November GBBD: What’s Peaking Now

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

This Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, of unknown origin broke off in the ice and snow in January 2011.  For a photo of it then, click here.  It has recovered beautifully with an even more interesting habit.

I have said before that no matter how much I try to enjoy it, November is not my favorite month.  As I wander around, all I see are plants dying back, work to be done, and time running out.  Last year wasn’t too bad because we had a long warm fall with beautiful weather and plenty going on through the middle of November.  I even called my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post “Prime Time” (click here to see the show).  This year most gardeners in the mid-Atlantic US agree that fall colors on many plants have been muted and gardens have gone by early.  Even September and October contained few of the clear, crisp, and sunny days we look forward to, and then along came Sandy.

A seedling Japanese maple along my front walk.

Despite the bad fall, there are plants in my garden right now that make a stroll outside worthwhile.  What is it about them that so attracts me?  It is that these plants are reaching their ornamental height right now.  They are not just re-blooming or showing a few flowers on a plant that really peaked earlier like asters or phlox, and they are not producing lovely fall color on a woody that I grow just as much for its flowers like hydrangea or viburnum.  November is the month when they reach the top.

The Japanese maples that seeded around this London plane tree produce a variety of fall colors from yellow to orange to red.

In this post I re-introduce you to some of the plants that show their best side in November and December.  I have written about many of them before, and I will provide links to those posts.  However, I wanted to gather these plants together here to provide a complete reference of fall stars to use during your spring shopping  trips.

‘Shishigashira’ is a gorgeous Japanese maple that just starts to turn in mid-November.  It will eventually become a solid orangey red.

When all the other trees have shown their colors and lost their leaves, Japanese maples are just starting to turn.  Every time I go outside I grab my camera to take one more shot of their eye-catching color.  I think it is their prime ornamental characteristic, especially because of its timing, even though I also appreciate their fine branching structure, delicate leaves, and variety of habits.

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. hederifolium.

The white and pink flowers of hardy cyclamen.

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen is dormant in the summer and re-emerges in the fall.  To get all the details, click here to read my recent post on this unusual but easy to grow plant.  For the purposes of this post, what makes it so desirable is that November is its peak when its leaves are fully emerged and provide a stunning backdrop for the flowers.

The basic Italian arum, A. italicum, sometimes called ‘Pictum’.

‘Gold Dust’ Italian arum has much more distinct markings with gold veins.

The leaves of ‘Tiny Tot’ Italian arum are about one-third the size (or less) of the species and very finely marked.

Italian arum’s life cycle is very similar to hardy cyclamen: it goes dormant in the summer and comes up fresh and beautiful to peak in the fall and through the winter.  It makes a great groundcover, and you can read more about it by clicking here.

Giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii.

A giant snowdrop with unusually long outer segments (petals).

‘Potter’s Prelude’ giant snowdrop, G. elwesii var. monostichus, is just starting to open in mid-November.

I couldn’t write a post this time of year without mentioning fall-blooming snowdrops.  Although we think of snowdrops as blooming in March, there are several species that bloom in the fall, including G. reginae-olgae, which blooms in October and is done now.  Also the giant snowdrop, whose flowers are quite variable, blooms for a long period from November to February so I have included some photos above.  But the king of fall is ‘Potter’s Prelude’, a very robust and vigorous snowdrop that blooms reliably in November.  For more information, click here to read my post on fall-blooming snowdrops.

Christmas rose ‘Josef Lemper’, Helleborus niger

This photo was taken today—as you can see ‘Josef’ Lemper’s’ October flowers have gone by, but a whole new crop of buds are preparing for November.


The Christmas rose ‘Jacob’ begins a month later that ‘Josef Lemper’.  Its buds are just beginning to reach up beyond the leaves.

‘Josef Lemper’ and ‘Jacob’ Christmas roses are also stars in my November garden, producing pure white 3 to 4″ wide flowers set off by smooth evergreen leaves.  Fall is their season, and they produce copious amounts of flowers to cheer up dreary November days.  For more information on fall-blooming hellebores, click here.

Fall-blooming camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’ produces its first two flowers but look at all the buds to come.

The last photo is a teaser because of course fall-blooming camellias play a huge part in my November garden.  As with the other plants profiled, they are not just hanging on into November but instead come into their own then.  Look for an upcoming post featuring my camellias and my recent visit to the garden of a customer who also loves camellias.

All these plants (except the single flower of ‘Josef Lemper’ Christmas rose) are pictured blooming in my garden right now so I am linking to Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day (“GBBD”) hosted by May Dreams Gardens where gardeners from all over the world publish photos of what’s blooming in their gardens.



Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

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37 Responses to “November GBBD: What’s Peaking Now”

  1. Hi Carolyn… Oh my goodness… that first maple is to die for! Absolutely gorgeous. We are well into what has been a very cold November here up until now and I thought I was pretty much caught up… then I heard we can expect ten days of sunshine and perhaps 50 degrees or more… then I stopped at a place that had 75% off on their spring bulbs… now I have 450 additional bulbs to get in the ground plus my martagons which are supposed to arrive tomorrow… it’s ok though because I’m going to enjoy being outside to its fullest… take care and thanks for another great post! Larry

  2. Your Japanese maples are great, love the varied color of their fall foliage. Was outside looking at my cyclamen, there are some that are emerging away from the large corm (?) that was planted. I am wondering about digging them up to start some in a new area. Have you ever done that?
    Thought you were too far north for Camellias. Great shrub.

