Saturday, 25 November 2017

Six plants I'm leaving alone for now - November in the Garden

Calendula Green Fingered BlogIf you want a low maintenance garden, here are some plants you don't need to look after for now, just let them do their thing over winter.
 
 
 
If you want to, you can spend most of November clearing up the garden. Cutting things back when they've finished flowering, tidying up windfalls of fruits and debris that's been blown around, clearing up leaves, the list goes on.
 
But why make gardening hard work? I've collected several bags of leaves, to make leaf mould to add as a soil improver, and I've spread the result of last autumn's leaf collection on the beds after planting the tulips, but I haven't removed a single fallen leaf from the borders around my garden. It's nature's way of replenishing the soil. I leave them where they've fallen if that's around the base of the plants, just keeping them off the crown of anything that's died back, to make sure it doesn't rot. My leaf mould is the product of what's fallen on the paths, or in the lane outside the back gate - a simple ten minute job to collect, bag, moisten and hide until next year.
 
As for the flowers, well there are still plenty around, and plenty of winter flowering species still to come. But many of the summer blooms have faded and you might be tempted to cut them down and compost them. If they look particularly untidy, or are flopping over and getting in the way then it may be worth it, but in many cases I will be leaving them alone until February, or later. 
 
Even when apparently well past their peak, plants can offer a structural element to the garden, just as the skeletal forms of the trees do higher up. They can be interesting to look at, especially when frosted, and with some fascinating seed heads amongst the myriad of reproductive means developed over millions of years of evolution. They can be a source of food for wildlife over winter. And they can seed themselves in the ground naturally, adding even more plants to your garden and saving you time and money.
 
This post is part of a link up with The Propagator, who had the idea of sharing Six Things on Saturday. Visit his site to see his six, and everyone else's. Here are six things I'm going to leave alone for as long as I can: 
 

Sedum spectabile

 
Sedum spectabile Green Fingered Blog
Sedum spectabile
Still brilliantly purple, this Sedum was touched by frost this morning, giving it a light dusting of crystals. Fresh growth is already appearing at the base, but I will leave these flower heads for winter interest unless they collapse to the ground. Until then they will carry on looking good. 
 

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis Green Fingered Blog
Verbena bonariensis
The tall slender stems of Verbena bonariensis catch the autumn light beautifully, and the seeds will fall and grow, meaning I am unlikely to need to plant any more. The pinky purple haze they offer several feet off the ground in summer is almost guaranteed to return if you just let them do their thing. If they pop up where you don't want them just pull them up and replant, but you are unlikely to have a shortage! 
 

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia Green Fingered Blog
Rudbeckia
 
There are in fact plenty of flowers still on the rudbeckia but I hope this picture shows that they can be left and enjoyed long after the petals have fallen. 
 

Sedum "Purple Emperor"

Sedum Pruple Emperor Green Fingered Blog
Sedum "Purple Emperor"
Another Sedum. It probably could benefit from a Chelsea chop as it's got a bit straggly, but I particularly like the ghostly white stems it has developed in the autumn - they are quite eye-catching.
 

Aquilegia

Aquilegia Green Fingered Blog
Aquilegia
 
The seed heads of Aquilegia are worth a closer look. And if you leave them to seed around they will fill your garden with colour in May. They don't come true, so whatever colour they were before they will cross pollinate and generate random colours next year, but again, any that don't suit your plans are easily pulled up, though not as easy to replant as the verbena. If you catch them at the right time, the seed is quite easy to collect, for giving away or saving for later.
 

Calendula

Calendula Green Fingered Blog
Calendula
 
This was only here because I left it there to seed itself last year. What beautiful seeds! Just as lovely as the flowers, and I think the birds like these too.
 
 
So which plants are you leaving alone to seed around or to enjoy their form in the frost or over winter? I'm always on the look out for plant suggestions, so let me know. 
 
 
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12 comments:

  1. I find it really hard to give up on sedum, cut them back. They look good any time of the year. As yourself, I like to leave seed heads on, especially during this time of year, but not the aguilegia. I love it, but it's too prolific in my garden, so I obsessively dead head. We have one of those plants, I guess.

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    1. Hi Lora, thanks for commenting. I know exactly what you mean about sedum. I cut a couple of stems every so often and use them dried indoors for decoration, but otherwise leave them as long as I can. With the aquilegias I rather lazily let them grow wherever they like and spend time pulling up the ones I don't want afterwards rather than dead heading in advance. NO difference really except I guess leaving them means time to enjoy the seed heads at this time of year.

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    2. I may try your method for a summer, becuz they do make a lovely rattle in the breeze plus add a nice verticle line above the soft foliage. Reading your comments below, I was surprised you've had plants change colour from one season to the next. How amazing is that?

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    3. Well it's not the same plants changing colour year on year, but the next generation differing from their parents. I'm no botanist but as I understand it a blue aquilegia for example may be fertilised by a bee carrying pollen from a pink one. The resulting seed has genetic material of both the blue and pink varieties, and either may end up influencing the colour of the flowers on the plant that grows from that seed. It's just the same principle as two people, one with brown eyes and one with blue, having children. The children may end up with either blue or brown eyes, meaning they differ from one of their parents. Trouble is with plants in the garden, there is no easy way of telling which are the two parent plants!

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    4. Now I understand. Yes, they have a habit of surprising you in the garden.

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    5. Foxgloves seem to do the same. I really want a group of white ones but they keep turning out pink. I'm trying from shop bought seed of a white variety this year. Hopefully they've been pollinated under controlled conditions to make sure they stay white!

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  2. Sedums are an odd bunch. I have Spectabile and Purple Emporer, amongst others. PE reliably stays upright; all the rest flop whatever I do to them and, as the stems go bare, supports get too prominent. Maybe I'll stick to PE in future. I planted a couple of "Nora Barlow" a few years ago and ended up with her everywhere. Last year a near black Aquilegia appeared. I dug up and removed most - not all - of Nora but collected seed from the black one (can't give it a name of course). This year I had dark purple Aquilegia everywhere and Nora disappeared completely. Who knows what next year will bring. This is the fun of gardening.

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    1. Absolutely John! My main herbaceous bed is designed with a particular colour scheme and the aquilegias sometimes compliment it and sometimes contradict it. They pop up in various places in various colours. IF the colour fits the scheme I leave them and if they don't I rip them out. In other areas which are not so themed I leave them unless they dominate too much. They make it easy because they will always appear, but they add variety because they are never quite the same two seasons running.

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  3. I've left the Aquilegia to self-seed. And you say they don't come true? Wonderful!

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    1. Hi, yes they constantly cross pollinate and the colours change with every generation. As I describe in the comment above, I have a colour themed bed. I'll have blue aquilegias appear which i'm happy to leave where they are but those plants' seeds may produce pink ones in the same place the following year, which I'll pull out. I've tried simply moving them but I find they are difficult to transplant successfully, they root quite firmly and then don't appreciate being disturbed.

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  4. I am pretty much leaving everything standing now and will probably get out there on a sunny March day to cut things down. Aquilegias - I used to get a sea of the common blue ones looking fabulous every year but then they were wiped out with some kind of disease and I've had none since. Really sad. londoncottagegarden.com

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    1. That is a shame, I wonder what on earth would have caused it? You'll have to introduce a few new ones, you'll soon have loads again!

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