November is finally here, signalling an end to the gardening year and reminding us that the end of year cleanup is yet ahead of us. I’ll soon be cutting down the skeletons of perennials and thinking about spreading a few inches of winter mulch over the beds to feed the soil for next season – as soon as the weather, and my back, will allow.

In the meantime Rose de Retsch is still turning out flowers as if there is no winter coming and the monkshood still retains a few blue flowers – just enough to keep the gardener in me satiated. In one corner a half dozen bulbs of Nerine are holding forth their clear pink flowers, so out of character for this time of year, and all the more precious for it. The climbing roses Dortmund and Dublin Bay are still flowering well enough to warm the heart and the rambler rose Paul Transon, still recovering from being cut to the ground by the cold winter two years ago, is throwing up a few salmon-pink blooms in defiance of the season. It will do better in coming seasons and its diminished flowering at this time of year is still appreciated – there is no vulgarity in restraint.

November may signal the end of something for gardeners but we are hard core optimists – it is also the time of year to be digging through displays of spring bulbs down at the garden centre to adorn the garden after its imminent deep sleep. I’ve added a few more late tulips to, hopefully, bridge the gap between April and May and I’m trying again a few patches of snowdrops and hoping that they will make themselves at home. I plant only bulbs that are reputed to naturalize somewhat so each spring should bring more and more colour to the garden if I choose wisely in November – and if the squirrels are kind, or more likely, inattentive.

Here’s hoping that all gardeners have tucked some rarity into their gardens for next year – something that you’ve always wanted, or perhaps something that everyone has told you is impossible to grow. November is a time for spring dreams.

Jim Thorleifson

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