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Last Month in My Garden, November 2016

The month ended with really cold weather but on November 1st we had had no frost and I was still picking runner beans – most unusual. Each time I picked dahlias I wondered if they would be the last of the year. I have an unnamed pale yellow alstroemeria, about 30 cm tall, which is a good cut flower and was giving a late show. A slight frost did come on November 3rd but did not affect other flowers of early November, which included some “unsung heroes” – plants that had been providing interest for months. Geranium ‘Elworthy Eyecatcher’ started flowering in June but was still looking good; it stood out throughout October and lasted until mid-November. Other autumn geraniums were ‘Rise and Shine’, ‘Azure Rush’, ‘Pink Penny’ and ‘Havanna Blues’ – all cultivars of Geranium wallichianum. ‘Elworthy Eyecatcher’ is also thought to be a hybrid of G. wallichianum, possibly with G. endressii.


Geranium ‘Elworthy Eyecatcher’

Heuchera ‘Bronze Beauty’ is about 60 cm. in diameter and has a fairly prominent position in the garden, in sun and under a young hornbeam; in the summer I thought of taking it out because it was repeatedly wilting. I have established a second plant in shade; although it wilted when very dry, it has generally thrived but is more green than the plant in sun. The latter has looked good since the summer drought finished and began a new season of flowering.

Heuchera ‘Bronze Beauty’

Honey fungus

In the last week of October, a mass of fungi appeared in an area where a weeping willow was felled several years ago. I was suspicious that they were honey fungus: they resembled photos online but did not smell like honey and I could find no black “bootlaces” in the soil. Conveniently, it was at the time of Western Counties’ monthly meeting so I took some for the “Ident” table. They were honey fungus; not good news but I was pleased to get an expert opinion. The RHS website informs me that holly, pear and magnolia are particularly susceptible; the toadstools are close to an excellent old ‘Conference’ pear and young Ilex aquifolium and Magnolia wilsonii. It is not practical to try to bury protective membranes in the ground and the rhizomorphs can travel 30 m so I shall just have to hope for the best.

The willow used to stand at one end of a depression which had been a rubbish tip (dug out before I moved here); I dammed it to make my pond/bog-garden. Recently, it has contained less water than in any other autumn. This was masked by the foliage of Caltha palustris and Lythrum salicaria but, when the first died back and the latter were cut down (in the hope that they would not seed), no water was revealed. I cleared dead growth and took the opportunity to weed the area but it did look sad. There used to be a deeper channel through the centre, which had filled with mud, so a new one has been dug; water drained into it immediately. The empty-looking spaces either side should green-up in the spring but I have removed some of the kingcups and water buttercups to give a new planting opportunity!

After rain a few days later, the view was much better and really heavy rain has returned it to a pond.

Bog Nov. 2nd

Nov. 10th.

Nov. 21st.


Winter digging has also been carried out for vegetables – the patch that recently grew tomatoes. I use a 3-year rotation of beds, one plot being thoroughly dug each winter, with garden compost incorporated all over. In the spring, more compost is put into trenches/planting holes for hungry plants such as beans, tomatoes and courgettes. As much ground as possible is covered in black plastic to control weeds. I have tried no-digging methods on ornamental areas; mulching with grass cuttings was the first. This led to stinging nettles and convolvulus spreading below the grass duvet; they had not read the bit about plants dying from lack of light. I do not dig most of the beds because they are full of bulbs and I rarely have time to empty a border and start afresh. I do mulch, after weeding, mainly in late autumn to early spring, with material from the shredder. The garden produces large piles of waste material and after shredding it is bagged to rot down. The product depends on how woody the waste was and how long it is left; when clearing borders recently I have used dozens of bags. The mulch does suppress weeds and makes those that succeed easier to remove; an excellent invention!

Posted by Margaret Stone

Vist Margaret's garden on one of the NGS open days.

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