Preparing for winter

November has been busy.


At the beginning of the month my garden was still full of colour with dahlias, calendula, rudbeckia, cornflowers and citrus all still blooming. As I write this at the very end of the month all of these have gone, although I still have a few salvias, fuchsias, hydrangeas and even passiflora still in bloom. Soon these will also die off for the winter but I have mahonia, heather, fatsia and hamamelis flowers starting to appear to satisfy and bees bold enough to fly in the colder temperatures.


Keeping plants safe


Not all of my plants appreciate the drop in temperature, and in particular the coming of the frosts. My tender fuchsias have been cut right back and moved into my greenhouse, as have the more tender of my citrus trees. I took the opportunity to pot up some of the fuchsia prunings as they are quite rare varieties and I hope they will produce healthy new plants. With these, my iresine pots and a few seedlings also in the greenhouse it's a little crowded, but on milder days I open the doors and move some plants outside to help keep them healthy.


My large lemon tree and fig tree are a bit more hardy and have also reached a size where they're difficult to move so they've had their pot insulated with bubble wrap and when frost is forecast their tops are also protected with fleece. A few dahlias have also been left in the ground with some protection from cloches, and my autumn-planted peas are going under a miniature polytunnel.

Above left to right and top to bottom: fuchsias pruned and potted up, citrus in greenhouse and outside, dahlias with cloches, peas with polytunnel


Expanding the fruit patch

Following the creation of my new fruit area in September, I decided to try to get as many as possible of my other potted fruit bushes into the ground.


Close to the original area we have the base of an iron and concrete air raid shelter dating back to the 1940s. Although I'd cleared it out (it had been used as a rubbish tip by previous owners) and put in some soil, the shelter walls only remain on 3 sides and the soil sloped steeply towards our shed limiting the usable planting area. I decided to add a 4th "wall" with planters so that I could make the ground more level and increase its area.


I had an outdoor table which had formed part of a set with our summerhouse furniture but never really fitted in there. For a while it held a miniature village I built inside a laundry basket but since the basket disintegrated it had just been gathering dust. Turning this upside down created the first of my large planters. I then utilised a wire grid which had protected our boiler outlet until a new boiler left it redundant as a gabion planter, although I did have to add an assortment of rubble to the exposed sides of this to keep the soil in. These were planted with Euonymus japonica "Kathy" from a local garden centre, which should grow to conceal the shed behind it and the collection of compost bags and bins around it from visitors to our garden.


A mixture of my own compost and top soil filled the new area I'd created, and I moved my gooseberry and aronia plants in. With my raspberry canes now dotted around the area I set up previously I'm left with only a blueberry and jostaberry in containers; these are a little fussy about soil type and sunlight repectively (the new areas are shaded at certain times of day) so are best left where they are.


Hopefully the areas will look good next spring, once the plants have settled in and their leaves have returned, and the move should result in better crops and less need for watering.

Above left to right and top to bottom: leveling off the area where the containers will go; the gabion planter was a little smaller so I added a layer of bricks to raise it; planters in place; rubble keeps the soil in on exposed sides; containers filled and planted up; new area with fruit bushes added, as everything grows the view should improve; September's area with a new path and additional planting


Moving things around


Late autumn can be a good time to move plants around the garden and to create more plants by dividing. So that's another thing I've been doing.


This salvia "hotlips" may look impressive but it had outgrown its spot and was overshadowing my pretty nandina "firepower". I moved it to a much larger area and put a smaller variety in its place.

Above left to right: hotlips salvia overpowering nandina; hotlips pruned and re-sited; nandina in all its glory


And one of my pulmonaria plants had become rather large and was infringing on my outdoor railway, so it was dug up, divided and replanted in several places.


Above left to right: the original plant; dividing the roots with a sharp spade; the divided plant; one of the new plants