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My Garden Journal 2018 – November

This is the penultimate post in this 12 part series about my 2018 Garden Journal so here is what was happening in our patch in November.

The first couple of pages dealt with the continued redevelopment of our old hot garden. We intended to give it a completely new look including bark access paths through it.

I wrote, “The re-development of the old hot garden continued to the end of the month and into the first days of November.” The first picture shows Jude the Undergardener holding up a huge root which Ian managed to dig out of the bed. He had to cut it off at both ends as it was extending beneath the lawn in one direction and out of our garden in another. It sat horizontally in the soil just above the boulder clay layer. We have no idea what plant it belonged to originally. One of our gardening mysteries! The second photo shows Ian our garden helper raking over the soil which he had meticulously double dug after adding lots of organic compost. This first addition of compost was dug in before a second batch was added as a thick mulch.


We then laid a path of bark over membrane before  getting ready to enjoy planting both our new and saved plants.


On the right hand page I looked at how Jude spent time early in the month cleaning pots, cleaning the glass in the greenhouse and putting up bubblewrap insulation. Once done this allowed us to move my succulent collection into the winter safety to be found under glass. “Jude washed and cleaned all our plastic pots so that we can reuse them. Our hot bench was cleaned up and bubblewrap put up in place as insulation. My succulent collection is now snug and secure in the sparkling clean greenhouse.”


Turning over to my next double page spread I looked at our fruit and the continuation of planting up the new border.

I wrote, “This is the latest in any year that we have harvested our crop of apples from our main trees and heritage cordons. We have used the beautiful book “The Apple Book” by Rosie Sanders to check the indentification of those apples whose labels have been lost. The apples are now ready for storage and we will hopefully enjoy them through to the end of March.”

Sometimes fruit can surprise us. “This year saw us grow the biggest pear we have ever seen. Jude has now put our apples in store and I have printed new labels for every apple tree. The next stage will be to enjoy eating our apples from storage and then next spring the blossom will return.”

My diary moved on to look at us planting up the newly created border which used to be our Hot Border, “After a few days away in London we returned refreshed and ready to continue with our new border. Planting grasses and herbaceous perennials topped off by bulb planting gave us several days work. Work we love doing!”

“We planted hundreds of  bulbs and dozens of grasses and perennials, all in the dry week given to us in mid-November.”


Next I moved on to consider one of our favourite tree families the Sorbus and on the opposite page I sought out flowers choosing to brighten us up in gloomy November.

“We love Sorbus in their many guises but particularly delight in the cut leaf berrying varieties. When we lost our mature tree of Quince vranja we decided to replace it with another Sorbus to add to our small collection. November is the key month for Sorbus as the fire like colours of foliage adds another layer of interest on top of their delicately cut foliage and their colourful berries. Below are some of our Sorbus trees.

Sorbus Joseph Rock                 Sorbus Autumn Spire

Sorbus Autumn Spire                                          Sorbus aucuparia

Sorbus Apricot Queen                                       Sorbus Apricot Queen

Sorbus vilmorinii                                                 Sorbus vilmorinii

On the page opposite the Sorbus I share the flowers that cheer up the November garden.

“The flowers of November are fewer than earlier in the year but this makes every one of them extra special.”


The colour orange features on the left hand side of my next double page spread, where I look at the variety of orange featuring in our November garden.

“Orange is the dominant foliage colour in our November garden, as shrubs, trees and grasses set fire to the borders.”


Opposite the oranges was a delicate watercolour pencil sketch of a hosta leaf, about which I wrote, “Take one leaf, a hosta leaf drying out and draining of colour.”

The final page for November considers colours once again. November was a very colourful month overall.

A set of eight photos display colours from our shrubs, and alongside I wrote, “Deep into the month there is still so much colour in the garden. Some foliage deepens to  rich ruby shades.”

The final photo is of the foliage of a special small tree, a viburnum with leaves which make you think it is a betula at first sight. “The leaves of Viburnum betulifolium change colour so slowly with subtle deepening from bronze to dark red.”


