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The fall garden is ready to bloom


“These days of autumn are beautiful as days can be.”

Robert Frost

“Beauty for some provides escape (like) autumn sunsets exquisitely



-- Aldous Huxley

It’s true, autumn officially begins this Monday (my mom checked

for me). And we return to the season that is not only considered the


“second spring,” but is also one of the most ideal times for


Although quiescence, rather than rapid growth, follows September

and October, these are excellent months to complete planting that

summertime activities left undone. Inspired by cooler temperatures

and beautiful days, we can approach gardening with renewed vigor and


Fall chores include preparing the garden for planting. Planter mix


and leaf mold should be added to the soil, along with Gro-Power and

gypsite. The garden will be ready for planting of bulbs and

perennials. I also mulch the remainder of the garden and keep my

roses well watered and fertilized.

One of my fall pleasures is shopping for bulbs with my traveling

wife, Catharine. She now reminds me to refrigerate our tulips and

hyacinths for later planting. Paper white narcissus will soon be

sprouting indoors, and anemone, iris and ranunculus have been put to



Fellow garden fanatic Suzanne M. explains that the autumn is the

best time to plant for several reasons:

“First,” she says, “temperatures are cooling, yet the soil retains

the warmth received from the summer. This allows the roots of plants

to establish quickly, without the need of constant attention. Second,

if the Santa Anas don’t drive off the storm fronts, we can normally

expect some rain, reducing the quantity of water needed from either

the sprinklers or the faucet. Finally, blooming plants of this season

are the loveliest of the entire gardening year.

“You have to plan.” Suzanne continues. “Plan your fall garden and

even see the possibility of a water feature for family and friends.

Then just do it!”

And so we will.

Along with bulbs, there are several possibilities for fall

planting. Over the past few years, Dipladenia amoena has become a

real landscape pleaser. It is a compact shrub with lovely pink

flowers, twining stems and dark green, glossy leaves. A consistent

bloomer much of the year, Dipladenia merits your consideration in

flowering beds, containers, and hanging baskets. Plant in rich soil

and provide full sun in Laguna and partial shade inland.

Although sometimes difficult to locate, one of the most rewarding

of the climbing roses, is the single, blood-red bloom of Altissimo.

Very fragrant and excellent as a cut flower, this rose blooms freely

throughout the fall. Its dark green foliage is particularly resistant

to disease. Look for the salmon pink blooms of America and creamy

white Sally Holmes as worthy alternatives.

Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is flowering now and into the winter

in many different colors, particularly yellow, red and purple. Bushy

to four feet, it needs little water on the coast. A valuable

perennial for your garden, many of the sages are prolific bloomers

and range from ground covers to shrubs.

Annual color is happening. Pansy, dianthus and chrysanthemum have

arrived at your favorite nursery just in time for autumn! There is

still plenty of time to plant all of the other fall flowers as well.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) offer colorful displays of red,

mauve, apricot, yellow and white flowers. Planted in full sun, they

provide wonderful massed color for garden beds, along drives, or in


Our dazzling Laguna sunsets began last week. Their intensity and

range of color never fails to delight me. Although transient

loneliness and Ben’s birthday celebration try to distract me, the

lure of my autumn garden is like the Sirens’ song. Its beauty, filled

with opulence of bloom and richness of color, provides a welcomed

escape from my ordinary life. See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1540 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist

Catharine Cooper and has three cats. He can be reached at (949) 497

2438, or send e-mail to