The Gardening Coach: November

PUBLISHED: 09:32 11 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:32 11 November 2014

Iris will bring colour even in late winter

Iris will bring colour even in late winter


Judy Shardlow recommends a miniature iris for a beauty that will withstand the winter weather

If you plant just one type of bulb this autumn it has to be the beautiful miniature iris (Iris reticulata). This alpine bulb never fails to bring colour and elegance to the garden and is one of the earliest to bloom. It’s a tough little beauty too, flowering valiantly through the worst of February weather, including hard frosts and snow. And you just can’t fail to love the colours. ‘George’ is a deep regal purple, while ‘Harmony’ is a brilliant sapphire blue, and if you’re missing the sun, then butter yellow Iris danfordiae will hit the spot.

At 10-15cm tall, their diminutive height is also part of their charm, making them ideal for outdoor containers, the front of borders or in an alpine or gravel border. Plant the bulbs now in a sunny spot with good drainage. And if you have heavy clay soil, add some horticultural grit to the soil at a ratio of 50:50 half soil to grit. I also ‘top dress’ the area that I’ve planted so that I remember where I’ve planted the bulbs and don’t accidently dig them up before they start to grow. Once in the ground they’ll flower faithfully and increase over time. Perfect!

November top tips

Plant a winter container. Tulips look great in containers, particularly if planted with wallflowers, forget-me-nots and pansies.

Plant bare root trees and shrubs. These are cheaper and often establish more quickly than container grown ones. Useful when you have a large garden to plant.

Grow indoor hyacinths and narcissus – perfect for an early indoor display in spring. Follow the instructions for ‘forcing’ and they’ll be in flower in a few weeks.

Move deciduous shrubs. So long as soil is not hard and frozen, deciduous shrubs can be moved while dormant. Make sure to remove carefully and relocate to a well prepared bed.

Look after wildlife. Pollinating insects need shelter over winter. Leaving piles of twigs, leaves and plant debris for bees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies and moths with help them survive the cold months.

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