1 November 2016 - 12:00am

November cheer

November can be a pretty dull and depressing month can’t it? Darker nights, colder, often wetter weather and all winter in front of us. So here are a few suggestions to make you and your garden more cheery when the sun isn’t shining: • Plant up a pot of scented plants right by your door. Pansies and violas have a lovely perfume – I much prefer the little violas best but each to their own. Other scented plants in winter include the winter flowering Virburnums – V. x bonantense Charles Lamont has an AGM and has pretty pink, scented flowers from October through to March. If you prefer an evergreen shrub, Saraccoca confusa, sometimes called winter box, has fluffy white flowers and an amazing, all pervading scent. Finally Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty' is a lovely member of the honeysuckle family; • Trawl the garden centres for cheap bulbs – tulips can be planted now, they just come through a bit later. They too can be fragrant: two beautifully elegant lily flowered tulips are ‘West Point (yellow) and ‘Ballerina’ (a pretty, soft orange). If squirrels are a pain – they seem to love to munch them, the more expensive and rare the better, soak them in tonic water with quinine an hour or so before you plant them. It keeps them away to some extent. Plant good and deep with a handful of grit for good drainage; • Turn your compost heap. It won’t just gladden your heart, it will do it good. And you will have the satisfaction of beautiful, crumbly, free compost more quickly; • Find just the right spot for a comfy seat outside for when the weather is good enough for you to have your coffee or glass of wine. A little pot of something pretty, or fascinating like a houseleek will make you go out and enjoy the outside, even if you are huddled up in your coat; • Feed the birds. Do your bit for wildlife and give yourself some time to watch and enjoy! If you don’t tidy your borders too much they will love it. I have a tall Inula outside the study window and I can watch the goldfinches eat the seeds for ages. There are loads of jobs you can get on with at your own pace over the winter. I’m going to have a go at fan pruning our fig (see last months KC) without reducing the crop next year too much. Winter pruning fruit trees is an art I won’t try to describe here as I’m no expert, but it is a good time to do it when you can see the trees structure without leaves. The RHS website is always a good source of information. If you are planning some tree planting now is a good time. Leafmould is worth taking some time and effort to make. It does take a year or more to break down properly but it is beautiful stuff and easy to create. Rake up leaves when they are damp and pop them into a big bin bag. Make a few holes in the bottom for drainage, they want to be damp but not sodden. Leave them somewhere out of the way until they have turned to crumbly, dark yumminess for your woodland plants to thrive in. Please remember our pets and wildlife if you are planning a bonfire, check especially for hedgehogs in the woodpile before you light up!