This Month in the Garden Nov 2017 with Derek Cox

Experience has shown me that between November and the following March, it is the best time to plant, or transplant most hardy trees, shrubs and perennials. You will note that I say hardy as many of the plants we grow in our gardens originate from countries throughout the World where the winters are both warmer and drier, or where they are covered with a blanket of snow that insulates them from hard frost. Such plants are used to fixed seasons, whereas in the UK we can almost have four seasons in one day, this will result in tender and warm temperate plants to die, either through over-wet soil that will cause the roots to rot, or through plants coming into growth during a few warm late winter days and then, either dying back, or being killed by early spring frost. Such plants are better transplanted during April to avoid winters sodden soils. The hardy plants from countries that have similar winters to the UK will often start to produce their new feeding roots during late February, then the sap will rise giving a display of new leaves during April. Having said this, as a nurseryman, I did find that the majority of people chose to select plants regardless of the season, but when they are in flower. Trees especially, if planted in flower during April or May, will then be putting all of their energy into the flowers and a dry spring will see little new growth being produced for the trees to flower the following year.
I must admit that I grow many trees, shrubs, perennials and alpines for their colourful foliage and look upon the flowers as an added bonus. Evergreen foliage will help to not only give structure to a winter garden, but also if the evergreens have colourful foliage they will also lighten a winter garden. In the past I have mentioned Ligustrum lucidum ‘Tricolor’ which forms a 15 feet (4.5m) tall evergreen tree at the rear of my garden. This unusual Japanese privet has thick glossy leaves that are broadly edged with pale yellow. In the spring the new leaves are tinted with pink, so for twelve months of the year it not only adds a splash of light, but also helps to screen the houses at the rear.
As for shrubs Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, pictured above, is a must for any garden. In my garden it forms a 4 feet (1.2m) tall evergreen with brilliant glossy yellow leaves and this glows throughout the year. Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’, pictured right, grows in a container on the wall of a raised bed this has large, evergreen, laurel-like leaves that are green striped and splashed with cream, but in the spring the new leaves are a shocking pink and during the autumn many of the older leaves turn a fiery red before they fall. Also in a sheltered spot on my terrace is a container of that unusual Japanese evergreen shrub Fatsia japonica ‘Spiders Web’ who’s large, hand shaped leaves are speckled and striped with white. This may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does produce heads of globular white flowers during October and into November giving nectar to bees and other wildlife. Having mentioned evergreens for winter affect , I must say that any winter garden should contain Viburnum tinus ‘Laura Rosa’, which although having deep green leaves, give me a lovely show of flowers from October right through until the following March. ‘Lara Rosa’ flowers are deep pink in bud and open to pale pink, and then fade almost to white as their blue-black berries are formed to give a treat to the birds during the winter months. I cannot finish without mentioning a shrub I purchased earlier this year.
This is Clerodendrum trichotomum ‘Carnival’ that will, if left unpruned, eventually form a large shrub whose large grey-green leaves are richly variegated with a broad yellow margin. Next year it should produce its flat heads of white flowers that are enclosed in maroon calyces. The flowers are followed by bright blue berries enclosed by the persistent calyces. As this is apt to come into growth fairly early, I have planted this in a sheltered spot to protect it from late spring frosts.