Monday, November 15, 2010

November - The New April?

Who says spring is the best time to garden? We’ve done more gardening in November than march and april combined. We started with a new layer of composted manure in the vegetable garden to replenish nutrients over the growing season. We also installed our cold frame, which is a steel support covered with a fitted, poly tent. It has zippers and mesh windows to let in extra light and sun on warmer days. It’s on its third season and still going strong (see image below).

We also planted Camellia ‘Winter’s Star’ between the American hornbeam along our privacy fence. The hornbeam create a privacy screen until they drop their leaves in late fall. We wanted some late season color for the darker months, and camellia fit the bill. The camellia sasanqua and oleifera hybrids are hardier than camellia japonica in our zone 6b/7 area. Once tough to grow in our borderline cold-hardiness zone, camellias made a come-back with hybrids that light up the late fall and early winter landscape. The National Arboretum lost the bulk of their camellias to severe winters in the late ’70’s and ’80’s, but they’ve had success with new varieties that withstand up to -15 degrees. If it works for them, I feel confident investing. Of course, a light freeze threatened our camellias on their first night, despite the 60 degree day. I threw a large plastic garbage bag over them and saved the blooms, which otherwise may have turned brown.

A neighborly plant swap scored us a few beautiful peonies. They’ll fill in the sunny spots between the knock-out roses that we found on sale for $10 (!) at Merrifield Garden Center, that mecca of normally over-priced, mouth-watering plant variety. 

The male third of our family removed more lawn, and I quickly took advantage of the new garden space to transplant glossy abelia and fothergilla in our part-shade understory. I also moved some knock-out roses to the front of our very obnoxious Bilco Window, which juts into our patio. It’s always been a problem area, despite its functional value as a basement fire-escape. The builder lined it with gravel and larger stones, ostensibly for drainage. Well, I just removed all that garbage, added compost, and grew a rose. I’ve rotated various things in and out of the bilco area, and the lesson I’ve learned is to let the plants mature a little before giving up on them. Impatience is not a good quality in a gardener with heavy clay soil mixed with construction back-fill. Lesson #2: without a little (or rather a lot) of patience, the soil always wins. We’ve spent more time on our soil this fall than anything else. The plants are doing their best to keep up with us.

Juniorette and I spent time “hunting” for blooms and drying them, our new monthly documentation process. Here’s what we found in bloom on garden bloggers bloom day, November 15, 2010:

Hardy Chrysanthemum


Geranium ‘Rozanne’



Rose ‘Knock-out’




Black-eyed Susan






  1. It's great to see fellow gardeners removing the lawn (especially to grow year-round food). I wish I'd done as much Autumn planting as you... nice job!

  2. nice post. nice to have a colorful garden all year long. a garden is always joy to the family. it brings radiance and calmness to everyone. nice to hear that you have a little landscaping too. i think a nice and sturdy pergola
    would go well with your garden.