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November 2014 Newsletter

Last November was spectacularly warm here in Cambridgeshire; in fact we hardly needed to defrost the car windscreen once! But only time will tell if this November will be as mild.

Some things are more certain; there’ll be dark nights, firework displays and there’ll be the run up to Christmas.

If like me you love Christmas then finding gifts is half the fun, especially when choosing them for other keen gardeners’ .If you’re struggling with your Christmas list look at our fabulous gift section, there is plenty to inspire – selfishly I want almost every gift idea as a present for me! Maybe I’ll start dropping hints... Seriously we have some great gift ideas for gardeners, online and in the Christmas catalogue which will be dropping through letterboxes very soon. November’s the perfect time to get your Christmas shopping done early.

With so much else going on it’s easy to forget about the garden at this time of the year, but don’t!

Bare root perennials, trees, shrubs and roses can all get off to a flying start if they’re planted now, and there is still just enough time to get the tulips and spring bedding in to beds, borders and containers for a dazzling winter to spring display.

Wrap up warm on the dry days and settle indoors on the rainy ones, sorting seeds, washing pots or sharpening tools are all a great excuse for thinking about gardening whilst staying warm and dry in the shed or greenhouse!

Or curl up with the Christmas catalogue and a pre Christmas mince pie! However you plan to get your gardening ‘fix’ enjoy this month and happy gardening.


Pam Richardson

November in the garden

Last Chance to Plant Tulip bulbs

Tulips are among the most beautiful of spring flowers, they come in a huge range of shapes, heights and colours. The average garden may not be big enough for hundreds of tulips in open ground but with so many different tulips to choose from it is good that they grow so well in containers. Even a few pots will extend the amount of tulips you can grow; and if you choose early, mid and late varieties they’ll give a spectacular display from April right through to early summer. 

The ideal time to plant Tulip bulbs is between October and November, but if you’ve been really pushed for time tulip bulbs can still be planted as late as December.

Whether you are growing dainty species tulips or the more flamboyant Parrot tulips, elegant Lily-flowered, Fringed, and Triumph tulips, or full-petalled Peony-flowered tulips they are all worth a place in the garden. There are 15 classes of tulips with each class defined by habit or type and sometimes just by their huge diversity.

Buying tulips and other spring bulbs as value packs makes sense if you have a large garden or need to fill a lot of containers


It makes sense to plant bulbs as soon as you receive them but planting Tulip bulbs as late as December won't affect next years flowers they actually appreciate a spell of cold weather go flower well.

Late planting won’t affect the tulips’ flowering, but bad storage will! So if you have to delay planting make sure the bulbs are stored somewhere frost free, cool, dark and airy and protect them from rodents.

When you are ready to plant choose firm bulbs; discarding any that are soft or have signs of mould or rot.

Plant tulip bulbs at a depth of at least three times their height; plant them into free draining soil in a sunny site. Avoid planting bulbs in soil that gets waterlogged; and on heavy soils add grit to the planting hole to prevent bulbs rotting.

Tulips are native to hot dry regions of Iran and Turkey where they thrive on very free-draining soils. The bulbs enjoy hot summer sunshine but they also need a period of winter cold to produce the best flowers.

If you garden on wet, heavy soil, plant tulips in containers. Plant the bulbs intogritty free draining compost.  This gives them the excellent drainage they need and allows you site the containers in the sunniest part of the garden.

Tulips are largely unfussed by cold- they originate from mountainous regions of Turkey and Iran where winters are cold -  but cold combined with wet will rot the bulbs so never allow the compost in containers of bulbs to get waterlogged. Raise containers off the ground with pot feet if necessary and keep them away from rainfall ‘run off’ from roofs or guttering.

After care

Deadhead the spent flowers to stop the bulbs from diverting energy into seed production.

Let the tulip leaves die down naturally and don’t be tempted to cut them back early. The foliage needs to absorb energy back to the bulb to ensure next years flowers. 


Plant roses.

Once upon a time roses were invariably planted in dedicated formal rose beds.  Although they still look good treated this way, especially in large formal gardens, the modern approach is to incorporate roses into mixed beds and borders. This ‘mixed border’ planting works well in any size or style of garden.

