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SHARING SECRETS: Minding the Garden in November

Coral plant can be depended on for waves of color in November and throughout the year.

Edited by Dayle Cheever* and Lisa Marun.

The question for this month was: Pat Welsh identifies November as the first month of the rainy season in her book Southern California Organic Gardening: Month by Month. What special or particular changes do you make to your garden during this time of the year, and have you had particular success with a rainy season plant or project?

Lili Walsh: The best thing I do is turn all my emitters off if it’s going to rain, and I make sure our pool cover is on so I can harvest the water for later use.

Viv Black: I start pruning at this time. Not all plants, but grapes and sometimes apples and pears. I also change the amount of drip time I give my plants, cutting back from seven minutes to four minutes, especially if the weather is overcast. I fertilize with worm tea and use my fish emulsion on new plantings. I have already pruned the roses.

Pat Welsh: November is the best month for planting California native plants. Also, in my garden three particularly spectacular plants in full bloom now are fringe flower, or ribbon bush (Hypoestes aristata), which is bright purple; Copper Canyon daisy, or Lemmon's marigold (Tagetes lemmonii), which is brilliant yellow; and coral plant (Russellia equisetiformis), which is red and flowers in waves of bloom year round (see image above). I grow each of these plants in big drifts. The Hypoestes and Tagetes are particularly eye-catching together. Another purple flower to grow with Copper Canyon daisy is Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) since they bloom at the same times, spring and fall. Fringe flower, which is a very bright purple, only blooms in November. Cut back lightly after bloom and it will sprout basal foliage, which you can cut down in the spring. It also seeds itself a little so you can pull these up and give them to friends. Copper Canyon daisy should be cut back hard after spring and fall blooms. Mexican sage is a true perennial, so cut lightly in fall just to dead-head or you might kill it, then, when the basal foliage that springs up from the ground in January and February is eight to ten inches high, you can safely remove the woody stems that bloomed last year and you will get a whole new plant, which will bloom in the spring. Other plants still in bloom now that have bloomed for many months are reed orchid (Epidendrum spp.) and Begonia ‘Irene Nusse’, which has larger racemes, or bunches of flowers, than any other cultivar. It blooms non-stop from August through December. I grow these case begonias in large tubs and water once a week. I grow reed orchids in large pots. Rosa ‘Lady Banks’ is just beginning to bloom. Along the coast Lady Banks will flower all winter until mid-June, when it should be cut back hard, once a year. Never plant Lady Banks in fall or winter or you will get no flowers. This is a large climber, tall enough to climb to the top of a big Torrey Pine tree and fill it with blooms. In my garden, it covers a long pergola, shading a table that seats fourteen.

Cathy Tylka enjoys November blooms while cleaning up her garden.

Cathy Tylka: This is the time of year I cut back by Buddleja and clean up after my grasses. It's been dry, so there's trimming and cleaning to do. Then the winter blooms from Protea and succulents can begin in earnest. I also water the poor plants who made it through the summer alive and now are being given a chance to continue to thrive. Good time for many geraniums to bloom too!

Dayle Cheever: Even though I live blocks from the ocean, I find summer vegetable gardening a challenge, probably because I hand-water my yard and if I miss a needed watering, my vegetables let me know. In the cool season, I love to plant leafy greens which gratify me by growing happily and yielding a seemingly endless supply of yummy salad ingredients. I just planted spinach, two types of kale, a red lettuce, sweet basil, and arugula. I try to use as much of the captured rain water as possible from my 65-gallon rain barrel, in hopes that we get enough rain to refill it quickly.

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