At the end of October there were some fine days, with the pale and delicate sunlight so typical of autumn. November usually brings fog and much cooler weather as the sun weakens.
With British Summer time over sunset now occurs in the late afternoon, we lose approximately two minutes of daylight each day until the winter solstice on 22nd December.
Leaf colour has been exceptional this year (due to warm days and cool nights) encouraging leaves to hang on and produce multi colours in vibrant shades.
If there is mild and dry weather during November it will be worth making the time to finish tidying perennials, clearing leaves and preparing the ground for planting. Much of the garden is dormant from November to March except for a few seasonal winter flowering shrubs such as Mahonia, Osmanthus and Viburnum – all have clusters of fragrant blooms which are very welcome in the depths of the winter months.
As this is the time of year to plan and plant – a particularly attractive tree to grow is the Olive. It is evergreen, tolerant of a range of conditions and is especially well suited to growing in containers. The Olive has pale, silvery green foliage with delicate long oval shaped leaves; it will flower if located in a warm spot in the garden or patio. The numerous white flowers are tiny (with a curious smell) and produce powdery yellow pollen. In warm summers the trees produce olives! The Olive tree is a slow grower eventually reaching 32 feet, but it is easy to keep compact and can be pruned to neat shapes.
A new display of plants for the window box will help to brighten the winter days. Always include some herbs, they are attractive, aromatic and edible – Thyme, Garlic chives, Rosemary prostratus and marjoram are hardy, add the seasonal Viola which produces colourful and cheerful little flowers. For the indoor window sill try Basil, Parsley and Dill.
And finally, it is time to start thinking about Christmas gifts for anyone with an interest in gardening. Packets of seeds, plants and books are likely to be welcome. One particular informative book is ‘The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden: Grow Tons of Organic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers’ by Karen Newcomb. It has chapters on planning and preparing your space, suggestions for old heirloom varieties of vegetables, how to control pests and diseases. Available online from the Book Depository www.bookdepository.com