Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finding Beauty in the November Garden

The trees are bare, the sky is gray, the unusually warm spell is over and the air is damp and cold. November in my garden. I am tempted to forgo uncompleted gardening chores and hunker down indoors with a good book. A walk through my gardens, however, reveals a particular beauty. While the ground did not freeze yet, John Updike's words ring true:

"The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain

-   John Updike, A Child's Calendar  

The swing in the shade garden still tempts me. The round mirror on the fence adds interest and creates depth, pleasing me. Probably I should put mirror and cushions indoors before winter arrives.

I love the soft green of the white pine trees in the Woodland Walk. H.H. planted more than a hundred of them many years ago, and I am thankful for their beauty especially now the deciduous trees have given up their foliage.

White pine near a bare cherry tree in the Woodland Walk

I've cut down dead and dying plants in the cottage garden, leaving some seeds for the goldfinches to enjoy.  I've pulled up all the frost-destroyed annuals, removed some over-aggressive groundcovers, separated and transplanted daylilies and other perennials, and weeded the beds.

"If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year's beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener's calendar.  This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect.  People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth."
-   Vita Sackville-West  

I removed some aggressive pulmonaria plants threatening to engulf the prickly pear.
Purple cone flower seeds have a special beauty.

Looking back at last November's posting I see the crabapple tree was LOADED with berries while this year's crop is rather sparse. Some believe the amount of berries denotes what sort of winter we will have. Last year's winter was horrendously cold, so does the scant amount of fruit mean a milder winter this year? The weather man predicts warmer weather due to El Nino. I hope the forecasters and the tree are correct!


My frog collection and the succulents in hypertufa containers await their winter home in the garage where they will be protected from the harsh elements. The  weeping spruce and other dwarf trees around the pond are especially lovely.

My mini horse, Dude, and his faithful companion Billy the goat are undeterred by the changing season. Dude's coat has started to thicken giving him a scruffy, not groomed look. Rolling in the dry leaves further intensifies his bedraggled appearance.

Like a naughty child, Dude loves to roll in the leaves.

On my walk through the November gardens I find no blooms, but some green foliage, like this protected fern.

I put the kitchen garden to bed, but the herb garden on the patio yields small amounts of rosemary, lavender, borage, and parsley.

Herb garden

Not so lovely -- the crows were busy:

Those darn crows!

A lack of green foliage and blooms in the garden means this is the time when houseplants come into their own. I brought mine indoors when the temperature fell below 50 degrees F. and placed them in south-facing windows. The Christmas cactus is blooming, and all my houseplants look healthy and beautiful.
Some reasons why I grow houseplants:
1. They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen
2. They absorbs toxins, like formaldehyde, from indoor air
3. For me, they provide (necessary) contact with plants during the long winter months.

Clockwise from left to right: spider plant, aucuba, fern, Christmas cactus, zz plant, various succulents

I write a monthly article on gardening in the Poconos for our local newspaper, The Pocono Record. My November topic is houseplants. My articles appear on the second Saturday of each month, so the November one is due on the 14th. In it I give a 'houseplant survival guide' of sorts. I haven't always experienced success, so it helps to pick 'easy' plants; my favorite easy houseplant is the ZZ plant. I blogged about the ZZ (sometimes called Zeezee) plant in February 2011. Click here to read the posting. What I love most about the ZZ -- it can survive long periods of neglect, low light, and lack of water.

ZZ Plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia
I am choosing the ZZ plant as my first pick for a new round of Dozen For Diana. Diana of 'Elephants Eye on False Bay' in South Africa challenges us on the second Wednesday of each month to choose a cherished plant. Check out Diana's wonderful blog and join the fun. I am a month behind, so you will see two choices from Diana.

I am linking with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month. I look forward to visiting gardens around the world to see their particular November beauty.

Also, I'm linking with Pam at Digging for her Foliage Followup. Pam encourages us to showcase foliage on the 16th of each month. Thanks to Diana, Carol and Pam for hosting three great memes.

I have many more November pictures showing that 'certain Loveliness' mentioned by Updike, but this posting is long enough. What is especially lovely about your garden this month?

Your gardening friend,
Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. I like your little door at the bottom of your post. I showed it to my husband, and he asked, "What if a hobbit comes to live in it?" :) It's so cute! The words of John Updike are so true to this time of year. My garden is the same. Later in coming this year, but the garden is now dormant for the most part. But as you and Updike say, it still displays a certain loveliness. This is a beautiful post.

  2. Updike's poetry from A Child's Calendar has long been a favorite of mine. The November poem seems to perfectly express this time of year in your - and Updike's - part of the country. Of course, things are a little different here in the subtropical South!

    1. I admire you year-round gardeners, Dorothy. I don't have the energy.

  3. Pam, we're absolutely on the same page -- we gardeners are all trying to deal with the oncoming winter and get the last garden chores done before it's too cold to want to be outside any more. I really like the Vita S-W comment; it's true, cutting back and pulling out does seem like progress, and is therefore interesting to gardeners -- although the beds must remain flat and lifeless for SO LONG before spring comes.... And this is my first year trying house plants to relieve winter blahs; I hope it works. I hope you're having a cozy autumn. Best Regards, -Beth

  4. Before we went out I yanked up a sad twiggy lemon verbena.
    And came home from the nursery with a delectable leafy young one!

    By special request of the Ungardener we have one house plant - a potted palm. Which gets bigger by the week.

    1. I have lemon verbena, too, Diana, and it's specially lovely in MY Nov. garden. Why didn't I show it?

  5. My ZZ plant was fallen down on to the ground from my balcony a couple of weeks ago in the windy day. You're right, Zamia is a though plant.
    Keep healthy and enjoy your autumn.

  6. Can I come live with you...all so lovely

  7. Ooops, I think I just deleted my post!
    I do like a clean leafless lawn, and I absolutely enjoy getting rid of soggy annuals and crumbling stalks, but I do leave much of the grasses and stems for spring. The birds enjoy them and I enjoy giving them more chances to break down and blow into the neighbor's yard ;)

  8. They do say that lots of berries signals a harsh winter so the lack of berries hopefully means the opposite. It's been very mild here so far but the weather's changed over the last couple of days, much cooler temperatures and lots of rain. I don't really grow house plants, the only ones I have are three orchids which have been gifts, I've had them a number of years now. Lovely to see Dude and Billy on the blog again.

  9. I enjoyed the tour of your garden. I just brought my potted plants indoors, too. My cactus has buds - hope it will bloom for Thanksgiving.
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

  10. Lovely garden and lovely post. The quotes are perfect esp. Updike's with the first image. Neighbors on two sides of us have multiple white pines that are very large. Nothing nicer than walking under them. They let me rake up the needles to put on my garden paths.

  11. It's exciting to find some fall beauty. Each season has its own loveliness.

  12. I do have a number of houseplants, but they just don't bring me the joy that my outdoor plants do. I so often neglect to water them! I'm recovering from knee replacement surgery, and today was the first time I got outside, and saw my garden. There are bits of flowers here and there, some pansies, some snapdragons, and lamium. It made me so happy to see them again, and breath the fresh air!

  13. I've always loved that John Updike poem -- the whole "Child's Garden" collection, in fact. Your weeping spruce has so much personality, like a hunched-over little person in your garden! Thanks for joining in the Foliage Follow-Up meme, Pam.

  14. I did not cut down the garden before I left and there are still flowers in bloom. I am surprised at all the salvia in bloom among others. I do agree, the garden is pretty in all the gold foliage, yet you are right, it is time for the houseplants to shine. I always like when you show Dude. He is so darn cute.