As we depart October and the brilliance of the kaleidoscopic autumnal leaves as they fall, the emphasis changes towards berries, stems, evergreens, conifers and heathers. In November in the garden, nothing can compare with the vast number of trees and shrubs that are laden with berries at this time of the year.
Even though there are not as many flowering plants around, it’s easy to introduce colour and interest with some of the many beautiful berry bearing shrubs and trees. Berries or fruits contain seed and as nature intended these to be dispersed, it designed them to be attractive to birds, specifically for this purpose. So a lot of berries or fruits will be lost to the appetites of birds. Therefore, it’s important to plant enough varieties to make up for this and to plant varieties that birds like least. The Malus or ornamental crab apple is one such variety, in particular Malus Golden Hornet, which has masses of golden yellow fruits that are left on the bare branches, untouched, right through the winter. Two new varieties are Malus Evrete and Malus Gorgeous, the latter being aptly named as it has beautiful red fruits. Another tree that excells itself in berries is the Mountain Ash family, Sorbus. The common mountain Ash, Sorbus Aucuparca is laden with red berries at the moment, but to me the best of these is Sorbus Joseph Rock. This has deep yellow fruits that first contrast with its autumnal foliage and then remain mostly untouched by birds through the winter, in big clusters on the bare branches. Another worthy variety is Sorbus Commixta with orangey-red berries which has an additional benefit of being a tree of modest size for any garden. Lastly, a tree commonly planted and although the birds enjoy its bountiful harvest, it’s worthy of mention is the Cotoneaster. Two varieties to watch for are Cotoneaster Floccosus and Cotoneaster Cornubia. They have a very broad habit but have the advantage of being semi ever green.
In the shrub line there are a huge range of plants and we will mention but a few. Skimmia Reevasiana is an evergreen shrub with small white flowers in spring followed by red fruits in Autumn and Winter, great for tubs and window boxes. Another plant used for this purpose, particularly tubs as it is an acid loving/lime hating shrub Gaultheira Proumbens with white flowers in early Summer, followed by fleshy red fruit, some fruits vary in colour, according to variety. Two very well known varieties to us are the Iles or Holly, a good variety being Ilex J.C. Van Tol, which is self fertile, with red berries and Pyracantha or Firethorn. Pyracantha orange glow is a good variety, untouched by birds. Pyracanthas are a dense upright, evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves, clusters of small white flowers in summer are followed by round fruits, varying in colour in the autumn.
A less well known variety is Arbutus Unedo or Strawberry tree—a spreading tree or shrub. It has white flowers, 3 inches long from October to December, often at the same time as the orangey red strawberry like fruits from the flowers of the previous year. It is an acid loving plant, preferring a sheltered site. It has beautiful rough shreddy bark and its fruit is edible but insipid. There are beautiful specimens to be seen wild around the lakes of Killarney.
A lot of people take hardwood cuttings at this time of year, some with success, some without. Here are a few guidelines:
- Select a pencil thick section of your material, (preferably hardwood rather than the very softwood growth). Make a sloping cut just above a healthy bud. Choose another bud 9 inches down the stem and cut horizontally below it.
- Dip the cutting in hormone rooting powder. Open a narrow trench using a space, in a well drained, sheltered area of bare soil, in the garden. The soil needs to be loose and well drained. Heavy clay can be improved by the addition of coarse sand or peat.
- Insert the cuttings vertically in the trench about 6 inches apart. Ensure that they are the right way up, with the sloping cut on the stem at the top.
- Firm the soil around the cuttings, leaving the top couple of inches exposed. Label them and lift when rooted next Spring. The following is a list of plants that are easy to propagage from hardwood cuttings—Cotoneaster species; Forsythia; Weigleia; Griselinia; Butterfly Buish(Buddleia); Jews Mallow (Kerria Japonica); Pheasantberry (Leycesteria); Elder (Sambucus); Dogwood (Cornus).
Garden checklist for November
- Plant bulbs.
- Plant rhubarb.
- Dig over vegetable garden.
- Prune gooseberries and currants.
- Take hardwood cuttings.
- Plant winter bedding plants.
- Plant fruit trees.
- Plant barerooted trees and hedging.
- Gather leaf mould for your compost heap.
- Protect terracotta pots from frost (unless frost proof).
- Protect tender plants from frost.
- Check tree ties and stakes.
That’s it for now until next month, happy gardening.
Bosco McDermott, Jnr, Glynn’s Garden Centre, Lydican, Oranmore, Co. Galway. (091-799135)