November has always been one of my favourite months of the year. As a kid, it was because of the excitement of planning my birthday party at the end of the month, as well as the knowledge that the end of the school year was fast approaching, with the joyful prospect of what seemed then to be eternal summer holidays. Now as a gardener, the month of November now signals to me the time of year when my garden really starts to come together fully and (sort of) realise my vision of what I want it to be.
I don't have much of a spring garden, because my focus is on plants that come into their own from mid-October to May, giving us six months of glorious colour, texture and form, rather than the brief (albeit gorgeous) period of spring in Sydney. November brings the purple smudge of Jacaranda trees across the skyline and banks of Hydrangea flowers come into bloom: mopheads and lacecaps of white and shades of blue and pink (depending on the pH of the soil). Hydrangea flowers will last for a long time but nothing can compare to their pristine perfection in November. Joining them in shady places are the tousled flower heads of Justicia carnea in colours of pink and white; the white and green floral candelabra of Albuca altissima; the starry clouds of Arthropodium cirratum; and carpets of groundcovering Campanula poscharskyana and Saxifraga stolonifera with their dainty blooms.
Daylilies are one of the stars of sunny borders in my November garden. Though each flower only lasts a day, there is a profusion of buds on a well-established clump, and they come in a mind-bogglingly array of hues, patterning and shapes. I am particularly fond of the elegant spidery forms and the miniatures, but all daylilies are lovely. Dahlia are getting into their stride now and will flower until April if deadheaded regularly. I prefer the smaller-growing forms, which have a huge array of flower colours. Alstroemeria are also generous bloomers in pretty colours: the tall-stemmed ones are great for picking for vases, whilst the low-growing clump-forming ones form a colourful mound.
In sunny spots, many Salvia are beginning their long blooming period. Over the years I have tried many different species and cultivars but am now concentrating on growing those with the longest flowering season. Purple-flowered Salvia 'Amistad', red-violet 'Love and Wishes' and maroon-bloomed 'Van Houtteii' are probably among the best, being in bloom basically all year round. The myriad cultivars of Salvia microphylla and its hybrids with other small-leaved species also flower prolifically and are excellent choices for compact spaces, growing to less than a metre tall. Current favourites include baby-pink 'Angel Wings' and soft-blue 'Mesa Azure'. One of the very first Salvia plants I ever grew, 'Indigo Spires', will always have a place in my garden too.
Fragrance is also a vital dimension of the November garden for me. The perfume of the thick tresses of star jasmine flowers pervade the garden and create a sense of season. Potted Gardenia shrubs at my front door are in bloom, exuding their haunting scent that seems to encapsulate the promise of a perfect summer: warm, sunny days and balmy evenings! The honeyed aroma of Buddleja panicles also begins to fill the air now. They seem to be at their very best in late spring and early summer, but if they are deadheaded, they will rebloom until early autumn. Silvery-leaved 'Lochinch' (ht 2 m) is one of my firm favourites, but I have also become enamoured of the lower-growing cultivars now available, including the 'Buzz' series, of which I grow a deep magenta one and a white-flowered one. These grow to around 1 m in height. Last week I was given an even more compact cultivar called 'Blue Chip Jr', with blue-purple flowers, one of the 'Lo & Behold' series, said to grow to just 60 cm tall and to flower over a long period.
Other scented plants in flower in my garden at the moment, bringing much delight, include shrubby Philadelphus and Murraya paniculata, a tree-like Brugmansia and heliotrope. I'd love to hear about what you are enjoying in your November garden!
18 Oct 20
Although my garden is semi-tropical in nature now, I still have some vestiges from my cottage garden days!
11 Oct 20
Consider training a shrub into a small tree.
04 Oct 20
October is iris time in Sydney gardens: the best are the tall bearded irises and Louisiana irises.
One crowded hour
27 Sep 20
Much can be achieved in regular short stints in the garden.
20 Sep 20
We may not be able to grow massed displays of tulips in our climate, but try some of these South African corms instead.