2011.11.30 End of Month View, November

Thanks to Helen, the Patient Gardener for organising this meme, I think it is the one I enjoy reading more than any other because everyone approaches it from a different angle.

Unbelievably the weather has remained spring-like all this month.  The mornings are chilly, and there is always heavy dew, a good thing as there hasn’t been much rain, a couple of showers and that’s it.  Some mornings the dew has looked like frost but no plants show any signs of frost damage.  I am still picking strawberries not many but it is lovely to have them at this time of year.  This is the first time I’ve ever grown strawberries as in England we lived near a pick-your-own and it never seemed worth the space to grow them.  In Italy they are only available in the shops for a relatively short time.  I didn’t even expect a great crop this year but I’ve been amazed at the quantity and quality of fruit.

I still have some peppers growing outside and they still ripening slowly.

Peppers in the vegetable garden

The two grafted plants in the greenhouse didn’t produce all that well during the summer, I think it was too hot and probably they needed even more water than I gave them.  Now they have grown to over one and a half metres and have lots of peppers that are ripening well.  They are larger and more ‘meaty’ than during summer.  A couple of weeks again when I was listening to the podcast of Gardeners Question Time it was mentioned that a trail is being done to find out if peppers will over winter in a cold greenhouse during the British winter, this has encouraged me to think that I will try to grow these two plants as perennials.  The programme suggested that during the coldest weather the plants would need to be cut back to the thick, almost woody, main stem.  As the grafted plants should have a large established root system now, I am hoping that if they do survive the winter, the root system will be better at taking up all the water available and that they will produce more even during the very high temperatures of July and August.  The plants are covered in fruit and I have pinched out the all the growing shoots and picked off the top flowers hoping that all the fruit will ripen.  I will let you know how they progress.

I mentioned some time ago that I wanted to plant some fruit trees in an area that is outside the fence in a zone protected from the north winds by the slope of the land and a tuffo ‘cliff’ – I’m not sure what you’d call it really; the perennial weeds were removed and it was all ready to plant when the flood from the surrounding field engulfed the area in a layer of mud.  This occurred in September and the ground is still very damp.  After the flood lots more creeping grass (gramigna) grew as the farmer had spread seed to grow to feed his sheep!  So last week I went and chose some trees.  I wanted to try some peaches and was, as usual, pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer at my local supplier.  I opted for three peaches which should fruit in July, September and October; I chose late flowering and fruiting varieties as having tasted those available in the shops these later varieties have a more interesting flavour and the late flowering should mean that they won’t be damaged by a late frost as has happened repeatedly with an Apricot that I planted in the vegetable garden as quite a large specimen and that I intend removing.  I also planted a cherry.  I want to try and grow the peaches as espaliers but I couldn’t buy whips so will have to try and prune the small trees as best I can – any advice would be very gratefully received.

I thought it was, perhaps, a German variety.

An amusing addendum to the purchase of the above is the labels, some of which were handwritten, obviously incorrectly copying the English Red Haven and changing it to Rhedaven!

The intention is to put up posts and wires to train the peach trees

What else is happening?  Well, despite the mild, warm, sunny days most of the plants know that winter is approaching and their leaves have changed colour or they have dropped.  The wisteria is still hanging on but only just.  There seem to be more leaves that have changed colour this year rather than just losing their leaves, this must be a result of the long, slow, gentle change from summer to autumn to winter.

Wisteria leaves against a blue sky

Walking around the garden today it was the light that I found so enjoyable – the sun is so high in the sky in comparison to in England, for me it made the day seem like a day in September or May; it was so pleasantly warm and the sky such an intense blue I just wanted to soak in the moment.

Rosa Westerland’s sunny colour seems to sum up the warmth of the day.

Even though the Gaura was still blooming in the circular rose bed I decided the time had come to free the roses from the heavy growth that was choking them.  The small seedlings I had left in the bed last year had grown dramatically, instead of a small root system there were tuber-like, hand-sized roots with a huge capacity to store nutriments and water.  Many of these I’ve potted up; someone will surely want them next year, many I’ve moved onto the slope where due to the hot spring some of the small seedlings I’d moved there last autumn hadn’t survived the summer; I’m more hopeful that these larger plants will establish during winter and will be able to withstand the drought next year.  It is nice to see the rose bushes again and they will surely benefit from the light and air; I really must keep the remaining Gaura in check and not allow them to choke everything else next year – perhaps the Chelsea chop will slow them down.   A Pennisetum villosum had seeded into the edge of the bed and is now a full sized plant, I need to move it elsewhere but I’m not quite sure where.

R. Sophie's Perpetual struggling through the Gaura before clearing the bed

The bed looks very bare but at least the roses can now breathe!

