As usual, I heard a lot of complaints about November this year. For starters, November is one of those transitional months, simultaneously marking the end of the often beautiful and colorful fall and the beginning of the often long and intractable winter. So, it's not unexpected that people get a little whiny during November when all they have to look forward to is three months of wool scarves and mittens. However, most of the complaints I hear about November have to do with how dreary it is. And, for this I think it gets a bad rap.
I'm prepared to argue that November is filled with color, although it's true that it helps if you have an affinity for earth tones. Long gone are the bright pink and purple flowers of the garden. But, if bright color is your thing, November still has plenty to offer. Many of the trees hold onto their leaves well into November, especially the bright red Japanese Maples like the Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' below.
And, when they finally drop their red leaves onto nearby evergreens, the effects can be spectacular.
The Acer palmatum 'Watnong' usually sheds its lacy leaves during the first or second week of November. And when they land on top of the Abies koreana 'Cis' at its feet, the reds and greens together give that entire section of the garden an early holiday look.
In addition, there are the gold and russet colored leaves of the oaks and beeches that continue to cling on to the trees well into December and many of the hedges and crabapples turn bright shades of yellow in early November.
There are also shrubs, like Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) and Calicarpa (Beautyberry) that show off their colorful berries at this time of year.
And all are at interplay with the gorgeous grasses and spent meadow and prairie plants in their subtle shades of brown, beige, and muted reds and golds.
Both of the Donald Wyman crabapples shown in the two photos below will hold onto their small red apples through the winter which offer a nice contrast in color to plants like Epimediums and grasses which grow at their feet and put on their own colorful show in November.
Once their leaves have fallen, many trees, like this Kousa Dogwood below, have a better chance to show off their interesting textural bark.
Hedges, like this Ligustrum amurense (Privet), can take on beautiful burgundy hues in November before they drop their leaves.
Some deciduous topiary, like these Palibin Lilacs (Syringa meyeri 'Palibin') can look as interesting without their leaves as they do in the summer months.
And, many plants that retain their seed heads through the winter, like Actaea, Rudbeckia, the grasses, or even this Hibiscus shown below, can provide sculptural beauty throughout November and well into the winter.
Go ahead, call me a little morbid but, when it comes to the garden, I find great beauty in senescence. Thankfully, garden designers like Piet Oudolf and others associated with the "new perennial movement" agree, and have championed this horticultural "beauty after death" view of the world. They have encouraged us to put our pruners away in the fall and leave well enough alone with those plants that die gracefully and continue to provide interest through the winter. And, as long as November provides this kind of beauty, I'm not complaining.