“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”
The fleeting autumn season is most apparent in November; crunchy bronzed leaves scatter the ground, the air nips at your nose and the evening descends at lightening speed. Getting out into the garden can be a fresh respite, especially in the midst of lockdown 2.0…
Cut leaves off Christmas and Lenten rose type hellebores to make way for the flowers.
Lily bulbs can still be planted in pots this month. They can either be brought inside next spring to ‘force’ them into an early display or left outside to flower naturally in summer.
Now is the last chance to plant out winter bedding. You could try wallflowers, forget-me-nots, Bellis, Primula, and winter pansies.
Unless you are leaving dead stems for structure in the garden, or as habitats for over-wintering wildlife, you can continue to cut down faded herbaceous perennials.
Ornamental grasses and bamboos can be cut back and tidied up at this time of year.
Protect tender plants and bulbs – they need to be brought inside or into a heated greenhouse over the winter.
Protect alpines from the wet, if you have not done so already.
Remove stakes and other supports as final late-flowering herbaceous plants die down for the winter.
Tidy up leaves from around borders. They can be added to the compost heap or placed in separate bins to make leaf mould. Leaf mould makes an excellent soil improver and can also be used as a seed-sowing medium.
Protect newly planted trees, hedges and shrubs from wind and cold. A temporary netting windbreak is sufficient where there is no natural shelter. Straw, bracken, or something similar can be used to pack around deciduous plants and protect them from frost.
Lightly prune bush roses now, if not done already, as reducing their height will prevent wind rock. These plants are generally shallow-rooted and can become loose in the soil if buffeted by strong winds.
Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring – such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera – can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and neaten their appearance.
Help birds in winter by placing fat blocks in wire cages. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as birds such as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught.
Check bonfires before they are lit for sheltering and hibernating animals, such as hedgehogs, toads and frogs.
Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink, as well as birds.
Leave healthy herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.