I can’t remember such a mild November since 1992 when my best friend got married in an off-the-shoulder dress on November 5th!
So today, in nothing warmer than a T shirt and jeans I had a serious cut back and filled our green recycle bin in two hours. Great tall brown stems of lythrum, crocosmia, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, iris & tree lilies (bless T&M for all their tree lily trials, I feel like I have the national collection!) all gone for another year. With that lot out of the way I’m enjoying others such as giant melianthus major, Miscanthus grass, fennel and Sanguisorba as well as hidden gems like variegated sedum and Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’
There is still so much colour, especially roses and salvias: climber Summer Wine, County series Oxfordshire alongside lemon and white carpet roses, For Your Eyes Only, Rhapsody In Blue and my favourite rosa Mutabilis. New addition salvia confertifolia is at its peak and two year old salvia involucrata is about 8ft wide, full of blooms and covered in bud. I am not taking any chances with the confertifolia; I sank it in a pot into its temporary space in July and intend to lift it for overwintering in the greenhouse as it is too precious to risk losing if we do have a cold winter.
My two salvia Amistads in patio containers are also having a new lease of life, as are the red canna lilies. I suppose the first frosts can’t be far away so I shall enjoy their flowers all the more while they last. I was told by the nurseryman who sold me my half hardy perennial Rudbeckia Prairie Glow that it is best newly grown from seed each year, but have decided to try and overwinter this year’s three plants in the greenhouse anyway.
Clearing the perennials on the roof terrace is challenging as there is so much herbaceous material and fallen leaves from adjacent tree canopies to bring down the ladder for composting. Last to die back were eupatorium and helianthus, cut down to make way for the grasses. Nasturtium Jewel of Africa (Trial Summer 2015) has re-grown since its haircut in September, and what’s more, it’s variegation has come back twice as strong, just as the T&M website said it would. No doubt this variety will be with us for many years as it is bound to have self-seeded vigorously throughout all the containers up there.
I’m so not ready to come indoors for the winter yet, and am thoroughly enjoying the transformation from blowsy abandon to formal structure. I’m getting reacquainted with the evergreens that carry the garden through the bleak winter months and am even enjoying clearing up the leaves as they reveal next year’s perennials emerging at soil level. Whilst the apple tree is still hanging on to its fruit (more apple crumbles in the offing), daffodil shoots are already putting in an appearance, reminding me that spring is after all only round the corner.
Caroline Broome has been gardening for more than 20 years. Having passed the RHS General Certificate, she has since developed her East Finchley garden into a “personal paradise” that she and her husband invite the public to visit each year via the National Garden Scheme. Learn more about our contributor using T&M’s ‘Meet the experts’ page.