Plant of the Month – November

November is a month about trees. I break the habit of a lifetime and force myself to stop mooching around, head down, looking at the pretty flowers and to look UP. I check the branches of all the trees to see if anything nasty is happening – any crossing or rubbing, any die back, anything spoiling the shape or outline. Early next year we are having the crowns of the lime trees lifted to allow more light in. The small trees nearby ( Sorbus villmorinii, Magnolia ‘Spectrum’, Prunus serrata) are growing away from them , becoming mis-shapen and ‘windswept’. Even though we knew what needed doing when the leaves were on, now the trees are bare it’s patently obvious and we feel more confident in calling in our tree surgeon to do the deed. Get a good tree surgeon and you can breathe a sigh of relief – recommendation every time. It’s quite a responsibility, not only to your own trees but often people living nearby will think the firm used by ‘the big house’ must be good and employ them also.

The star of the garden in November?  Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’. It flamed well even though autumn colour wasn’t great this year. It’s a small tree, a deceptive phrase often used for trees that outgrow the description quite quickly and then start dominating a small space. We have two growing into each other in the Autumn Border – a border as long as many suburban back gardens admittedly but not very wide and they never overwhelm . Also, they are lightly branched and don’t cast lots of shade. Sorbus aren’t long lived (for trees) and can start to suffer die back, loosing whole branches and look a bit moth eaten but by growing two together they are complementing each other, growing into each other and actually filling any gaps in the branch layout.

And, you have the berries. Peach. Very pretty. Generally considered to be the last eaten by the birds in winter but our blackbirds must be gluttons as they’ve already polished them off and moved on to the Malus hupehensis nearby. In the late Spring you have flat corymbs of cream flowers, pretty, not showy but they blend in with fields beyond. Many people don’t like the smell though.

Most fun place to be in the garden at this time of year? The leaf pile. You can fall over in it, kick it around, take a runner into it. . . .Love it. I threw Temba in last week. He sank like a stone, waddled out covered in bits of leaf and twig, shook himself, gave me a look of a disgruntled Pekingese, then trotted off to tell on me. Should have tried it on Tensing – more of a sense of humour.

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Thanks to Clive Nichols for the picture.

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