Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings

Newsletter 54 - November 2015

What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Now’s a good time to plant roses, trees, shrubs and hedging.
  • Check the ties on trees and standard shrubs to ensure they are secure ready for the windier winter weather.
  • Check fencing and tree guards to ensure that young plants aren’t vulnerable to rabbits.
  • Reduce the length of tall rose stems and the bulk of standard roses so they aren’t damaged by the wind.
  • Cut down faded perennials, unless they have decorative seedheads, to keep borders neat over the winter.
  • Dig up any cannas, gladioli and dahlias you didn’t get to last month, or put a 15cm depth of organic mulch over them for winter protection.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from dogwoods, roses, spireas, deutzias, wisterias, forsythias, Virginia creepers, buddleias and willows.
  • Continue to plant bulbs and bedding for autumn and spring colour.
  • Take root cuttings from plants such as oriental poppies, phlox, verbascum, mints, echinops and romneya.
  • Water and feed house plants a little less over the winter.
  • Be careful not to overwater cacti and succulents as they are susceptible to fungal root rot.
Fruit and veg
  • This month you can still harvest apples, carrots, turnips, swedes, beetroot, celeriac, parsnips, leeks, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Crops including garlic and hardy broad beans can be sown now.
  • Cover newly sown beans and peas with cloches or similar protection to keep them warm.
  • Plant fruit trees and summer-fruiting raspberry canes.
  • Dig organic matter into bare beds so it is well incorporated before sowing in the spring.
General tasks
  • Mulch beds and borders if you didn’t do so last month.
  • Collect fallen leaves, particularly from paths, lawns and ponds, and use them to make leaf mould to improve your soil.
  • Use any well-rotted material from your compost bins to enrich your soil and make space in the bin for autumn leaves and prunings.
  • Clean paths and patios so that algae and moss doesn’t build up and make them slippery over the winter.
  • Mow the lawn if needed, but keep the cutting height raised.
  • Cover garden furniture.
  • Move non frost-resistant pots/ornaments/equipment indoors.
  • Clear gutters, ditches and drains.
  • Clean out bird feeders, baths and nesting boxes.
Plant of the monthAucuba japonica 'Salicifolia'

Aucuba japonica 'Salicifolia' is an evergreen, rounded shrub which grows to around 1.5m height and spread. It has attractively slender leaves and bears bright red berries over the autumn and winter. It likes the shade, so is ideal for the shady back of a border where it can provide a backdrop to summer displays then come into its own by providing colour later in the year. It's a dioecious plant, so you'll only get berries from females and will need a male nearby for pollination. Find out more...

Problem of the monthCommon spangle gall wasp galls

The common spangle gall wasp lays its eggs under distinctive 'galls' on oak trees. The first generation are laid under berry-like galls in the spring, the second generation under these disc-shaped galls in the summer, which are often found covering the ground under the tree in the autumn. It does little damage to oak trees so generally no controls are required. Find out more...

In the news

Fifth RHS garden to open in Salford

RHS Garden Bridgewater will open in 2019 in a 60 hectare site in the grounds of Worsley New Hall in Salford. The development, which could cost £30 million, should attract one million visitors each year and is part of the society's 10 year investment plan.

First UK grown sweet potatoes go on sale

The first UK grown crop of sweet potatoes has gone on sales in ASDA supermarkets. The hardy variety of sweet potatoes has been grown by Watts Farm Group in Kent using protected raised beds. It follows three years of development to optimise the growing conditions for the crop.

Welsh coalmine to become community woodland

A new community woodland is to be created on the site of the former Coegnant Colliery and Maesteg Washery in the Upper Llynfi Valley, south Wales. Work has already started on the 30 hectare site and 60,000 trees will be planted over the winter. The project, funded by the Welsh Government Nature Fund, is a collaboration between Natural Resources Wales and the Ford Motor Company (who have more than 300 employees living in the local area).


Plants for a difficult spot - damp shade

Shady spots in our garden often become dreary sites where little grows, but there is another way! Choose your plants carefully and you can bring year round colour and interest to the darker corners of your plot.

Here are some suggestions for such as location in your garden, specifically looking at plants which will thrive in damp shade:

Fatsia japonica flowerFatsia japonica

This large, architectural shrub will bring a hint of the tropics to the shadiest spots. Its large, palmate leaves look like they should be gracing an exotic scene, but actually this glossy specimen is happy in full shade and is fully hardy. In the autumn it lights up with clusters of small, cream-coloured flowers, followed by black berry fruits.

The flowers of Fatsia japonica are shown here.



Tree peonies

Paeonia delavayi is happy in both sunny and shady spots and, growing to 2m tall, it's well sized for making a statement in a shady location without overpowering other plants. The species bears dark red flowers in early summer. Opt for varieties P. d. var. lutea or var. ludlowii for yellow blooms.

Sweet box

These dense, evergreen shrubs bring winter interest to a shady spot with their sweetly scented, white flowers which are followed by dark, glossy fruits. There are various forms of sweet box which will work in a damp, shady spot, including Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca confusa and Sarcococca ruscifolia.


These naturally woodland flowers will, on the whole, cope well with a shady site and are happy with damper conditions. Aquilegia fragrans provides the added benefit of scent, but cultivars of A. flabellate or A. vulgaris would be equally suitable and provide a wide range of colours from soft blues, through to pinks and whites.


The foxglove (Digitalis species), another woodland flower, will provide spikes of brightly coloured flowers in late spring and early summer. They will tolerate both damp and dry shade and provide a great source of nectar for garden insects such as bees. They are biennial, so will only flower in their second year. Most will self-seed each year, meaning you should have a constant supply of plants in flower.

Helleborus orientalis

Whether you choose Helleborus orientalis, H. foetidus or H. niger varieties, not only will you have a plant which is happy in the shade (preferring damp but tolerating dry shade) you will also have a floral display in the depths of winter. Hellebores have graceful, nodding flowerheads in shades of pinks, whites and greens. Cut back the foliage before flowering to really appreciate the blooms.

Helleborus orientalis is shown here.


Persicaria forms clumps of attractively long leaves. In summer and autumn it blooms with spears of red or pink flowers. It's happy in damp, shady positions and is excellent for clay soils. Try Persicaria milletii for crimson-red flowers or Persicaria affinis cultivars for a slightly shorter plant, available in a variety of shades.

Trollius x cultorum

Known as the 'globeflower' Trollius x cultorum thrives in damp shade, including beside ponds or streams. The ball-shaped flowers appear from spring into summer in varying shades of yellow, from the pale cream of Trollius x cultorum 'Alabaster', to the vibrant yellow of T. x c. 'Superbus' and the golden-orange of T. x c. 'Orange Princess'.


What's on this month

As the nights draw in and the weather turns, there are still some great garden events to get you out in the fresh air:

  • 7th November - Come and Grow, Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Woburn, Bedfordshire.
  • 7th November - Autumn Colour Woodland Walk, Nymans (NY), near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.
  • 7th & 8th November - Plants For Autumn Interest, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 12th November - Charity Open Garden, Sulby Gardens, Sulby, Northamptonshire.
  • 12th November - The Cultivation of Temperate Ferns in Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh.
  • 15th November - Autumn Walk, Fairhaven Woodland and Water, Norwich, Norfolk.
  • 22nd November - Capability Brown Restoration Tour, Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
  • 28th November to 6th December - National Tree Week, Thorp Perrow Arboretum, Bedale, North Yorkshire.