So there is just one monthly report left to write in my Garden Journal for 2018, December, which will be my next post in this series.

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Ness Botanic Gardens

We meet regularly with a group we went to teacher training college with back in 1969 to 1972, for a get together. We often meet up at a garden for morning coffee and lunch, with time to explore in between.

In early October we met up at Ness Botanic Gardens run by Liverpool University. Jude and I had visited several times over the years, so looked forward to reaquainting ourselves with this wonderful garden.

We hoped to get a good show of bark, foliage and berries from their many Acers, Betulas and Sorbus. We were particularly keen on looking at the Sorbus as we are currently seleceting a new one for our Avocet garden. We love so many and hoped this visit would help us choose.

Leaving the visitors centre we could see the strong sharp shadows emanating from trees and lying across the grass. Through these trees we were afforded long views across the lower gardens.


Beds to show the main plant families were cut into the grass and we enjoyed these before following a gravel path down the slope that took us to the wonderfully colourful late perennial borders.


The herbaceous perennial borders shone with grasses and Asters, growing below shrubs and trees displaying signs of autumn, coloured foliage, fruit and berries.



After enjoying these mixed borders we returned to the far side of the garden to explore.

We made our way back to the centre for lunch and then Jude and I carried on touring the garden in search of Sorbus varieties, while the rest of the group made their ways home.

In my next post I shall share the Sorbus discoveries with you.



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Bluebell Arboretum – Part 2

Back to Derbyshire and we shall continue our beautiful autumnal wanderings within the grounds of Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery. I shall concentrate on a selection of the true favourites we enjoyed most of all. The beauty of this arboretum is that there is so much to discover and enjoy that our favourites would be different each time we visit.

We start again just as we discovered a couple of different Hawthorns which is always interesting as most nurseries sell only the common native as a hedge plant and the double pink ornamental tree form. We enjoyed discovering the unusual Crataegus tanacetifolia, the Tansy Leaved Thorn and the rare Crataegus ellwangeriana “Fireball”. It is amazing how the leaf shapes differ as do the berry colours.

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Now I will share two very different trees worth growing for their bark colours, patterns and textures, on the left Betula utilis “Grayswood Ghost” and in the centre and on the right Acer davidii “Cascade”. This selection of snakebark maple has a beautiful delicately weeping habit.

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This next specimen had me foxed and I had to go in search of a label. Although it is a Lime the leaves were the size of a Catalpa but the label informed us it was Tilia carolina subs. heterophylla.

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We were attracted to the autumn foliage colour of this Tulip Tree, so crisp and bright on a dull day. It is Lirodendron tulipifera  “Arnold” a tree we had never seen before with its fastigiate form.

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I love the berries and leaf shapes of all the Sorbus and to see a variety new to me was a delightful surprise, Sorbus eburnia “Harry Smith”. It was growing close to a Liquidamber which was turning from deep green to deep reds, and formed a beautiful open specimen.

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Before I tell you what tree impressed me most at this wonderful arboretum I would like to share a few pics of  Euonymus europaeus “Thornhayes” one of the selections of our native deciduous Euonymus simply because they are my favourite deciduous shrub and a Hydrangea petiolaris just getting established at the base of a tree. This will look great in 5 years time! We can’t grow them and so have given up! I have just discovered that the botanists have now decided that this climbing shrub must be called Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris. I wonder what it did to deserve that!


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And the star of the show? Well it just has to be a Birch doesn’t it – Betula utilis “Doorenbos”. White stems with the texture of suede and in places the gentlest hints of salmon pink. This multi-stemmed specimen stopped us in our tracks.

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Of course before we left with just minutes until Bluebell shut up shop for the day we had to have a peruse around the nursery. We bought this little beautiful shrub with its delicate little scented yellow flowers and bronzed foliage turning red in places as autumn was approaching. It is called Bush Honeysuckle or Diervilla lonicera for our garden at home and a tree for the Winter Garden at our allotment community gardens, an orange stemmed Lime, Tilia cordata “Winter Orange” a tree we have been searching for since we planted this border up over 6 years ago now. So we had a great day and came home with two wonderful new plants. We were so interested in everything the Bluebell Arboretum has to offer that we almost overstayed our welcome. The owners politely asked if they could close the gate now please so they could take their dogs for a walk and they probably deserved their tea! Below is our newly purchased Diervilla.