    • Janet, The “new” cold hardy camellias developed about 20 years ago are hardy to zone 6 and perfectly hardy here. Cyclamen corms get larger and larger and have flowers all over the top of one corm making a patch. They do also produce seedlings, but I am not sure how big they have to be in order to move them. I think I remember 2 years. Carolyn

  3. The trees are beautiful! I bought both galanthus thus from you last year. So far I don’t see any sign of Potter’s Prelude but have reginae-olga in bloom. Should I worry? I also have my hellebores starting to bloom. They are all so nice to see at this point.

  4. Hi Carolyn, i am already swooning just at that spectacular maple, which is outstanding at whatever stage of color development. But as i slide down the post, oh more beauties as in those variegated leaves, and then…the most…my favorite snowdrops. This is the first snowdrop i see in blogs this year. I thought they are sprouting later in other blogs! Amazing beauties this month!

  5. bethstetenfeld Says:

    The Camellia marks the edge for me–I so love the gorgeous blooms, but my zone is just out of its range. 😦 It’s nearly enough to make me want to move! I could grow Japanese Maples and Cyclamen in my garden, but I don’t have any now–two to put on the bucket list! I’ve long admired them in others’ gardens. Lovely post.

  6. What a combination of colors; intense reds in the trees, pink, greens and the whites of snowdrops and hellebores, wonderful!

  7. paulinemulligan Says:

    I always used to think of November as a dull dreary month, but not any more. The autumn colours that we have now here in the SW of the UK are the best ever, maybe thanks to all the rain!! Acers are so reliable in providing stunning colours, love them all!

  8. I was surprised to see the snowdrops blooming in the fall! Didn’t realize there were fall blooming ones, too. And I am always enchanted with your hellebores. But I mostly look forward to your posts on camellias. To me, they are the queen of the winter garden.

    • Holley, You can have snowdrops in bloom from October to April if you plant different varieties. I am glad you are looking forward to the camellias because sometimes I think I write about them too much. However, many gardeners here still don’t realize that you can grow them outdoors here. Carolyn

  9. Japanese Maples have ornamental value all year in color, delicate leaf texture and structural shape which makes them wonderful landscape plants. But as you said, Fall is when they turn up the juice and blast their beauty. I have Tiny Tot Arum too and completely forget about how pretty the leaves are. It is nice to show the small wonders in the garden as they are so often overlooked by their small size.

    • Donna, I forgot to point out that Japanese maples are the ultimate understory tree for shady areas and they take dry soil. My arums have all spread to make large patches so even if an individual plant is small, the patch really stands out. I have speeded this process up with ‘Tiny Tot’ by dividing it every year. Carolyn

  10. Your Japanese maples are stunning!

  11. Hi Carolyn – Inspired by your posts about Japanes Maples I’ve been looking for one here for over a year now. Still no luck, it might be time to do some enquirties – they are so beautiful and I think would do well in my shade. Looking forward to admiring your Camellias again.

    • Christine, Japanese maples are very easy to grow in my garden. In fact, the straight species seeds around in dry full shade and produces a variety of fall colors. I have read that they are invasive in some areas so maybe you should check that out for South Africa. Carolyn

  12. Very interesting post, Carolyn filled with lots of inspiration to extend interest in the garden into late fall. I would like to try some cyclamen in the future and I love the leaves of the ‘Tiny Tot’ Italian arum. I have a number of Japanese Maples, but there is still room fora few more. Their color is amazing.

  13. Lovely J maples. I do need to still make note to get the fall blooming snowdrops and the Christmas roses.

  14. Thank you for sharing the plants that add color to your November garden. You inspired me to start looking for plants that I can enjoy this time of year.

  15. Carolyn, You still have a lot of color in your garden. There is none here. I must get one of those fall-blooming hardy cyclamen. P. x

  16. Well, not quite sure about your comments about November when you have so much beautiful activity. Thanks for the heads up on fall-blooming snowdrops. Making notes for future plans right now.

  17. you have created a bonsai…maple…haha…although large still a sculptural piece of art

  18. Bonnie Devine Says:

    I definitely need to get plants that flower this time of year. Almost everything is either dead or dying. Thank goodness for the Hellebores. I’ve already started my list of purchases for 2013. Thanks for your suggestions.

    Happy Holidays, Bonnie

  19. While it is not my favorite month, fall colors usually peak here in early November which puts it up a notch on my calendar. Unlike where you are, we have had a spectacular fall as far as color goes. Now there is more on the ground than in the trees, but it is still beautiful.

  20. Where to begin? Wonderful J. Maples! Fall is looking great! Someday I hope to. Visit! Taking a break but will for sure see you on the new year! Happy Thanksgiving!(

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