Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

Seeking out the joys of November

Arum italicum subsp. italicum  ‘Marmoratum’  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum’ (Gillian Goodson Designs)

November may, to some, feel like how Tuesdays can sometimes feel —a filler. Don’t be disheartened. Enjoy dew-drenched lawns, and those early frosty mornings where spiders’ webs take on hypnotic patterns. Let’s mix it up this month with a couple of undervalued stalwarts and introduce lesser-known ones that will pique your interest.

Kicking it off is the lesser known Sorbus commixta ‘Olympic Flame’ = ‘Dodong’ (mountain ash/rowan). Growing to around 5 metres, it’s a great choice for smaller gardens. Creamy white flowers in spring and as the name suggests, spectacular autumn colour and orange-red berries. Picture an avenue of them! 

Toning it down is the fully hardy Viburnum davidii. A reliable evergreen shrub with tiny white flowers, which transform into metallic egg-shaped blue berries in autumn. It needs little pruning and tolerates full sun through to full shade where little else thrives—definitely a keeper. 

As leaves of other plants fall, up come the glossy green-ivory, marvellously marbelled, arrow-shaped leaves of Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum’. Fantastic for the woodland garden and the orange-red, summer berries are a hit with blackbirds. Beware, as all parts are toxic if ingested. 

The scented golden flowers of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ are a valuable source of nectar over winter and contrast beautifully with its holly-like leaves. An equally scented new variety and the only Mahonia without prickle, try Chelsea Flower Show 2013’s plant of the year, M. eurybrachteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’. Just as eye-catching in a border or container. 

If you have been busy ordering bare-root roses or other bare-root plants, don’t forget to plant them on delivery. Remove weeds before applying your winter mulch and you might have one last cut before cleaning and storing the mower. Look out for cracked pots and take action. Raise any containers to aid drainage. It’s time to start putting out winter food for our feathered friends and clean out nesting boxes. If you haven’t already, cover or move tender plants indoors. It’s a good time to prune trees and shrubs but do hold off if laden with berries. Harvest leeks, carrots, parsnips, cabbages and yes, Brussels sprouts!

Pretty as they might be, the bang and whistles of fireworks are stressful to animals. As you recall the words, ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November!’ and before lighting that bonfire, check for hibernating animals. Don’t be disheartened that summer is over. Think of all the joys that November could bring. Dream big and reach for those stars!