Best flowers and plants for November
There's plenty of ways to find colour and contrast in the garden on November days. Here Tom Brown and Fleur van Zonneveld pick the best plants for November. Photographs Jason Ingram and Maayke de Ridder
November in the garden doesn't necessarily mean browns and no interest. In fact, there are a host of November flowers and plants that are in their element in this month, which can provide structure, support for the wildlife and lots and lots of stunning colour.
And what with the bright mornings that appear with more regularity as the season progresses, we'd even suggest that autumn can be one of the most colourful months of the year. Below are a few beautiful plants to help cheer you up and bring warmth to your outside space.
The best November flowers
Chosen by Tom Brown
Acaena microphylla ‘Kupferteppich’
I grow this charming plant for its copper-coloured foliage, which comes into its own in autumn and winter. In summer the finely feathered foliage is punctuated by small, yellow flowers that in autumn develop into attractive red burrs. It makes a wonderful groundcover plant but doesn’t like to be overshadowed by others. It’s best grown in a gravel garden with plenty of light and air. It can also be used to great effect between paving slabs, as it is robust enough to tolerate being occasionally trodden on.
Height 10-20cm. Origin Garden origin (species from New Zealand). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 7a-8b. Season of interest Interesting foliage throughout the year.
Miscanthus is generally thought of as a robust and solid grass for the back of a border, but this species has a delicacy that can elude more vigorous miscanthus and gracefully achieves a height of only around 1.5m. During November, the plumes have an elegance when they sway in the breeze and display an ease of movement and transparency that is incredibly appealing. If you believe there is no room for grasses in your garden then I suggest you give this one a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Height 1-1.5m. Origin Himalayas. Conditions Well-drained, reasonable garden soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 6a-8b. Season of interest Late summer flowering; seedheads into winter.
This much-loved Rosa moyesii hybrid is incredibly robust and disease resistant. In summer it has large, delicately fragrant, bright-red blooms that in September make way for attention-grabbing red hips to bring a final hurrah to your beds and borders. Achieving a height of around two metres, it’s extremely effective at the back of a mixed border, patiently waiting in the background for its moment in the late autumn, when as perennials begin to fade, it reveals its fruitful beauty in all of its glory. AGM.
Height 1.5-2m. Origin Garden origin (species China). Conditions Moist but well-drained, fertile soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 4a-9b. Season of interest Flowering during the summer, fruiting autumn into winter.
A plant that won’t be to everyone’s taste. In late autumn and winter its small, white flowers – which appear among a fortress of spines – have a sweet, almost honey and almond-like scent that is quite enchanting. On closer observation – but be careful, not to get too close – you’ll see that what on first glance appear to be the leaves are actually modified triangular stems. The true leaves are small and often appear in spring. If you’re intrigued, there’s a wonderful specimen in the winter garden of Hillier’s in Hampshire.
Height 2.5-4m. Origin Uruguay and southern Brazil. Conditions Tolerant of most well-drained soils; sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 7a-9b. Season of interest Early autumn to winter.
Euonymus hamiltonianus subsp. sieboldianus ‘Coral Charm’
A wonderful, deciduous, tree-like Euonymus that has tremendous autumn colour. In cold weather, its leaves gracefully drop to the ground to reveal clusters of coral-pink fruits with orange-red seeds that can persist well into winter, and which are a glorious sight when kissed with frost on a crisp, sunny November day. Makes a super tree for a smaller garden or as a lower-storey shrub in a woodland garden.
Height 4-8m. Origin Korea and Japan. Conditions Moist but free-draining soil; full sun or partial shade. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 7a-8b. Season of interest Autumn and late winter.
In late autumn and winter, when its papery, peeling bark is backlit, it has a wonderful translucent quality. For the most dramatic effect, it is best sited where it can be viewed from all angles, and light can penetrate the peeling bark. Introduced from China by the plant hunter Ernest Wilson in 1901, it is slow growing and will struggle in exposed garden situations, but place this paperbark maple in the right site, with the right growing conditions, and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for years to come. AGM.
Height 4-8m. Origin Central China. Conditions Fertile, moist but well-drained soil; sun or partial shade. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 4a-8b. Season of interest Autumn foliage and winter stem interest.