The garden reveals its treasures in a relaxed way, the days make you want to linger and search for all that is changing.  My last image is an Arbutus – its shiny, evergreen leaves combining with the ‘strawberry’ fruit and white flowers to attract a still-active bumble bee, it is a different variety than I usually see in the garden.

21 thoughts on “2011.11.30 End of Month View, November

  1. It was nice to see some of your garden and read about what you’ve been doing. White Gaura can be a real menace in warm climates. Even the Chelsea chop just seems to encourage it (but you will get more flowers). I’ve given up growing it and only grow pink ones now. But it is very drought tolerant and if I had a larger garden I would probably keep it, maybe in a bed of its own around a tree. I’ll be interested to read your other posts.

    • Hi Lyn. don’t misunderstand. I love the Gaura, it is the one plant that is reliably in flower in August when many plants go into summer domancy. It flowers for so many months and I love the waving stems. I just need to be a bit more brutal in keeping it under control in this small bed. I don’t find the pink varieties are as drought tolerant as the species. Christina

  2. Peppers! Roses! Greenness that isn’t tired, wind-frazzled at the edges and tending to beige – sigh. And then you give us peaches. That’s it, I’m emigrating…

    (And that Arbutus is just beautiful. Double sigh.)

  3. What a lot you still have flowering and the blue of your sky is such a fantastic colour for this time of year. I wish Gaura liked my garden better, I have tried improving my soil, but I think it is our damp winters it doesn’t like, maybe I ought to grow it in a pot and just bring it out for the summer, I have killed 2 so far, might just try a third time !

    • Hi Pauline, Gaura really appreciates free draining soil, I wouldn’t bother with it if it doesn’t like your conditions; I do think it is best to go with what wants to grow and enjoys the conditions in the garden rather than fighting nature. Christina

  4. Christina you have so much still growing in your garden, I love the photo of the wisteria leaves against the sky, I heard the programme about the peppers good luck with that and with your peaches, up here the sun barely rises much above the horizon for the next 2 months during this period of shortest days, some gardeners in drough prone areas should take note of the nice lip you have around your peach trees to hold water, Frances

    • Hi Frances, I don’t know how you survive with so little light, I would become really depressed. The winter light is one of the things I would find hard to give up now. Christina

      • hello Christina, to be honesty the short winter days were one of the things I thought would be a problem for me but they are not, the long almost continous daylight of summer compensate a lot also due to the big difference between winter and summer the change can be seen daily, in the new year each week the light will last at least 30 minuets longer so a month makes a difference of 2 hours and it seems to speed by, the low light is also very special when the clouds let the sun through! Frances

        • Hi Frances, I envy you the long days in summer, that’s something I miss a bit here as it’s always dark by 9, even on the longest days, but in winter it doesn’t get dark until 5 at the earliest and that really makes a big difference. What makes more difference is that the sun is high in the sky, I love it. Christina

  5. The Arbutus is so attractive, especially the fruits and the flowers are a lovely contrast. I will be interested to see how your perennial peppers do. I did try to overwinter mine once but failed miserably – the plants seemed to suffer from some fungus or something similar. I suppose my greenhouse was too damp despite being frost free. I can see why they advise cutting back to hard wood.

  6. Wonderful post, Christina! It is refreshing to see you garden while mine is on its way out and covered in frost this morning. What a beautiful, sunny day in your garden. Love the idea of espaliered peaches.

    The picture of your wisteria reminded me something I read a bit ago that made me think of you (as your “bird-stripped wisteria” post was the first thing I read on your blog): In Gardening at Sissinghurst by Tony Lord, I read a small comment about them wrapping black thread like a web around the wisteria framework in winter on their wall to keep the bird away. I know that yours may not be reachable, but I thought of you in case you might like to try it just out a window or something… I never like to see a flower go to waste. 😉

    • Julie, thank you so much for this idea and for remembering the problems I had this spring. When I prune in January or February I’ll try this, I was so dissapointed as I’d been looking forward to the pergola being covered in blooms for the first time. In the end only the end two plants, nearest to where the birds nest were affected but it was heartbreaking to see the buds on the ground. Christina

  7. I am so glad you enjoy this meme and join in every month. I love your peach trees and think they will look wonderful when they are trained as you describe. What do the locals think of your garden, is it very different to theirs?

    Sorry for the delay in reading, been busy and unwell

    • Hi Helen; the locals don’t understand the garden at all – I have some very good gardening friends but even they don’t quite understand the ‘English’ passion for gardening. Christina

  8. Hi Christina, the light is indeed beautiful, that rose sings out. Good luck controlling the gaura, it obviously thrives in your climate, a mixed blessing. Exciting to be planting fruit trees, I will watch with interest how you decide to train them.

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