Hardy outdoor flowers will chase away the dank days

The poet Thomas Hood summed up November along the lines of, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November, writes Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park.

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

It’s true that November can appear dank and dreary and spring seems a long way off.

Any hardy outdoor flowers at this time of year are therefore guaranteed to lift the spirits and there are some choice shrubs and bulbs which can be relied on to do this.

If you have the space, one of the winter flowering viburnums, Viburnum X Bodnantense, is worth considering with its clusters of pink flowers from late October into late winter.

Camellias are mostly grown for their sumptuous spring flowers, but there are autumn flowering varieties too.

Most of these are forms of Camellia sasanqu.

Plantation Pink and Hugh Evans both have large, single, pink flowers, while Crimson King is bright red.

Varieties of the crimson flag lily, Schizostylis coccinea (now correctly called Hesperantha) flower from late summer into November.

They have grassy green leaves like a gladiolus.

Major has crimson flowers, whilst those of Viscountess Byng are pink.

In spite of its exotic appearance and African origins, the Bowden lily, Nerine bowdenii is reliably hardy with long-lasting pink flowers produced from October into December.

Amarine is a hybrid between the nerine and the autumn flowering Amaryllis belladonna and has produced some wonderful new varieties.

The Belladiva Series combines the vigour and hardiness of the parents , while Emanuelle has pale pink flowers, and Anastasia deep pink.

I have sung the praises of the ivy leaf cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium, many times and pink, white and mauve flowers are produced between September and November.

Those forms with marbled grey, green and silver foliage are especially garden-worthy.

It might be November but there is still time to plant bulbs at the beginning of the month.

Containers for winter and spring interest can also be planted up.

Use variegated evergreens, such as ivy and euonymus, bulbs and spring bedding plants such as polyanthus primroses, pansies and violas.

Protect vulnerable over-wintering plants before the first hard frosts.

Lift and bring inside any tender perennial plants and if you have outside water taps and exposed pipes supplying them, they should be protected to prevent frost damaging them.

Prepare ground for new plantings on heavy soils by digging the soil and adding organic matter such as well rotted manure or leaf mould.

Leave ground rough dug to allow frosts to break down the clods.

Continue harvesting parsnips, swedes, leeks, broccoli and cabbage and prune back taller-growing shoots on shrub roses and lavateras.

This lessens the effect of wind rocking the plant which produces a hole against the crown of the plant at soil level.

Leave final pruning until late winter or early spring.