Combining roses with perennials, annuals and flowering bulbs gives a tapestry of colour and shape that lasts from midsummer until autumn.  And there is no need to limit roses to just the beds and borders; if you have room for a large container in your garden you have room for a rose!

Climbing roses can be grown in improved soil next to walls and fences or in large pots

Roses in large containers  can look spectacular positioned either side of an arch or in front of a trellis where they’ll add extra height as well as colour and scent. If your garden soil is shallow or chalky then growing in a container can be a good way of giving roses the rich deep soil they need. Plant roses into loam based compost if you are growing them in containers; multi-purpose compost doesn’t have enough for weight or nutrients for them, and choose a deep pot that will take the rose roots without cramping.

Patio roses are perfect in containers adding splashes of colour in small spaces but they are also wonderful edging plants for a small bed or border.

There really is scope for a romantic rose garden whatever the size of your garden!


Plant Dormant Bare root Perennials

This is the time of year when many plants are happy to rest and take it a bit easy.

They are going through their dormant phase, biding their time until spring and waiting for warmer temperatures to encourage them back into life.

Bare root perennials are dormant plants supplied with bare roots; planted now they will establish more quickly and flower earlier than pot grown perennials and they’ll get bigger and better to return every year. As well as being excellent border plants many perennials also make wonderful cut flowers.

Just like us, plants are ready for a good long rest come the close of the year.Although we may feel the cold underground the soil is still relatively warm so it’s the ideal time to plant dormant bare root perennials.

Perennial plants may not look as if they are doing much during the winter but underground they are making strong roots to ensure a head start next spring.

Winter and spring rains will keep the roots moist while any winter sunshine helps to ripen the wood. Hold moisture in the soil and avoid competition from weeds by mulching and clear a space around any newly planted trees or shrubs to keep the soil weed free.

Dormant perennials are ideal if you are creating a new exciting flower border, or just want some fabulous herbaceous plants to fill gaps in the garden.  Buying perennials when they’re dormant is a really cost effective way of filling a garden with flowers.

Find all of our bare root perennial range online and revive your borders or cutting garden next summer. Your dormant, bare root perennial plants will be delivered at the right time for planting. Normally between autumn and early spring, depending on weather conditions.

When they arrive

Unpack immediately and plant as soon as possible after delivery. Don’t let the roots to dry out! 

Before Planting

Dig over the planting area in advance and remove any perennial weeds, and old plant debris. Improve the soil if necessary with soil improver or garden compost to give plants the best possible start.

Soak the roots in a bucket of cold water for a couple of hours prior to planting.


Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots without cramping them.

Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and add soil improver if necessary

Position the plant so its crown or stem is level with the soil.

Fill the planting hole with soil to cover the roots and firm in gently.

Water well to settle soil around the roots.


Find room for a Tree

You may think you need a huge garden to find room for a tree but there are trees of every size and shape , ornamental trees and fruit trees too ,that will fit happily into even modestly sized  gardens.  Trees make a valuable habitat for insects, and birds and small mammals who rely on trees for nesting sites and a source of food; as well as bearing blossom and fruit,

There are plenty of fruit varieties that will suit a small garden so you won’t need masses of space to get a delicious home grown apple or pear next autumn. Most fruit needs sunshine to give the best tasting crops but if you have a shady garden you can still grow your own fruit- choose a Morello cherry.  Sometimes called a sour cherry; it’s a brilliant cooking cherry perfect for jam or juicy cherry pies and it will  thrive on a north facing wall- a position where most fruit trees would simply sulk!

Hazels  (Corylus) make attractive garden plants too. Grow them for their delicious nuts and also to use their mature branches for wigwams and bean poles. You could even try coppicing them for a regular supply of stout young branches.



Gardening Tips for November

Protect Plants 

The likelihood of frosts increases considerably as soon as November arrives. So get prepared for cold nights and stock up on fleece and cloches. If it’s a crisp clear day then expect a night frost, and if you can see the stars when you go to bed it’s very likely the night will be cold!

You can always keep a few sheets of newspaper handy to cover vulnerable plants if an unexpected frost is forecast, but it’s much better to be prepared.

In the ground

Protect half hardy and tender plants such as winter salad leaves and autumn sown vegetables with a layer of fleece.

