The fall season seems to be growing longer in Minnesota the past few years, with some parts of the Twin Cities not experiencing frost until late in October. (There’s a 50 percent chance the first frost in Minneapolis will be before Oct. 5.) Still, by the time you get to November, the garden is spent, or nearly so, and the dominant colors are gold and brown.
November is a gloomy month in terms of weather, too, as the days grow shorter and shorter and clouds and rain (or dare we say, snow) set in. Keeping these things in mind, having an attractive — or atmospheric — garden in November is very possible.
The November garden must look good with overcast skies, so plant lots of grasses, which will shine with golden colors in late fall. Grasses, such as Karl Foerster feather reed grass, purple flame grass, or for large properties big bluestem, are good choices. Shrubs and trees with berries that glisten in the frost add color. Crabapples that hold onto their berries can be stunning, as well as winterberry, highbush cranberry, chokeberry and other fruit-laden plants. These are great plants for the birds as well.
Hard features in the garden — walkways and walls, pergolas and arbors, birdbaths and garden ornaments —are as important in fall as they are in winter. In fall, their shapes are not as striking as they are when surrounded by white in winter, but they provide places for the eye to rest when scanning the landscape.
Blooms in November are rare, but in some years, I’ve had annuals or late-blooming perennials that have continued to bloom into the first couple of weeks. Plants such as asters, gomphrena, calendula or petunias or calibrachoas that have been somewhat sheltered will still bloom. Hardy roses have been known to throw up one or two final blooms in late October or early November.
This November take a few moments to look out on your landscape. What do you notice in late fall that you don’t see in other seasons?