enjoying the november garden

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One of our big maples out back 

The November garden is spectacular in her own right.  The bright blooms of summer might be gone, but the fiery glory of late autumn waiting for winter is a magnificent display all on her own.

Years ago when I discovered the late Suzy Bales’ books Down to Earth Gardener and The Garden in Winter it was like having a gardening epiphany.  I had been gardening my whole life and she just inspired me to see things differently.  Like many gardeners, for years and years I gardened for two seasons: spring and summer.  She opened my eyes to four season beauty.  I have learned over the past few years the sheer beauty of each season if you let it happen.

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A flower on my Sochi Tea Plant!

This year I added Jenny Rose Carey’s book Glorious Shade to my garden library and she sort of picked up where Suzy Bales’ had left off because I was new to such serious shade gardening and woodland gardening in our current garden.  Through this book and one belonging to my late mother-in-law my eyes have been opened to the possibilities of the shade and woodland garden.  In these gardens, fall I think is one of their best seasons because you completely see the amazing range of fall colors getting ready to make way for the winter garden, which is different yet again.

In addition this year I discovered British gardener Monty Don when I realized through streaming services like BritBox I could get Gardener’s World, the long running and can I say amazing BBC gardening show.  I also acquired Monty’s Book Down To Earth Gardener recently.  Monty Don is a true inspiration to the home gardener and his show is the best I have ever seen.  It’s actual gardening and learning about plants and gardens and gardening, not just some DIY or HGTV hack show where people  blow in over a few days and create unrealistic outside gardening spaces with about as much charm as a McMansion wrapped in Tyvec.  Sorry not sorry but for all of the brilliant U.S. gardeners and gardens it blows my mind the U.S. television is unable or unwilling to produce a quality program along the lines of BBC’s Gardener’s World.

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One of my little blue birds of happiness

This morning the first thing I saw when I looked out the window was blue birds.  Not just a pair, but at least six fluttering around and checking out the bird boxes! Last year we had two.  They have returned and bought others. We think it is last year’s mating pair and perhaps some grown chicks.

I am telling you there are few sights as happy as seeing blue birds flittering and fluttering around the back gardens.  They are shy and hard for me to capture in photographs, so the photo is small and grainy.

Also a happy discovery today was a flower newly opened on my Sochi Tea Plant (tea camellia) and that witch hazels I forgot were in a woodland bed on the edge of the woods were blooming!

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Common Witch Hazel H. virginiana. This is the variety the atringent witch hazel is made from.  This was purchased from Yellow Springs Farm in Chester Springs, PA

Witch hazels are a wonderful often overlooked shrub. The first person to introduce me to them as a wonderful native plant was Catherine Renzi who along with her husband Al  is the owner of Yellow Springs Nursery in Chester Springs PA.  (Al Renzi is the one who finally got me to try a Chicago Hardy fig this summer so we shall see how it over-winters!)

Witch Hazels like moist, well-drained somewhat acidic soil.  They grow in full sun to partial shade, but are an understory plant so I do not recommend full sun although people do grow it in full sun.

Witch Hazels also might like moist soil and flood plains but they don’t like heavy, wet soil.  Have a care on their mature heights and width.  Mine are in a spot that will require regular pruning on my part because I did not pay close enough attention to their mature dimensions, yet I do not wish to move them as they are really happy where they are. Prune before summer but after flowering.  Since these are blooming now, I could technically prune them any time after they are finished.

Gardener’s World has a great piece on witch hazels.  I am not sure if all cultivars are available outside the U.K. but it gives you an idea of variety available. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a great article about them on their website too. Fine Gardening is fond of witch hazels as well!  Catherine Renzi introduced me to them originally, but it was in fact Jenny Rose Carey who made me look at them again.  She talked about them at a spring garden lecture I attended and she has several varieties in her own gardens at Northview. I am really lucky to know some fine gardening folks!

I have several trees to plant yet this year, along with a few shrubs and ferns.  Chestnut and Burr Oak , Amish Walnut, baby umbrella magnolias, more witch hazel, dogwood shrub, native azaleas, and a couple of ferns.  And more leaf mulch to be shredded as well. I have planted all of my bulbs though!

I also have hydrangeas to prune.  Yes, you CAN prune hydrangeas and you SHOULD.  It just depends on your type of hydrangea and if blooms on new or old wood. It is one of the most often asked questions in my gardening group.  This link to Gardener’s World will help you, other tips from Gardener’s World, and the one I have used in the past— help from Fine Gardening Magazine.

Enjoy the photos at the bottom of this post.  The garden in November is so lovely. Afinal note is if you are a Chester County resident or live in close proximity to Chester County, one of my favorite growers, Applied Climatology is having their end of season clearence sale at the West Chester Growers Marke on Saturday morning, September 10th.  Check out their event listing on Facebook for more details.

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