So, here it is Fall. Most gardens are looking a little exhausted after the summer and so we do clean-up in preparation for the winter and then sit back and anticipate Spring planting and blooming. But Wait! There are many plants, which if planted in the Fall, will already be blooming when your neighbor is just beginning to plant – and yours will be really really healthy because their roots will have had the advantage of time and the Winter rains (yes, it WILL rain!) to get a head start! And there are so many choices…
POPPIES: let’s start with some of our native poppies, the Escholzias, Seeds planted in the Fall will bloom from Spring into Summer, sometimes re-seeding and giving a late Summer bloom. Once they start to bloom the plants look untidy, so these are great in large background areas (slopes) and among plants which will show the color but disguise the plant. Our California state flower is bright orange, but hybrids are available in a rainbow of colors.
PENSTEMONS: Planted now, these will provide Spring lushness of leaves and colors ranging from light pink through purple and red. Many of these plants are from the Southwest and so are not only easy to grow, but are suited to our low-water conditions and an added attraction is that they bring in hummingbirds and bees.
HOLLYHOCKS (Alcea): I have memories of great big hollyhocks in my great-grandmother’s garden; joyous columns (up to 9′!) of color: pink, red, purple, yellow, white, double, semi-double and single, these flowers shout Summer is Here! Sow perennial seeds now and have years of enjoyment!
ASTERS: Plant young plants of perennial types now for mounds of pink, purple, lavender, blue and white.Perfect at the front of the bed. Aster x frikartii, Monch will bloom almost all year here and in any soil.
LAVENDER: For Spring flower color and beyond – and so many to choose from! Consider Phlomis (Jerusalem Sage)with your lavender – a truly delightful, drought-tolerant combination!
COREOPSIS: Plant these lovelies now and you will have color not only in Spring but the year around! The tall, bright yellow C. maritima is a perennial native to our So Cal coast. It grows up to 3′ high and makes an excellent cut flower.
DIANTHUS: D.arenarius is a perennial which makes a thick grasslike basal plant covered with profuse, deeply fringed, frilly white blooms, sometimes with purple markings – and is HIGHLY FRAGRANT!
SWEET PEAS: Lathyrus: Plant your seeds now! You will be the envy of your neighbors because your sweet peas will be blooming as Winter exits – and if you plant periodically between now and early Spring, you’ll have continuous bloom for months; how glorious is that!?
TANACETUM: I have two favorite Tanacetums. T. argenteum has impossibly soft, aromatic mounds of feathery silver foliage which sets off warmer garden colors so well. Then there is the brilliant ferny lime-green of T. aureum which has cute yellow-centered white daisies in Summer. Imagine this limey ferny-ness filling in around the base of a stand of purple, white and lavender Scabiosas!
SCABIOSA: S. caucasica is a perennial whose fringy flowers form a 2 – 3” landing pad for butterflies and bees in white, lavender or blue atop long stems which are perfect for cutting.
HELEBORES: A classic for the shady or dappled garden. Stunning when massed to show off the variety of pastel greenish- pinkishlavender- to-white nodding 2” flowers set against deep green leaves.
LIMNANTHES: Meadowfoam. This annual will produce masses of white-tipped, yellow daisy-like flowers. Makes a 6 – 12” cheery mound that is a stunning filler between and in front of taller plants… like hybrid Lupines!
LUPINES: Lupine hybrids need regular water, which is why they live so well with Meadowfoam. We do have native Lupines, though, which need little to no water and will be perfect mixed into your native garden (think California poppies). Available in blue, white, pink and yellow. Hybrids are available in many more colors.
ALSTROEMERIA AURANTIACA: an evergreen type, growing tall (to 4′). Yellow, orange and red-orange with stripes and flecks. Cherished by florists for long-lasting cut flowers. Wait until the soil is cool to plant. Alstroemerias form clumps and become more numerous each year – a garden gift.
CATMINT, Nepeta fasenii: need a low-growing perennial hedge with masses of blue spikes in the Springtime? Catmint is your plant. Silvery soft leaves make a low mound for front of the border. Plant it in front of Coreopsis and the high contrast of the blue and gold will draw all eyes to your garden!
EUPHORBIA CHARACAIS ‘WULFENII’: talk about a stunning, sturdy and eye-catching foundation planting! This euphorbia grows to about 4′ with bluey-green foliage (which contrasts nicely with surrounding greens) and in the spring puts on a show of unusual chartreuse flowers in large umbels… stunning!
DELPHINIUMS: The best flowers come on plants which can do their early growing when the weather is cool – so when it cools, put these aristocrats of the garden into the ground. There are so many to choose from to fit your garden needs: the very short Chinese or Bouquet type at 1′ to the Elatum group which can grow 8′ spires of lavender, purple, raspberry, violet, pink and white. Cut back after initial bloom to a few inches and wait for a second show later in the season and more blooming for years after that.
FOXGLOVES: Again, so many to choose from! The common foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea is a short-lived perennial which is easy to grow. A flower to brighten bright or full shade areas with its spotty, purply nodding spires above a lush green basal plant – no need to hide this one at the back of the bed!
BULBS: And, lest we forget, now is the time to plant Spring blooming bulbs: how can we resist masses of royal blue Dutch iris, rainbow-hued tulips,bright yellow and pastel daffodils, giant balls of purple alliums, Spring’s first flower: the crocuses, stately and exotic lilies. The bulbs available now should be planted when the soil temp drops to about 60 degrees. And, don’t forget 4 – 6 weeks in the vegetable bin for the tulips, daffodils and crocuses.