Top-Ten Garden Highlights for November 2020

This is a walker’s self-guided tour through the Gardens inside-and-out that will help us to discover the magic of local Nature in November.  Every month is a new top-ten list! 


Conifers covering a paved walkway at the cleveland botanical garden

1. CONIFERS.  CK Patrick Garden. 
As the deciduous plants drop their leaves and the autumn colors dim, the conifers step forward in the landscape to save the day.  And a great conifer to start with is with this Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa Gracilis’) in CK Patrick Garden. Other good spots for conifer watching are the Japanese and Gateway Gardens. 

Branch with yellow leaves featuring an opposite leaf pattern in early november

2. LATE COLOR.  Boardwalk. 
By November autumn’s brilliance has left the Forests and Gardens.  But what remains has its own merit in the wine-spilled viburnums, the rust-and-leather oak leaves–the burnished brass of the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) pictured here Spicebush grows in woodland waves along our boardwalk; pick up a fallen leaf and give it a sniff—that’s how it got its name. 

Close up of a magnolia bud with yellow leaves decorating the background

3. WINTER BUDS. Restorative Garden and everywhere 
Our trees—like this Magnolia (Magnolia lacidaizialis)—spent the spring growing leaves and stems and the summer growing buds.  And next spring those buds will burst and give the cycle another spin.  But before they do, grab a hand lens or a macro and give an eagle-eye to these lovely little natural wonders. Little buds are leaves; big ones, flowers. 

Cornelian Cherry tree growing against a wall

4. FLAT TREE.  Restorative Courtyard. 
Er, that’s not the technical term.  The flat tr
ee against the wall is a cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and it is wearing an Espalier haircut.   Espalier is the centuries-old horticulture practice of training fruit (or ornamental) trees two grow in just two dimensions against a wall or along a fence.  It saves space, makes harvest simpler—and in this case, looks cool.  Fun to watch as the leaves fall away to show the bones of November. 

Team horticulture standing 6 feet apart

In this November of physical distancing and Zoom meetings, the Garden is still—probably more than ever—its people.  And Team Horticulture is always around and growing plants for you to enjoy. So strike-up a conversation or even try to stump ‘em with a garden question!  Question: if this gang was a rock band what would they be called?  — & which one’s the drummer?

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The Madagascar and Costa Rica Biomes don’t know 
it’s November outside.  So if you are getting just too November, visit the biomes for a shot of an exotic July in the tropics.  Nice ops for your camera, too. 

Team horticulture standing 6 feet apart

7. MADAGASCAR BIRDS (Silphium perfoliatum). 
Madagascar Biomes. Both our biomes feature tropical birds, but let’s focus on Mad’s for November because the African weaver birds are nesting!  You can’t miss the males chattering about in their loud orange plumage. And look closely for the female and her nest in the Jabily tree just to the left of the big baobab. 

Small flowering spurges in the glasshouse

8. THE DESERT’S IN THE DETAILS (Clethra alnifolia).  
Madagascar Biome. Madagascar can look scruffy if given but a cursory glance.  But it deserves more, as its order becomes apparent in in the details.  And November’s one of its best months: look for flowering spurges as pictured (Euphorbia sp.), the firestick-flowering aloes, and all the exotic architecture of thorns and winding stems. 

Large yellow chalice vine flower with a butterfly resting on top

9. CRAZY FLOWERS.  Costa Rica Biome 
The chalice vine (Solandra grandiflora) threading through the tropical oak has begun its months-long autumn bloom.  This vine grows at a frightening pace and will produce perhaps a thousand chalice-sized blossoms before it rests.  The spent flowers slip from their stems and flutter to the path daily.  Pick one up to admire—but no sip wine from its depths because this chalice is deadly poisonous. 

small green bananas growing on a tree in the glasshouse

10. BANANAS Costa Rica Biome. 
Bananas under glass are an astounding way to ponder the wonder of this green planet, and in November, and in Ohio.  First, they grow from sprout to monster plant in six months.  Second, their inflorescences are as long as a Russian novel and as heavy as Thanksgiving dinner.  Third, ours is in full flower-and-fruit. Once you see it all, you might just remark, “as if I needed convincing.”