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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

November is the Messiest Month

garden with fallen leaves
Our parking strip beds are dying back by November

In November there’s a lull in my garden. The peak of flowers is over and done, the plants are slowing down. My plans for next year are finished; crops and dates and schedules have been carefully filled into my master list. After Thanksgiving we’ll start a round of frantic planting – tulip bulbs, ranuncs and anemones - but for now, things are quiet.

The garden in November is falling asleep, pulling a blanket of leaves up over itself before it gives up entirely. Flowers have faded, leaves are falling. I have an urge to tidy up by raking and trimming, but that’s a rookie’s mistake, and I’ve learned that lesson. Perennials that lose their leaves and go dormant need the warming cover of dead stems and leaves. In my climate that includes plumbago, rudbeckia and fuchsias. I leave them alone until early March when things warm up. Inside my house I’m compulsively neat, but a garden is a living thing that can’t easily be kept tidy, nor should it. In November I hold back on garden cleanup; I go back inside and start a new painting instead.

November may be the messiest month in the garden, but there’s one saving grace - chrysanthemums. I mean the heirloom beauties that were bred, perfected and kept in cultivation by gardeners in Japan, China and more recently, in the U.S. Those varieties – often called heirloom mums – are not the boring potted things you see at big box nurseries. I’ve written about them in other posts, here and here. By November our heirloom mums are in bloom, and they don’t require anything except harvesting – the pinching and feeding and staking was finished months ago.

So in November – the messiest month in the garden - all I have to do is rest. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.

chrysanthemum bouquet
A few of our heirloom mums: Annie Girl, Klamath Falls, Senkyo Kenshin

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