Wrap any tender plants that are growing in open ground such as palms with straw and fleece to protect them from cold and wet.  In cold parts of Britain lift half hardy tuberous plants such as dahlias and cannas, in milder, southern areas of the UK you can protect them with a mulch. Use a thick layer of well rotted manure, spent mushroom compost or garden compost to keep warmth in the soil.

In containers

Bring tender container plants under cover and lift pots off the ground with pot feet underneath to give the best drainage. Cold and wet is a lethal combination, especially for half hardy and borderline hardy plants such as Mediterranean palms, tender shrubs and herbs, and  young bay trees.


Autumn planting Top Tips 

Bare root perennials, trees, shrubs and roses are permanent additions to the garden, they’ll bring colour and form to the garden for years to come so they deserve the very best start. Here are our top tips for success when you plant bare root perennials, trees, shrubs and roses:

Unpack plants immediately and plant as soon as possible after delivery.

Don’t let the roots dry out!

Dig over the planting area in advance. Do this a week or so before the delivery date to help the soil to settle. Remove any perennial weeds and oldplant debris and improve the soil if necessary with soil improver or garden compost.

If it’s not possible to plant straight away because soil is waterlogged or frozen keep the plants somewhere frost free and airy. Keep roots just moist by storing them in damp compost or, if outside conditions allow, heel plants in to a patch of bare ground until you’re ready to plant them into their permanent positions.

Heeling in is a term used for temporary planting, this protects the plant’s roots until it can be placed in its permanent position. The roots are buried at an angle and firmed in gently to avoid wind rocking plants out of the soil.

Staking ensures your tree or rose will stay upright and prevents it from being rocked out of the soil or snapped by strong winds.  To avoid damaging plant roots position your stake in the soil before you cover the roots with soil.

Trees planted in containers will probably need to be staked for their entire lives.

Top Tips If you are growing a tree that will be permanently in a pot choose a large container with a wide base to avoid the risk of the tree toppling over in windy weather.

Add plenty of drainage crocks to the base of the pot and fill with good quality soil-based compost; this will give large plants the right amount of nutrients; and because it is heavier than multi-purpose compost it adds weight to the pot, and helps to anchors the plant firmly.

Jargon buster

Bare root A plant that has been dug from the nursery during dormancy and sold without soil on its roots.

Dormant A plants ‘resting’ period with little active growth, depending on weather, but usually from autumn to spring when temperatures are below 6C/43F.

Rootstock The roots of a different variety grafting onto another plant (usually to control its vigour).

Graft Union The point where a grafted stem is joined to a rootstock. This is easily recognised by the bulge on the stem.


Store Dahlia tubers

Dahlias are native to Mexico so these sun loving plants will keep flowering all the while the weather is warm… but those showy flowers definitely don’t tolerate cold snaps and frosts. As soon as the first frosts arrive their foliage blackens and the stems topple.

Once this happens remove the dead stems and lift and store the fleshy tubers as soon as possible. How to store

Carefully dig up the tubers from beds and borders or empty them out of containers.

If you have a lot of different varieties to store pop in a label so you know which is which.

Shake off as much soil as possible and discard any shriveled or rotten tubers.

Leave the tubers stem side down to drain away any moisture that might rot them in storage.

When the tubers have dried out cover them a layer of newspaper or with a dry layer of compost

Keep somewhere dry and frost free ready to be replanted in beds, borders and containers next year to flower again next summer.


How to Plant bare root roses

Bare root roses are great value, and now is one of the best times to plant them.

Before you plant your rose, soak the roots in a bucket of cold water for a couple of hours.

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots without cramping them. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and add soil improver if necessary. Position the rose centrally in the planting hole with the graft union level with the soil surface.The Graft Union is the point where a grafted stem is joined to a rootstock; this is easily recognised by the bulge on the stem.

Position the plants at the same depth as they were at the nursery; this is usually easy to spot because of the dark soil mark on the stem.

Fill the planting hole with soil to cover the rose’s roots and firm in gently.

Water well to settle soil around the roots.

Water all newly planted roses regularly, at least weekly, until well established, and keep the area around your new roses free of weeds.



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