November garden inspiration and tips

Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten'

Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten' - Credit: Archant

Gardening ideas and tips from expert plantsman Keith Clouting

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' - Credit: Archant

Miscanthus are one the jewels of the autumn garden, with feathery flower plumes topping their often colourful foliage from late summer into winter. There are a good range of sizes and varieties available, both old and new, with cultivars to suit most gardens.

One of the most graceful is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ its fine textured foliage has a thin white margin borne on 180cm stems which form a vase shape, swaying in the lightest breeze. Its crimson-red flowers are produced in late summer, turning a silvery white as they mature, providing good autumn and winter interest. An exceptional new variety is M.s.‘Navajo’ released a few years ago. Its arching stems reach around 120cm, sporting foliage which starts to colour early in the year becoming a dark bronzy-red by late summer when it produces its silver-pink flowers which turn a silvery-tan in winter.

Another excellent smaller variety is M.s.’Red Cloud’ growing to only around 100cm and slow-spreading it’s a good choice for a container or smaller garden; its mid-green leaves are quite narrow with a silver-white mid rib and by mid-summer it produces rich burgundy weeping flowers which turn silver as they age.

Miscanthus grow best in full sun but will tolerate some shade but if it’s too much they will get spindly and flop, they are tolerant of many soil types but prefer moderately fertile moist but well-drained conditions, disliking winter wet. Cut back last year’s stems in early spring to around 15cm before the new growth starts.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Navajo'

Miscanthus sinensis 'Navajo' - Credit: Archant


I have a large Cotinus (Smoke bush) but after 10 years it’s outgrowing its space, can I prune it back without harming the plant?

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Yes established Cotinus come back well from pruning, normally they only need damaged or spindly growth removing but they can be cut back quite hard or even coppiced, the best time to prune is in February or March if you do prune back fairly hard Cotinus will produce larger leaves and fewer flowers the following year but will gradually return to normal growth after that. A feed and mulch after pruning will help the plant grow back strong and healthily.

Parrotia persica

Parrotia persica - Credit: Archant

Plant of the month

Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood)

Parrotia persica makes an excellent addition to any garden with interest throughout the year; this relative of the Witch Hazel produces its dark red flowers on bare stems in late winter to early spring these are followed by glossy green foliage In summer which in autumn turns to yellow then orange before finishing a fiery purplish-red before falling, this reveals the bark of the tree which is a grey-brown when young becoming increasingly mottled yellow as the tree matures. Parrotia persica will grow in most soils including chalk, its best colour is achieved in full sun but it will tolerate some shade.

Cotinus Coggygria Royal Purple, know as the smoke bush

Cotinus Coggygria Royal Purple, know as the smoke bush - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Catch up with Keith

Cut back and tidy herbaceous Peonies to encourage healthy growth next spring.

Tie in long growths of climbing plants to prevent them being damaged by strong winds.

Plant up some pots for winter colour, flowers such as Pansies, Viola and Heathers can be combined with small evergreens and grasses; you can also add some bulbs for another splash of colour in spring.

Apple and Pear pruning can be started now as well as reducing their height remove any crossing and rubbing branches and try to create an open goblet shaped tree.

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