The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

November needs the right plant, right place, right time


Click for larger imageIt’s just over three years since I planted a special part of the garden to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. It’s a border I planned the summer I was expecting her and every manic nesting instinct went into it: I combed through books for the perfect autumn performers. When we came home from the hospital I remember standing with her at the window and telling her what I’d done. I love to see these schizostylis and asters shine every October — pity the penstemons fell at the first hurdle that same winter, but all the other plants I put down for her are as strong and lively as she is.

What I now see, though, is that only the schizostylis and the aster Alma Potschke are true October performers. My aster Frikartii Monch starts to flag by Halloween, just as her birthday arrives. To make this border really sing, I need November stars, but what? I tried, but I can’t love grasses — they always put me in mind of an unmown roundabout.

November is such a strange month. Although it’s fading the garden holds onto some of the brightness of late summer and isn’t ready to say goodbye to all that, and I think that’s its melancholy. Because November is neither here nor there, some flowers to me feel wrong in the garden, even if they look good. I’ve been amazed at how strongly the repeating roses flower, even into November. But — and this is from a rose addict — the roses look wrong now. They arrive a bit too late and a bit too overdressed, just as the party’s winding down and everyone else is drifting off.

So what’s left, that feels right? Gladiolus callianthus? Dahlias? Autumn crocus? Or maybe I should go pro-berry and look at callicarpa? I could look at the sedums. The pinky orange flowers on some of the cultivars are a bit insipid, but the dusky purple tones many of them fade to are lovely, and really do belong here in deepest autumn. More than probably any other month, the November garden needs the right plant, in the right place at the right time. I’m still looking.

posted under Bulbs, Gardening, Roses
8 Comments to

“November needs the right plant, right place, right time”

  1. On November 1st, 2009 at 9:17 am Claire, Plantpassion Says:

    I’ve also got a November birthday and I agree with you in that Schizostylis are the winners on the flowering in November, – the good news is that they get bigger and better every year, – if you give it the right space, then Geranium Rozanne will still be flowering its socks off this month, – a bright blue in Autumn is unusual. My sedums are all finished and i’m in surrey, so don’t think that’s your answer and I found out this week that Callicarpa prefers acid soil, which is why it’s not doing great on the chalk downs here!

  2. On November 1st, 2009 at 10:39 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Claire — brilliant suggestion, I hadn’t thought of the geraniums. In some quarters of the garden mine are still going, in others they’ve passed. I don’t think Rozanne is one of mine. I guess I won’t waste my time with the Callicarpa – thanks for that! I still feel like I’m missing something else out there that’s perfect…the blood grass is the only grass I think I could cope with, but the specimens I saw for sale over the summer looked awful.

  3. On November 1st, 2009 at 12:46 pm Sisah Says:

    Due to a very wet and cold october all my asters have passed more or less and are looking sad and poor this year, the years before they had a more beautiful performance. A very pretty Aster though despite of the weather I bought last year is Aster ageratoides. ‘Ashvi’ which is still in full bloom and the white blossoms looks like little stars shining in november.
    All my sedums have also faded and are looking very poor I would not recommend them either. In my sisters garden I was very pleased to see a fuchsia still in a very good condition, I think it is the Fuchsia magellanica ‘elegans’ may be this would be a november plant for you.
    I quite like your schizostylis but I guess y garden is too dry and sandy for them, they really look lovely.
    Viele Grüße

  4. On November 1st, 2009 at 4:39 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Sisah – I like the look of Aster ageratoides somewhat but I’m longing for some colour. Is your sister’s fuschia very large? I’ve googled that variety but couldn’t see a match. The fuschia in my old garden in Ireland became absolutely enormous!

  5. On November 2nd, 2009 at 11:42 am Sylvia (England) Says:

    I have Hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma willmottianum) flowering in Dorset, from what I read it should also have good autumn colour. The leaves on mine haven’t changed yet, it is its first year but the flowers are lovely. Not sure if it would still be in flower in Scotland but you are more likely to get the magic mix of blue flowers and red leaves.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  6. On November 2nd, 2009 at 12:55 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Sylvia — that sounds beautiful. I see Carol Klein did a profile of that plant here in the Telegraph [] a few years ago. If I can find a sheltered spot for it, it might perform for me into November. Thanks a million!

  7. On November 13th, 2009 at 10:35 pm The Stopwatch Gardener » Blog Archive » A good death for roses Says:

    […] sun, and many are true survivors, offering perfect flowers through November. As I mentioned previously, these sumptuous blooms look a bit wrong in the declining autumn garden, but I’ve solved the […]

  8. On December 29th, 2009 at 10:11 am The Stopwatch Gardener » Blog Archive » Fear of toads and other 2010 resolutions Says:

    […] November: as I explained here, I planted the hall border when I was expecting my daughter, planning for it to be a rage of colour […]

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