Nation of Gardeners November planting update: keeping our gardeners busy as autumn slips into winter

Live plants parcel received November 2013In November, the Nation of Gardeners received their second shipment of plants from Mr Fothergill’s.   As autumn slips into winter, many gardeners believe that their gardens go to sleep, but there’s so much to be done to plan for next year’s flower and soft fruit beds. It’s a perfect time to take stock of the structure of the garden and where there might be gaps that need filling.

Bare root perennials are shipped out at this time of year, and it’s a good time to put in fruit trees, fruit bushes and soft fruit plants too. And so it was a bumper pack of plants that hit the gardener’s doorsteps in early November, with the parcel containing 35 plants to keep our Nation of Gardeners busy.

A round up of November’s plantings

Blackberry Rueben primocan blackberry in Pontypridd

The gardeners received a Blackberry Reuben potted plant – this variety of blackberry is the world’s first primocane and so Mr Fothergill’s wants to really test this plant for performance across the whole of the UK, with especial interest in how this variety performs in more northern territories.

The blackberry plants – such as the one illustrated here newly planted in Pontypridd – was received with instructions for planting in the open ground.

All gardeners reported back that their specimens looked healthy and happy and were quick to establish themselves.  The plants were so happy in their new homes that three gardeners – in Pontypridd, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk  – even reported back that their plants were flowering soon after the plants had become settled.

By early December, most gardeners were reporting that their plants were still looking healthy and green-leafed, with no signs of them obeying the oncoming winter by dropping their leaves.


Strawberry runnersStrawberry runners were also shipped out in November, with 12 each of Strawberry Sweetheart (a June bearer) and Strawberry Buddy (an everbearing variety).

Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planting helps strawberries establish quickly and increases the yield for the summer, so how next summer’s crops turn out will be observed closely by the participants.   The gardeners will receive the same varieties again in Spring against which to compare their results.

The plants arrived as bare roots like the ones illustrated here. They arrived with the instructions to plant outside 15″-18″ apart.

The gardeners found a variety of means of planting their strawberries such as in raised beds, patio planters and potato bags.  Again, gardeners reported that the strawberries quickly established themselves with plants looking ‘perky’ only a few days later and definite leaf growth being observed within a couple of weeks.



Bare root perennials are also being grown in this round to test the theory of planting out at this time of year to get a head start on establishing good growth the following year.  Five varieties of bare root perennial plants were selected comprising the following:

Two of each of these plants were received by the gardeners, along with planting instructions to put one in the ground and one in a pot that is to be protected in coldframe or greenhouse.   This should reveal the best method for handling these plants at this time of year, and will give insight into how they perform in the different regions included in the project.

Bare root perennials in the coldframe

Due to the nature of bare root perennials, strong results aren’t expected until the spring, though new leaf growth has been reported by a handful of the gardeners.

In North Devon, Papaver Place Pigalle is looking healthy

Papaver, Sedum and Astrantia all took to their placements well with new leaves emerging for many of the gardeners as the month of November unfolded.  Some gardeners also saw signs of life – or at least signs of a happy healthy plant – in the Eryngiums too. The photo to the right here shows our Devon gardener’s healthy and vigorous growth of her coldframe planted Papaver.

Across the board, the notoriously reluctant Cimicifuga refused to show anyone any sign of life.  This is a plant that takes a few years to properly establish however, and so our gardeners will have to maintain some patience waiting for this variety to show itself in the warmer weather in 2014.

October planting update

The plants grown by the group in October have continued to go from strength to strength.  For many, the garlic is starting to show, having got off to a very slow start during October and November.  There are still some garlic that refuses to show its head from beneath the soil however, so continued cold snaps will eventually show us if this will spurt these plants into life.

Sweet peas in Guildford

Broad beans are now fully established for all gardeners, with some of the gardeners needing to stake their plants due to the height they’ve attained since sowing.  The picture below shows the broad beans in our Cheshire gardener’s plot.  She reports that these plants are doing much better in the open ground than in the pots in the coldframe. Perhaps root constriction is at play here?

Time will tell if the lush growth that many of our more southerly located gardeners are experiencing becomes a disadvantage over the broad beans that have had more moderate levels of growth.  Hardier and more stunted growth may make them more resilient as the weather turns colder.

October plants in early December in Cheshire

Sweet peas – such as the ones the the left above here in our Guildford gardener’s greenhouse – are also doing well for most gardeners, though some participants have lost their sweet peas to hungry wildlife!

The challenge as we go into winter will be to protect these young plants from the cold whilst keeping them hardened off enough to not shoot on ahead prematurely.  This is as much a test of the skills of the gardeners as it is a test of the seeds themselves!


To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

November 2013’s planting

October 2013’s planting


Looking forward into December

BasilMr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has now entered  its third month, with the gardeners having just received their December package over the weekend.

With all of our gardeners now experiencing their first frosts and the perils of winter weather, the Nation of Gardeners will move indoors for their December trial to partake in windowsill growing of basil, coriander and four varieties of leaves.

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