This Month in the Garden, November 2021, with Derek Cox

Late August and the first three weeks of September were both a cloudy and miserable late summer time, but although cloudy there was little rain and as a consequence many of the trees in my garden had already started to lose their leaves.
The leaves of one of my favourite trees Acer x conspicum ‘Phoenix’ started to go yellow by late August and by the third week in September it was bare of all its leaves. As was Davidia involucrata, commonly known as the Handkerchief, or Dove tree. Oddly though it may seem these like many trees introduced from foreign countries started to lose their leaves earlier, whereas most of our native trees retained their green leaves until late October.
There is one exception, Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Waterfall’ which for over 60 years has formed a green waterfall-like mound, is usually turning a bright yellow and orange-red by early October, yet this Japanese maple even in mid October is still green.
I have a lovely annual Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder‘, pictured left, growing in my front garden and this was sown as seed some 10 years ago and every year it has self seeded to give me nine inch (22cm) tall plants that have blue flowers from late August until the end of October. This is a tough annual that will self seed in most soils and in sun, or part shade.
When it comes to blue flowering shrubs during late summer and autumn there is nothing better than Vitex agnus castus, commonly known as ‘The Chaste Tree’. Why it has been given this common name confuses me as it only forms a medium to large shrub. But what a glorious shrub this is with over 40 branches terminating in spires of blue from late September until the first week in November. As this shrub flowers on its current year’s growth, I prune it back to within two feet (60cm) of the ground during the following April. I prefer this to Buddleja’s as it does not self seed all over my garden. Incidentally, in America nurseries are forbidden to grow and sell Buddleja’s as they have now self sown over much of America and are now treated as being a problem to America’s native flora.
It must be over 30 years ago since I planted Pileostegia viburnoids, pictured left, against a South facing fence panel. Now this choice evergreen climber has totally covered the fence panel and as I write this it is covered in masses of small white flowers which attract our native bumble bees. If this climber has one fault it is that, like many climbers, will drop the occasional branch onto the ground. It will then grow across the soil, rooting as it goes in an attempt to find another plant into which it can climb.
My group of Nerine bowdenii ‘Mark Fenwick’ bulbs that I planted over 30 years ago now have over 40 stems of pink flowers and these will last until late October.
Nerine’s are bulbs which only need one third of the bulb beneath soil level and they love well drained soils. If planted too deep they will often rot off. Last year my niece Kate gave me five Nerine bulbs that were very dry, however two are now in full flower and although they have pink flowers they differ in flower shape.
Cyclamen coum have already started to come into flower, they are such dainty plants with small rounded leaves and flowers that vary in colour from white to almost red.