November gardening column: Time to lay down some roots

In her latest French garden dispatch, Cathy Thompson is digging and planting

There are, happily, few universal rules in gardening – I’m with the late horticultural author Christopher Lloyd in believing that ‘the best time to do something is when you can see it needs doing’. But November 25 is Saint Catherine’s Day and she always has me spade-sharpening and hole-digging.

The French don’t say ‘A la Sainte Catherine tout bois prend racine’ without reason. But note that they are really talking about deciduous woody plants, not evergreens.

Very soon after leaf-fall, these plants have the maximum concentration of root-promoting hormones in their system. It’s win/win with a November planting. If the ground freezes hard, the plant just sits there, waiting for better times (unlike its evergreen friends, who continue to lose water through their ever-present foliage). On the other hand, if late autumn is fine, root growth accelerates apace with moisture and sunshine.

Tree-planting is ...

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