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Autumn Leaves

November in Your Garden

Glorious colours for fading leaves an lots of jobs to put the garden to bed for winter typify November in the garden.

Essential jobs:

  • Rake away fallen leaves, especially from lawns and ponds. These can be stored to make a great leaf mulch next spring.

  • Raise containers onto pot feet to ease potential water logging.

  • Plant tulip and narcissus bulbs ready for spring.

  • Prune tall roses to prevent root rock.

  • Plant out winter seasonal plantings.

  • Cover brassicas with netting to dissuade pigeons.

  • Insulate sensitive outdoor containers from frost.

  • Apply grease bands to fruit trees where winter moth damage is likely.

  • Put out bird food to encourage birds into the garden over winter.

  • Where permitted, use a bonfire to burn autumn cuttings and create great potash for the soil.



Jobs for November



Sowing & planting


Cut leaves off Christmas and Lenten rose type hellebores to make way for the flowers.

Lily bulbs can still be planted in pots this month. They can either be brought inside next spring, to ‘force’ them into an early display, or left outside to flower naturally in summer.

Plant tulip bulbs this month. Some tulips persist year to year, some perform less well and are treated as bedding, and replaced every year.

Now is the last chance to plant winter bedding. You could try wallflowers, forget-me-nots, Bellis, Primula, Viola (winter pansies) and other spring bedding plants. Plant them into well-prepared ground, or pots of suitable compost.


Cutting back, pruning and dividing


Unless you are leaving dead stems for structure in the garden, or as habitats for over-wintering wildlife, you can continue to cut down faded herbaceous perennials and add these to the compost heap.

Penstemons are best dead-headed and left until the spring, when they can be cut back further. In mild areas they can carry on flowering well into the late autumn and early winter. The old, faded stems will help to protect the crowns from cold. Mulching over the crowns in colder areas will also help.

Ornamental grasses and bamboos can be cut back and tidied up at this time of year.

It is still a good time to lift and divide overgrown clumps of herbaceous perennials.

Lift and store dahlias, cannas and tuberous bedding begonias that have been hit by the first frosts.



Mulching & protecting


Apply an autumn mulch to protect plants that are borderline hardy such as Agapanthus, Kniphofia and Phygelius. The plants’ own leaves, e.g. Kniphofia, can be tied up and used as protection for the crowns underneath. Clay soils can be more workable in autumn, as they are no longer baked hard, but not yet sodden and sticky with winter wet. Mulching will help to improve and maintain soil structure.


Make sure that you have not forgotten any of your tender plants and bulbs - they need to be brought inside or into a heated greenhouse over the winter. Protect alpines from the wet, if you have not done so already.

Hellebores rarely flower naturally by Christmas, despite their common name of Christmas rose. They can be encouraged to flower a little earlier, if you want, by covering them with cloches, potting them up and bringing them into a warm greenhouse, or placing them on a windowsill inside the house.

Large tubs that are at risk of cracking in the frost should be covered with bubble wrap, hessian, or fleece, to insulate them over the winter. Raise patio containers onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in the winter wet.


Trees & Shrubs

Planting & moving


Bare-root deciduous hedging plants, trees and shrubs become available this month. They need to be planted promptly, before they dry out. They can be heeled into the soil for a short period if conditions are not suitable for planting.

It is an ideal time to plant roses. Avoid planting in areas where roses were previously growing, otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant diseases (rose sickness).

You can still order and plant containerised trees and shrubs, and large semi-mature specimens for planting later in the winter, when bare-root plants are no longer available.

Protect newly planted trees, hedges and shrubs from wind and cold. A temporary netting windbreak is sufficient where there is no natural shelter. Straw, bracken, or something similar can be used to pack around deciduous plants and protect them from frost. A wooden frame with clear polythene stretched over it can do a similar job without blocking light from evergreens, but don’t let the polythene touch the foliage, as condensation at these points could freeze, or cause rots.


This is also a good time to transplant trees and shrubs growing in unsuitable positions. However, if they are more than a couple of years old, you are unlikely to be able to remove an intact enough rootball to ensure the plant’s survival in its new position. You may be best advised to leave well alone.


Pruning & Training

Pruning and renovation of many deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges can be carried out from now throughout the dormant season. It is easier to see what you are doing when the branches have no leaves. Suitable examples are Fagus and Corylus. Exceptions are tender plants, and also Prunus species (e.g. ornamental cherries, plums and almonds), as these are vulnerable to silver leaf if pruned in the autumn or winter. Evergreens are best left until the spring.

Lightly prune bush roses now, if not done already, as reducing their height will prevent wind rock. These plants are generally shallow-rooted and can become loose in the soil if buffeted by strong winds.

Climbing roses should be pruned by now, these are usually done much earlier in the autumn.

Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring - such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera - can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and neaten their appearance.


Over-large trees might be difficult for you to prune, take care not to damage the tree when sawing off thicker branches. It may be best to consult a tree surgeon.

Tie wall shrubs and climbers onto their supports to protect them from wind damage. Any growth that refuses to be trained in this way can be pruned off.



Take hardwood cuttings of ornamental shrubs such as Cornus, Euonymus, Forsythia, Hydrangea, Ilex and Salix.

Check hardwood cuttings taken last year. They may need planting out or potting on, and any diseased ones should be removed to prevent this spreading to other plants.

Soft and semi-ripe cuttings taken earlier this year should also be checked for disease.

Tree and shrub seeds and berries can still be harvested and sown, once they are ripe.

Gardeners Digest by Brewin Dolphin with Paul Hervey-Brookes 2021

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