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Arboreta in Autumn – part 3 – Return to Richard’s

We loved our first visit to friends Richard and Anne’s home where we were treated to a tour of their wonderful, atmospheric arboretum. There is something extra special about a small arboretum, the results of one man’s vision. Richard knows every tree he has ever planted, its common name, its botanic name, its country of origin and the source of the plant or seed. The arboretum is now just 20 years old.

After a warm welcome we firstly enjoyed the lovely courtyard garden that Anne tends. It is a soft, gentle area that embraces the south facing side of the old mustard coloured mill house. Red flowered Pelargoniums with deep purple foliage filled an old stone trough beneath a brick wall clothed in soft pink roses of the climbing rose, Rosa “Open Arms”. Its scent is warm and richly fruity and remains with you as you leave it behind.

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The stone paving is softened by beautiful compositions of flowers and foliage.

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Richard and Anne took us across the gently sloping lawns with a boundary provided by the River Perry, and we climbed up to a gate in the fence which is the entrance to Richard’s fine collection of the finest trees. The real stars of the collection are Betulas (Birches), Acers, deciduous Euonymous and Liquidambers.

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More surprising was the incredibly deeply coloured red leaved Oak, with its large deeply cut leaves  and……..

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……….. this unusual specimen, Pistacia chinensis commonly known as the Chinese Pistacia.

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Every arboretum needs a selection of Sorbus (Rowans) to give the many coloured bunches of shiny berries, and Richard’s arboretum boasted a lovely group.

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Probably my favourite deciduous shrubs are the deciduous Euonymus with their unusual flowers and bizarrely coloured berries, combining such colours as cerise and orange. Luckily for me it is also Richard’s favourite shrub and he is building up a fine collection.

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Naturally what we really enjoyed most of all was seeing the wonderful selection of Birches in their autumn glory. We certainly were not to be disappointed. Jude even gave her favourite Betula a big hug – she must be turning into a tree hugger!

Of course you would be expecting me to mention the Betulas, my favourite family of trees and luckily it is Richards too and he grows alomst 180 different ones and several of his favourites.

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The River Birch below is Betula nigra “Dura Heat”. This is a particularly impressive multi-stemmed specimen and although just a young tree is already showing its peeling bark giving it a shaggy dog look.

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Now just enjoy my photos of a selection of our other favourites.

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What a great day we had sharing Richard’s trees and enjoying his vast reserves of knowledge. We will return in the Spring.

I will just finish with two other trees we found in the second field which Richard is building up into an extension of his arboretum, an unusual Acer, a Cercidyphlum and a black berried Buckthorn, a tree we had never seen before.

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Telescopes and Trees – part two

Back at Jodrell Bank as we explored the arboretum nestled amidst natural woodlands, we looked forward to finding our first Sorbus. We were surprised upon finding them that several had already lost all their foliage and some had dropped all their berries too. Luckily the majority still looked good.

Sorbus “Leonard Messell” was a good one to start off with. Its berries were the palest of pink with a deep blush and they were enhanced by finely cut foliage.

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With larger berries in a coral pink Sorbus yunanensis looked a distant relative. Its leaves were much larger and far less divided.

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Sorbus kewensis was a tall stately specimen of a tree.

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Where trees had lost all foliage and their berries hung on bare branches they looked very stark against the clear blue autumn sky.

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There were more to be found around each corner as the path took a turn, each with its own special colour, size and shape of berry.

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After enjoying so many wonderful berried trees we left the arboretum and spent the last hour left to us while the site remained open enjoying a closer look at the telescopes and the parkland in which they sat. These massive creations of man certainly lacked the delicacy and wonderful colours of Mother Nature’s creations but they did have an attraction of their own when set against the clear blue sky.

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