Common Ground – November 2023

“The gardener’s year is circular; November and December are the months that close the circle.”

Bob Thomson, The New Victory Garden

Haven’t we had the most wonderful fall ever? The leaves were particularly colourful this year and they seemed to last for weeks. It has also been a particularly warm fall. Those of us who heat with wood haven’t burned very much yet.

The first hard frost here in the valley wasn’t until October 23rd. This delayed some of the usual fall clean up garden jobs. But I can’t say that it bothered me very much. I was too busy enjoying the nice weather and having annual flowers still blooming.

And as much as I dread the coming of dark November, there is something very satisfying about the rituals of the fall garden. The glads have been dug up and are ready to go in the basement for the winter. The bean poles have been put away for another year.

Garlic is ready to be planted. I have planted it early and planted it late and have found that planting time doesn’t make any difference at all. What does make a difference is how much rain there is in early spring.

The porch plants have finally been moved indoors for the winter. I have never found that very many bugs come inside with them. I’m not sure why so much nonsense has been written about this. No bugs have ever been willing to live on the stinky geraniums and the same goes for the trailing rosemary.

The trailing rosemary flowers twice a year and is starting to flower again. It does very well indoors in the winter in a south window. Flowers in November are especially appreciated. I have never been able to successfully overwinter the upright rosemary so I’m glad I discovered the trailing one.

I gave up giving my amaryllis the winter rest period years ago. I know that this is the conventional wisdom but I’ve found that it isn’t necessary. I learned this from a friend who has a lot of them. She puts them outside in planters in the summer and brings them inside in the winter where they all flower. No rest period and no fussing around. Finding ways to simplify the routine is always satisfying.

I have planted some new bulbs for spring and divided some old ones. The giant alliums that I started planting years ago finally needed to be divided. These are fun and foolproof. They make a statement that is the opposite of understated and tasteful. Like the frilly glads of summer, they say look at me I’m big and obvious and I don’t do blending in. What is more welcome to see after surviving a long snowy winter?

Finally, years ago I remember reading an essay by Aldous Huxley called Wordsworth in the Tropics. The basic premise of it was that Wordsworth wouldn’t be quite so keen on plants and greenery if he had to deal with them all year round. Spoken like someone who came from a climate with winter, of course. But I think I agree with him. I’m looking forward to the winter rest from things green and growing. Those seed catalogues for next year will arrive soon enough.

By Jill Williams

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