THIS MONTH IN THE GARDEN, November 2012 with Derek Cox

When walking around Syston I often bump into people who stop and ask me gardening questions and recently I was asked if I could name a few evergreen climbers that would hide an ugly wall. When asked about growing climbers on walls, I always ask anyone if the wall belongs to them, if it does you can put any climbing plant you like against it. If the wall belongs to your neighbours, you must first ask their permission, if they say no! Then you will need to erect a trellis in front of the wall and grow evergreen climbers on this, but even then, do be careful as some climbers such as ivy will encroach over the wall and soon cause trouble. In my own garden, I have a number of evergreen climbers, one or two such as Clematis armandii and Hedera helix ‘Goldchild’ are vigorous and will in a very short time, not only cover a six by six feet, 1.8 x 1.8m trellis, but need constant pruning to keep them in check. On a trellis, I do grow the superb Lonicera alseuosmoides, which is an evergreen honeysuckle. This has deep green glossy leaves and from June, until late October it has numerous small, creamy-yellow, tinted pink flowers. It has very little scent, but even so, it always attracts numerous bees, bumblebees and hover flies. Small, hard, black berries follow the flowers and these will remain until late winter before the birds take them. For many years, I have grown Pileostegia viburnoides against my south facing fence, this is a superb, evergreen self-clinging climber whose large, glossy leaves resemble those of a laurel. During late September and October, this fine climber produces large heads of small white flowers. Although outstanding when grown in my sandy loam, I would not advise anyone to try growing it an exposed site, or in perpetually wet soil. It must be over twenty years ago since I planted Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Worcester Gold’, this small shrub has pale yellow, lavender scented foliage and produces a mass of blue flowers in September. Whilst browsing around a garden centre during midsummer I came across Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ and what attracted me was its pale yellow, nettle-like foliage, so I purchased one and during early October it produced deep blue flowers. As both flower on their current years growth I will prune them hard back during late March of next year. Phygelius capensis ‘Africa Queen’ seems to dominate the border at the rear of the gold leaf Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, although an almost evergreen perennial, if cut down to just above soil level, it will produce, stems between five and six feet, 1.6/1.8m tall, which from July until late October, are hung with numerous orange-red, trumpet shaped flowers. As the stems pop up through the large shrub of ‘Sundance’, they contrast greatly with its golden foliage. During late September, October and early November, Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ produces large, almost dome-shaped heads of pink flowers, which not only adds attraction to the garden, but also attracts bees, bumblebees and hoverflies, the flowers giving them their late summer and autumn feed of nectar. This year two of my ‘Sweet Million’ tomato plants produced the largest number of tomatoes I have ever seen on any tomato, one truss had sixty tomatoes on it, the overall weight causing the truss to kink, so I wrapped string around both trusses and tied them up to the latches of the greenhouse roof windows. If during late October your tomatoes are reluctant to ripen, you can put them in a drawer with a ripe banana, whose ethylene gas should help them to ripen. I give my green ones to my brother Bob who is a great chutney maker. After loosing my open ground Phormiums in the winter before last, I now grow them in pots so that I can take them into my cold greenhouse during November. My two most outstanding Phormiums are ‘Sundowner’ and ‘Jester’, both of which are available in local garden centres.