November is the time to invest in your gardens to reap rewards in the spring. First on my mind is getting the bulbs planted. In the October column, I wrote of my decision to plant tulips again despite the ever pressing problem I have with the squirrels. Yes, I think they watch me from their tree top nests, make tiny notes on where I’ve planted my tulips, wait for my watch cats to be distracted by birds, and then hurriedly dig up my precious bulbs for a snack. This year I’ll try the wire baskets that were semi-effective in years past and hope for the best. One older master gardener friend of mine once told me that he plants extra tulips for the squirrels and is not disappointed when too few flowers come in the spring.
I’m afraid I’m not that tolerant, but perhaps acceptance is something that matures like a good wine. I’ll pacify myself and plant daffodils, which the squirrels find distasteful. I’m trying to find the pink varieties to plant like my favorite, “Mrs. Oscar Ronalds.” I also love the short orange cup and pale yellow petals of “Flower Record” and other N. poeticus cultivars. I also like the pure white of “Ice Follies” and my old standard, “King Alfred” with its large cup and petal of bright yellow. I’m planting sweet-scented hyacinths in pots to place on my front porch and back deck. The colors available are so striking with blues that range from deep violet to clear china blue. The rose range includes deep rosy red, salmon, and light pink. Wear gloves when planting hyacinths, because many gardeners have a reaction to handling the bulbs themselves.
November is also a great time to use fall vegetables in hearty soups flavored with herbs. My favorite broccoli soup has not only broccoli but onion, leeks, and carrots for sweetness and color. Add some cream and cream cheese and sprinkle with parsley. I usually start all my vegetable soups with a chicken or beef base to create that “simmered all day” taste and have found that I can camouflage root vegetables like turnips, parsnips, and carrots and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and mustard greens in pureed soups. One soup my friends and I enjoy at my table is a cream cheese and herb soup. I use onions, chicken stock, a full-fat soft cheese and a variety of herbs including basil, chives, thyme and oregano.
I also invest in my garden/landscape by taking advantage of the fall close-outs on shrubs, small trees, and perennials. This is really an exercise in taking a gardener’s leap of faith since most of these plants are not at their prime, beauty-wise, at this time of year, with the exception of evergreens. Do your research online and in books so you’ll know how the healthy dormant plant looks in this cycle of its growth. This prevents the gardener from purchasing a dead plant instead of a merely dormant plant. Since the perennials are not in bloom at this time of year, pay close attention to the labels on the plant, and bring along a perennial book. You will save money and time if you make an educated purchase.
November is often just a bridge between gardening and the holiday season. I try to allow some time for the usual garden chores such as composting leaves and cleaning up the gardens. I like to bribe myself into doing such mundane tasks by thinking that each job makes me work harder and use more calories that I can spend on the Thanksgiving meal.
Please take time to invest in your gardens, enjoy the fall harvest with the people you love, and perhaps give some of the bounty to a shelter or group that gathers food for the needy. That way, you can really give thanks in a meaningful way.