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’
Flowering plants are few and far between at this time of year. Coronillas have soft-yellow flowers that are sweetly citrus scented and appear on stems that scramble and ramble over the ground in a charmingly haphazard way. Coronillas will grow happily in a container with extra grit in the compost to allow plenty of air through the roots in those winter months, but avoid exposed sites, which can become waterlogged in winter. AGM.
Height 50cm-1m. Origin Garden origin (subspecies from Mediterranean France to Albania). Conditions Well-drained soil with moisture during the summer; sheltered position in sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 9a-10b. Season of interest Late autumn and winter.
In midsummer, this milk thistle produces scented, purple flowers that are much loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. But it’s in autumn and winter when you can really appreciate its stunning crisp, white-and-green variegated foliage. It is among the most stunning foliage found in gardens during November. This thistle adores free-draining, sun-rich locations in the garden and, once established, has great drought-tolerant qualities. I find it best to collect the seed and sow them straight away as viability can be erratic.
Height 50cm-1m. Origin Mediterranean and southwestern Europe. Conditions Free draining soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 9a-10b. Season of interest Flowering in summer but excellent crisp foliage in winter.
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’
Few plants can rival a cherry tree when in full bloom, but this one also has flame-like autumn foliage to give the blossom a run for its money. If you have only a small garden then it pays to demand more from your plants, and this compact Prunus not only gives two bursts of interest it also offers great winter structure. But, trust me, once you see it in late autumn, backlit by the crisp autumn light, you’ll want this tree for your garden. AGM.
Height 1.5-2.5m. Origin Garden origin (species from Japan). Conditions Fertile, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 7a-8b. Season of interest Spring flowering and colourful autumn foliage.
Abelia x grandiflora
Plants that have become popular garden fixtures can easily be overlooked in favour of something new and unknown. But sometimes, it’s worth reminding ourselves that plants such as Abelia x grandiflora have remained popular for a reason. It is incredibly versatile, providing structure and soft-pink flowers from early summer to late autumn. Given a reasonable garden soil, it is trouble free and stands strong with glossy foliage. A plant that offers structure without compromising colour and flowers.
Height 2.5-4m. Origin Garden hybrid between A. chinensis and A. uniflora. Conditions Fertile, moist but well-drained soil; sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b. Season of interest Flowering from early summer into late autumn.
Chosen by Fleur van Vonneveld
Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’
Its beautiful, feathered, blue-green leaves have a greyish underside, and in autumn turn a glorious rich red. In spring it is covered in white flowers, which grow in pyramidal clusters, and are followed by dark-pink berries. Unlike other rowan berries, these pretty pink ones aren’t loved by birds, so the display continues until
the following spring. It’s a small tree that is easy to grow and is able to withstand extremes of heat, cold, strong winds and drought. AGM.
Height 8m. Origin Garden origin (species China). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H6. Season of interest Autumn.
Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’
This ornamental onion flowers late, from September to November, producing clusters of bright-purple to purple-pink flowers. Its thin, hollow, grassy leaves are attractive throughout the growing season and even turn slightly orange when temperatures fall below freezing. It forms neat clumps, so it is also suitable for pots. The species was first introduced from Japan in the 18th century, but this cultivar, which is more compact and flowers richly, was selected by the nurseryman George Schenk in Washington State, USA.
Height 40cm. Origin Garden origin (species Japan, China, Korea). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 4a-9b. Season of interest Autumn.
Nicandra physalodes ‘Black Pod’
An annual that is easy to grow from seed, although its bell-shaped flowers, which are pale blue to violet with some white, last for only a few hours a day in full glory. The spectacular, black-spotted seedpods are really small lampions that are long lasting when dried. It is a monotypic genus in the potato family, and very toxic if eaten. It takes its name from the ancient Greek poet and physician Nicander of Colophon who wrote several hundred hexameters on poisons and their antidotes.
Height 1m. Origin Garden origin (species South America). Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness Not applicable. Season of interest Summer to autumn.
