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Column: November is a great month to get out in the garden and plant trees and shrubs

Gardening columnist Sara Milne. (Photo: Submitted)
Gardening columnist Sara Milne. (Photo: Submitted)

Trees and shrubs come in all shapes and sizes and can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils.

From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews and weeping willows, trees offer different leaf size, shape and colour and can add structure to a garden or patio. They make excellent living hedges and screens whilst helping to reduce or improve your carbon footprint and generally enhance the environment.

You can also ‘grow your own’ tree or shrub by taking hardwood cuttings throughout the winter from your favourite varieties. So thrifty tip of the month is: propagate shrubs and trees by taking hardwood cuttings immediately after leaf fall.

There are plenty of useful jobs that can be carried out in the garden during November, says columnist Sara Milne. (Photo: Submitted)
There are plenty of useful jobs that can be carried out in the garden during November, says columnist Sara Milne. (Photo: Submitted)

Cut through stems of this year’s growth and divide into lengths of 15-20cm, cutting the top at an angle and the bottom straight. Place the cuttings around the edge of a pot and bury at least half their depth in compost. Label, water and then be patient as hardwood cuttings can take six months to root and shouldn’t be moved for a year, when they can be potted on and planted in situ.

If you have a small garden or outside space you can also grow trees in pots if you choose wisely.

It’s best to select varieties that grow slowly to reach a maximum height of around 3m. Fruit trees can work well, as can large shrubs grown as trees. Terracotta containers give the best stability and insulation, but you can use other materials although avoid metal as they can heat up and damage plant roots.

Avoid narrow top containers as they make it difficult to get root balls out of the pot intact when you have to re-pot. You should check watering needs daily from April to October, and water evergreens throughout the year.

Re-pot every other year until it’s no longer practical. Some of the best trees for containers include Japanese maple Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’; Amelanchier ‘Obelisk’; and crab apple Malus ‘Laura’.

If you are thinking about the summer months then a plant that grows well in containers, and in the ground, and can be sown now for earlier flowers next year is the sweet pea.

Sweet peas produce deep roots so are best started off in root-trainer modules or you can use toilet roll centres or paper cups with a hole punched in the bottom.

Pack the pots together in a tray and fill the gaps between them with more compost which helps preserve moisture. Sow two seeds per pot or module and place in a covered area where the temperature is 15-18C.

Once seeds have germinated and shoots have appeared move them to a cool, bright place. When seedlings have produced four or five leaves, pinch off the top two to encourage extra shoots. Plant out in late spring.

Other jobs for November, on the RHS Gardener’s checklist, include: Plant out hardwood cuttings taken last year; Finish planting spring bedding plants such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots; Harvest winter veg such as leeks, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.