In The Garden: November

21st October 2011

Winter Delights

Tips for this month's gardening from National Garden Gift Vouchers

November is, effectively, the start of the gardener’s New Year. Leaves will have finally fallen and most plants will have become dormant. It is the best time to make a new start, to rectify the mistakes of the past season or to try something new.

Whilst the glories of summer have long since passed there should still be plenty of interest in your garden. Look out for the bright berries of the Cotoneaster or for the colourful evergreen foliage of the various Holly varieties. Remember, though, that only the female holly carries the berries and therefore you do need a male somewhere in the near vicinity in order to pollinate them.

Believe it or not there are several plants that can provide fragrance to the garden even during the cold, usually dormant winter months. Beginner gardeners often tend to overlook the winter months but there are a selection of winter plants that will help extend the scented theme all year round. Try the lovely Mahonia, plant of the month from PlantforLife this October. It is an evergreen shrub that flowers from November through to March and produces long-stalked, bright yellow flowers which have a scent like Lily of the Valley. Their berries, unlike those of the holly, can be made into jam. Mahonias are easy to grow in the sun or shade, and are not that fussy about soil conditions, although they might not enjoy a location that is boggy.

Any winter flower looks good in a group backed by a Mahonia. Hellebores, snowdrops, winter honeysuckle, even the common winter jasmine… all will look better in the company of the Mahonia's strong leaves. Fashionable tropical-style plantings can take a dash of Mahonia, but they also suit traditional borders.

With that in mind, borders and beds will need a bit of TLC this month. Cut back all dead foliage, remove weeds and dig the beds over, using compost if you have some, to help the soil for next year. Continue to plant spring flowering bulbs in borders – and you might want to think about covering the beds with bark mulch to keep them looking good and healthy over the winter months. As temperatures continue to drop, any plants that are frost tender should definitely be given some protection now.

November is the month for bonfires and getting rid of all the previous season’s rubbish. Do take care when having a bonfire, though, and make sure that there are no hedgehogs or other animals buried inside preparing for winter hibernation.

Leaves should never be burnt – instead, use them to make leaf mold. Simply fill black bin liners with the leaves, pressing them down firmly. When they are full, tie the tops and puncture the sides with a garden fork to allow excess moisture to escape. Then hide them away in a corner for a year or two.

This month is also when gardeners start to think about Christmas presents – for other people and themselves – which is when National Garden Gift Vouchers come into their own, giving everybody the freedom to choose the plants and the accessories that they really want for their outside living space.

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