Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
It won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but I don’t much hang about to ‘smell the roses’. Rather, I am doing what I can to gently nudge the garden along. So, November is one of the loveliest months for me: harvesting was long ago and the abundance of the summer is behind us. Now there is little about, I appreciate the flowers and gardens much more. The sowing or pricking out from the early autumn is all done, and flowering is slowing down. There are a few chrysanthemums and asters now, maybe the odd rose still blooming. There is far less daylight to work in, but November is often mild – save for those first frosts. With plant growth retreating, I can see what is going on in the borders and beds. It’s the time to tease out the ground elder or bindweed roots, lift spring-flowering perennials to divide, and take root cuttings from poppies and anchusa.
It’s only a few weeks, but these seem like borrowed time; the garden suspended just before the winter sets in and there is much less that can be done. The air smells of wood smoke, the leaves are crisp and time out here feels precious.
So, November is one of the loveliest months for me: harvesting was long ago and the abundance of the summer is behind us. Now there is little about, I appreciate the flowers and gardens much more.
For flower growers like me, the main event is the first big frost. Or maybe the second, depending on its efficacy to blacken the dahlias and call time on the flowers. Yes, it’s the fascinating talk of the month. By now, dahlia flowers are too soft and full of water to cut, even if it hasn’t frosted. But when you wake up that first time to a black, shrunken mess, it’s quite the shock. When the leaves are killed off, the tuber is no longer fed, signalling it to create the buds or eyes that are the growth points for next year’s stems. It is important in reducing the possibility of storing viruses and allowing the plant to naturally shut down for the winter.
With this in mind, we have always lifted all our dahlias. This is a heavy, but enjoyably rigorous group task for us – and we make it a party day! Essentially, it involves the plants being cut down, dug up and turned over to drain out excess moisture. However, we missed a lot of plants this year – I think we simply left a few tubers in the ground that got through the winter, and they sprouted beautifully. So, this year, I am going to experiment and leave two long beds in. Then I can see how they fare compared to those that we lift and divide this month, along with all the other associated tasks, before they are planted again late next May. The ones being left will be cut right down and we’ll generously spread compost over the beds and, importantly, thickly over the flower stems. And enjoying the future gardens so much, I will also order lots more cuttings and tubers. Just in case, and to satisfy my magpie needs for new sparkly varieties.
The frost dates are equally important to tulip planting, too. These bulbs can be susceptible to viral infections; the cold hopefully kills these off and promotes strong growth. Tulips like rich, well-drained soil, so I will plant them around the dahlias left in the ground and get two crops from the soil preparation. The pressure of the summer months has certainly lessened, but next year’s flowers need me to get out in the gardens now and enjoy this mild autumn spell.
Wreath kits and classes will be available at Anna’s Flower Farm this December and can be booked at annasflowerfarm.co.uk