Below are our 12 favourite plants from the garden in late November 2016. Of all the fortnights in the year, late November is probably the trickiest for us to have great interest within the garden. It’s increasingly a time when flowering plants are very few and far between, and highly valued. Plus any autumnal leaf colour rapidly declines as deciduous leaves are lost in autumnal winds, and rain. Evergreen trees or perennials, and tree or shrub form, are increasingly important and although the very first Cyclamen coum and snowdrops are out in late November hinting at many more flowers of the new season to come in December, they don’t feature yet.
1:Spiraea arguta(?) Although this Spiraea (we’ve lost the name, from years ago) produces small white flowers in spring/early summer, its real value is the yellow green tint to the narrow leaves for much of the year. But this takes on gorgeous orange hues, in mid November, and this continues well into December…… in a mild winter being nearly evergreen, by which time all of our other Spiraeas have long lost all their leaves.
2: Blechnum chilense – Chilean Hard Fern Ferns are a real nuisance plant for us here – the very damp climate means that it’s easy for them to reproduce, and establish young ferns in lots of nooks and crannies, which stay very humid. If the plants aren’t removed within their first year or two, it can be really hard work digging them out, and they’re quite capable of smothering smaller woodland plants.This fern though, however is very valuable as a dark green foil to other plants, behind our Acer griseum bark above, and although cut back by very low temperatures, it tends to stay green well into December, when many natives have already turned brown, and collapsed. It spreads fairly slowly by rhizomes.
3:Zelkova serrata A form of Japanese Elm which I’ve grown from pre-germinated seed many years ago. We now have several trees which are maturing in a copse above our wet meadows. The spring foliage is a lovely fresh pale green, but the greatest feature is when the leaves start to change colour in late October, becoming yellow, then gold… and unlike many trees, the leaves are late to fall, so this autumn display lasts for several weeks, before the leaves are all on the ground. As with Beech leaves, they then take quite a while to decay, producing carpets covering the ground with furled forms as they dry…
4:Cornus kousa chinensis. Over the years, I’ve collected quite a lot of seed from Cornus kousa chinensis, and we now have a number of plants of varying ages growing at Gelli, from both the UK and France. As well as the attractive white flowering bracts produced in late July/August, many of the plants have very attractive autumn foliage colour, but this is variable, as is the time of colour change, so some drop leaves before other forms have even begun to change colour.
5:Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea A low growing thorny shrub with purple foliage, which quietly adds a little foliage interest through the year, but develops hints of orange and red on its leaves before they fall in late November, and by very good luck we’ve planted next to the Spiraea arguta above, producing a great autumnal juxtaposition.
6:Drimys/Tasmannia lanceolata Originally in the Drimys genus, this has now been given a new name, reflecting its origin from Tasmania. It has pretty small pale yellow flowers in late spring, which turn into berries which have a peppery taste, and indeed is used in its native area in cooking. However, it’s in the dark days of winter that its attractive evergreen leaves and pink/red stems become a real feature in the garden. In a very severe cold spell, it can suffer a little foliage damage from frost, but it’s now survived quite a few years with us under the shelter of our mature Larch trees.
7:Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. An easy to grow Euphorbia, which gently seeds around the garden, with variable hints of purple or dark green to its leaves. The only problem with all Euphorbias is the very irritant milky sap, so we always wear gloves when working near it.The pretty clusters of yellow green Euphorbia flowers arrive much later in spring, when they look lovely next to a golden form of Luzula, or blue bells. Shortly after this as spring romps away, it begins to look tatty, as old flowering stems die back. But now, in late November as most other perennials are dying and flopping, or have been cut back to avoid a wintry soggy mess in our climate, these suddenly come to the fore throughout the garden as significant, though randomly occurring, unplanned focal points.
8: Acer palmatum (Gelli Seedling). One of the largest of our Acer palmatums, this was grown from pre germinated seed, and has the merit of being the last one to show autumnal leaf colour changes in our garden, and then shed its leaves. They turn a striking yellow colour and don’t stay on the tree for long, but then provide a wonderful carpet of gold on the mossy covered surrounding ground.
9:Ilex Ferox aurea – Golden Hedgehog. A sterile male form of holly, so no berries or flowers, but a good doer, and with all those wonderful prickles on the leaf margins and surfaces, and a strong yellow centre to the leaf. and after tidying up…
10:Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens. Rather like the Euphorbia above, this evergreen black grass like plant quietly exists in the background, often surviving well in the shade of taller foliage ( providing it doesn’t completely flop over it), and beginning to come into its own now, here with Cardamine trifolia, beneath our large Oak.. It looks even better when the foliage and snowdrops of late winter begin to emerge, or when rimmed in frost…. but when looking round the garden for plants of interest in what must be the trickiest fortnight of the year, in our garden, this makes it into the favourite dozen.
11:Ilex Ferox argentea – Silver Hedgehog. Another sterile male form, but with pleasant variegation, and prickles over the leaves as well as along the leaf margins. Earlier in the autumn, its often covered in cobwebs, as indeed are most of the hollies.
12:Acer forrestii We bought 2 of these plants as seedling trees from Hergest Croft. One got cut back by a rabbit, and so is smaller, but holds onto its leaves much longer, than the larger form, where the leaves turn a wonderful golden colour late in November, highlighting the red petioles, and then fell within about 3 days. During much of the years, the leaves are a wonderful deep green, still with the red petioles. The trees also have a fabulous red/pink striped bark, both on the trunk and arching branches.
Thanks for reading.