My internal clock—always tuned to Chicago—tells me there should be 3-6 months when we sit inside and look at dead things.
Instead I am bending over to mulch the zinnias, squatting down to prune the roses, contemplating anemones.
With all due respect, I’ve had enough of the beautiful weather. If I hear one more person say, "If you want to see snow, go to Big Bear" I’ll crack. Driving to get to snow? I don’t think so! Winter comes to you, not the other way around.
But I digress.
Take some Advil people. While our brethren in the Midwest and East are prepared for wind chills and starchy foods, we have the "opportunity" to keep our gardens growing.
Yes, the garden has already thinned out. But with the colder nights and cooler soil conditions, it's the optimum time to plant California natives, as well as a playground of colorful blooms such as Iceland poppies, pansies, calendula, snapdragons, cyclamen, pompoms, asters and anemones. Planting these flowers now not only adds oomph to the fading landscape but also helps these specimens establish strong root systems for spring blooms.
If you don’t have hydrangea, consider plantin a few this autumn. The Oak Leaf variety will turn purple in Fall and the Limelight hydrangea sports flower heads that change from bright green to deep pink.
Also it's a good time to spice up your walkways with autumn-happy groundcovers such as purply blue periwinkle or gazania in gold or creamy white.
With cyclamen, snapdragons and pansies in hand, Studio City resident Alice Lepis notes, “My garden is very high maintenance because I love color. I don’t like cacti or Xeriscape,” says Lepis who never looks for the easy way out. So even in autumn, as the sun begins to go down, she's on bended knee digging another hole with the obsessive nature of a gardener. "I'll stop when I’m tired," she says.
MUMS THE WORD:
What would the autumn garden be without its signature flower, the mum? Formally known as chrysanthemums, the multi-petal bloom can be displayed in pots at the door, in the ground along a walkway or as bedding plants. Orderly, compact growers in a range of colors, mums thrive during cooler, shorter days. They are programmed by an inner clock that prompts them to only bloom during the fall. In the same family—Asteraceae--as daisies and sunflowers, there are 30 species from which to choose.
COTTAGE PLANTINGS:. Gardeners who favor the cottagey look have plenty of options for autumn. Three of my favorites are the tall velvety foxglove in bruise colors, white, pink or blue anemones, and hellebores.
And Sweet peas will fill in so many blank spaces, you’ll need to keep watch over their wild growth habit. With pink/white and blue/white flowers, they are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. Your old tomato cages or three tall bamboo sticks arranged in teepee fashion will act as a good trellis for the sweet pea vine.
Fill empty spaces with garlic; drought-tolernat Penstemons that sport bright reds or pinks and brilliant blues and purples and sway in the breeze; and ranunculus.
THE FOOD CHAIN: This is also the time to plant lettuce, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and radish seeds. The Farmers Almanac says Nov. 15 is a good day for planting potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, and beets.
ORNAMENTALS: Gorgeous ornamentals that pop in the landscape just when we need them include coleus in shades of plum and chartreuse; burgundy and white kale; succulents such as euphorbia, aloe, kalanchoe and sedum which provide russet and orange tones due to the change of temperature; and trees such as Modesto ash, pomegranates and pears.
WHAT TO DO:
Don’t forget to mulch. It keeps the soil warmer in the winter, help plants retain moisture, reduces erosion, cuts down on weeds.
Plant mums in extra deep, rich soil, and avoid overcrowding.
Buy a bale of hay and surround it with pumpkins and mums.
Add bare root plants to the garden now as well as bulbs such as tulips (plant five tulips per square foot), daffodils, lillies (which are actually corms).
Cut back perennials after months of industrious bloom production and divide three-year-old plants, such as lavender and agapanthus, in order to insure their vigorous return.
STEAL THIS IDEA:
Budding Monets--try an impressionistic landscape with mass plantings of compact hardy mums on terraced beds, arranging a gradual transition of related colors (yellows and browns or pinks and purples).
Armstrong Garden Center 12920 Magnolia Blvd Sherman Oaks and Sheridan Garden Nursery 817 N Hollywood Way in Burbank have organic mulches to choose from as well as plentiful bulb selection, mums, succulents and ornamentals.
Try Red Barn Feed and Saddlery 18601 Oxnard St Tarzana for bales of hay. Get your veggies at Tapia Brothers 5251 Hayvenhurst, Encino and organic seeds are available at Whole Foods.