November 17, 2015


The espalier apple trees are fixed for the long winter ahead with their fruit removed for the season.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, November marks a transitional time in the garden between outdoor chores, and greenhouse play.

I love November. Really, I do. It means that winter is coming. OK, stop it. Listen, I can like winter and like gardening at the same time. This is the time of year when gardening chores slow down, become more focused (since they are limited to my greenhouse projects which I enjoy more),a nd in other ways, they just become more cerebral - time to read, think, plan and dream.

These gray, autumnal days, albeit shorter than summer, are hardly what William Cullen Bryant calls "the saddest of the year".


I would think that distinction might go to March.

On the back porch, heirloom apples from the espalier apples in front of the greenhouse gifted us a few dozen fruit this year. These have been making their way into tarte tartin and oatmeal  for breakfast. Not perfect, since we didn't spray, they are still clear inside even though the skins are imperfect. Yes, that is a tomato!

The great poets seemed to appreciate little about November.  I can't find many positive stanza's or even phrases which don't include the words 'dreary' , 'dull' or 'bleak'.

(Robert Frost goes further to describe it as "sodden", whilst (yes, I said whilst) Sir Walter Scott penned out - "November's sky is chill and drear…", but dear Emily Dickinsen went further with:

 "November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."

 Whah? !

There has to be a story behind that….. because I love Norway, as well.

In the vegetable garden, the beds are cleaned up, with only hardy herbs left out along with a few carrots.

It's all happening in the greenhouse, right now. Chrysanthemums, the first of the cymbidium orchids and lots of South African bulbs.

Speaking of South African Bulbs - The Nerine sarniensis varieties are in full bloom, and rather spectacular.

Also known as Guersey Lilies, Nerine sarniensis are rarely seen today outside of a few collectors and private collections.

These relatives of the common Amaryllis are smaller and more delicate looking, but grow in a similar way, from a bulb which sits halfway into the soil in a pot. They require a hot, summer rest with no water, and a long, winter growing period with moisture and bright light, which limits who can grow them well to those with cold greenhouses.

My collection of about 100 bulbs has about a third of them blooming every year, they are a bit shy. Many of these varieties date back to the early 20th Century, and all hail from the UK, mostly the Exbury hybrids.

Outside, the gardens are cleaned and spotless because of a photoshoot last week. Even the boxwoods have bee sheered. I know, I could have centered the strawberry pot better!


  1. I like Novembers well enough as they are, but I think I would really love them if I had your greenhouse!

  2. john in cranston9:26 PM

    So, what's growing in the strawberry pot? A hardy agave or yucca? (I'm hoping it's an agave...).
    Also, what's the photo shoot for?

    1. You know? It is an agave, and I had better move it into the greenhouse now that you mentioned it!

    2. And as for the photoshoot, well, due to confidentiality agreements, I can't tell you - but let's just say that a very cool lifestyle magazine might have a story in it next November.

    3. john in cranston11:17 AM

      Ah. I love agaves, and the strawberry pot is a great place for one, just not for those of us who can only offer a dining room window for its winter home.

  3. Hmm... I do have to agree with the poets on this one that November is pretty "dreary" but you make a good point about March. I guess March is a little better because you can be more optimistic - the dreariness will be over soon - whereas with November, it's just getting started!

  4. Your Nerines are gorgeous! I would love to try them. My sunroom is kept at 60 deg (minimum), faces sw, I have great success with orchids, Clivia, etc. have you done any previous posts on growing Nerines?

    1. Thank you Lisa. I have done posts on Nerine in the past, but not a detailed one about their culture, assuming that few could raise them indoors as houseplants. However, your situation sounds as if you could have success, as long as you can provide the long, winter growing season with good light levels, and a summer dry period where they would receive little to no moisture aside from a drop or two, and some higher temps, you could certainly grow them. Where do you live? In North America" I could send you a few bulbs to try...

    2. You are extremely kind. I live in Bucks county, Pa. I can order some as I am pretty sure I have seen them offered in Van Engelen or McClure &Z. I am not sure when it is the best time to start them. I will check the catalogs. Possibly like freesia?

  5. Anonymous7:05 PM

    The greenhouse is so colorful! What is the name of the Asteracae on the upper left corner of Nerine sarniensis picture?

  6. Great blog, and great photos, Good Job.


  7. Amazing images. Did you made the landscaping design in these photos? If you do then I commend you You made a great job.


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