The large, purple-blue flowers of this nepeta rise beautifully above its large, fresh-green leaves, giving it a transparent feel. Its real strength comes to the fore after flowering when the purple spiked seedpods stand in whorls along the stem. They create a strong architectural effect in late autumn, when the upper half of the plant with the bushy seedpods turns a violet red. It looks beautiful when it is grown above a subtle grass, such as Sporobolus heterolepis, but can also be used to unusual and stunning effect when it’s combined with late-flowering anemones.
Height 80cm. Origin Russian region of Kuban (Caucasus). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H7. Season of interest Summer to autumn.
At first sight this grass looks like Calamagrostis brachytricha, but the leaves are slightly wider and the plumes looser and more airy, attaining a soft, purple glow. It was found in 2010 by Cassian Schmidt, director of Hermannshof in Germany, on Mount Lu in central China at an altitude of 1,100m. In some winter lights, the leaves and plumes appear gold, while in others they can look silver. Its elegant, eye-catching panicles mean this is a grass that stands out as a solitary beauty in the middle of a border or in a prairie-style planting. It also works well as a contrast for the hard winter contours of hedges and buildings.
Height 1.2m. Origin China. Conditions Well-drained dry soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H7. Season of interest Autumn.
Like most fuchsias, ‘Blacky’ flowers non-stop from summer to late autumn, provided temperatures remain above freezing. We first came across this new cultivar, from Billy Carruthers at Binny Plants, at last year’s Great Dixter Autumn Plant Fair and fell for its very large flowers in a dark, black purple and purplish red. It’s an improved version of Fuchsia ‘Roesse Blacky’ with a chalice that looks like a ruffle skirt and slips that curl up. It’s a large, upright plant better suited for pots than for hanging baskets, and its almost-black fruits, which are over 1cm, are also very tasty.
Height 70cm. Origin Garden origin (species Mexico). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. Hardiness RHS H2. Season of interest Summer to autumn.
Although its foliage provides interest from spring, the plant doesn’t bloom until late in the summer. But the blue spikes, when they do appear, stand out beautifully against the silver-grey leaves, making this a wonderful plant for a hot border where it provides a cooling contrast to more intense colours. In common with all Plectranthus species it’s not hardy, but is easy to propagate from seed or cuttings and does well in pots. Some species of Isodon, such as Isodon excisus, have a similar look for a hardy alternative.
Height 80cm. Origin Australia. Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; part shade. Hardiness RHS H1C. Season of interest Spring to
Astilbe ‘Beauty of Ernst’
A cultivar, introduced in 2005 by the Dutch grower Henk Holtmaat. In summer the bright-green spring leaves mature to a purple colour then in autumn these fade to a wide colour spectrum that ranges from green and purple to gold, orange and deep red, which probably accounts for its alternative selling name of ‘Color Flash’. The pale-pink blooms, held on upright stems, also offer good autumn colour and, after flowering, dry to form reddish-brown silhouettes.
Height 60cm. Origin Garden origin (species China, Japan). Conditions Moist, rich soil; part to full shade. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 5a-8b. Season of interest Autumn.
The name of this Japanese cultivar translates as ‘white wave’ and the abundant, pure-white, double flowers that froth above slightly hairy, apple-green leaves on short stems look like stylised sea foam. So stunning are its flowers, which without night frost will bloom until December, that it feels out of place among the often messy mix of browns in the late autumnal border and is better placed in nice pot on the terrace. This cultivar may be Japanese but the species, Saxifraga fortunei, is from China brought to Europe in the 19th century by the Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune.
Height 30cm. Origin Garden origin (species China). Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. Hardiness RHS H4. Season of interest Autumn.
Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’
One of our favourite clematis. The medium-sized, dark-violet flowers contrast nicely with the fresh-green leaves. It is a clematis with a rich and long flowering period and one that is strong and almost never suffers from wilting disease. It is a good grower that can be easily guided through bushes and small trees such as Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’. It also combines wonderfully with climbing roses, such as the yellow ‘Golden Showers’, the voluptuous pink ‘Eden Rose’ or the single-flowered Open Arms (= ‘Chewpixcel’). AGM.
Height 3m. Origin Hybrid of garden origin. Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. Hardiness RHS H6. Season of interest Late summer to autumn.
Fleur van Zonneveld is a plant and nurserywoman who owns Nursery de Klein Plantage.
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