Autumn colours seem exceptional this year; oaks, beeches, sycamores and ashes are lighting up the fields. In the garden, small trees can give a glowing display too, and do not discount the value of shrubs. In small gardens there may not be room for trees, but many shrubs which have flowered in spring and summer, will also give a a flare of colour in November. Azaleas go a deep ruddy red, hydrangeas from lime green to burnt red and the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) has glowing butterscotch leaves round the pussy-willow like buds of next year’s flowers.
There’s plenty to do when weather allows: it is the best time of year to plant bare-root trees. Don’t forget to use a dusting of mycorrhizal fungus (Rootgrow) on the roots before planting, water and then mulch.
Look forward to Spring and plant tulip bulbs. Be inspired by the colours of the Autumn leaves and plant reds, oranges and yellows, which go well with wallflowers and the pale primrose colours of Spring. ‘Red Impression’ is a tough egg-shaped tulip of a brilliant red. ‘Ballerina’ is a favourite – it is lily-flowered, scented and a soft orange. ‘Dordogne’, another egg-shaped bi-coloured tulip goes from orange to yellow. ‘Gavota’, also bi-coloured, goes from dark red to yellow. ‘West Point’ is a true yellow lily-flowered tulip.
In the kitchen garden plant rhubarb crowns, enriching the soil with as much compost as you can get your hands on. Plant garlic bulbs as soon as possible. Bung in some broad beans if you have some bare soil in the veg patch. They may not germinate but it’s worth a try. Plant bare-root raspberries.
Check that existing shrubs and trees are winter-ready. Prune out old or diseased wood. Check that they are firmly rooted so that they will not rock in the wind.
Protect pots against the frost; move into a covered area or greenhouse or cover with wraps.
Sweep up and save fallen leaves – they are a resource. Put into old compost bags, pierce with a fork and hide behind a shed, and wait for a year. Your fat bag will have rotted down to a satisfying wodge of nutritious leafmould.
Try to get mulch down on borders and shrubs, before the frost but don’t add any feed until Spring brings new growth.
Lastly a timely festive tip. There are loads of berries on the hollies now, however birds can strip them all in an afternoon. In order to ensure a well-berried sprig for your Christmas pudding, peg a plastic bag over it now and all will be well.