to the Pacific in the 1770s at the same time as the Norfolk Island pine was found. With arching feather like fronds with green leaves, the Kentia palm was very popular in Victorian times. It is easy to care for in bright indirect light, watering from the top in winter to keep the compost slightly moist, with more water needed in spring and summer.
Until next month, whether in the garden or looking after houseplants whilst sheltering from the weather – enjoy!

Best wishes from the Van Hage team