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GARDEN FANATIC: Still time for fall garden beauty

“Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?""” Kelvin Throop III

“Most turkeys taste better the day after; my aunt’s tasted better the day before." "” with apologies to Rita Rudner


As we approach the holiday season, I muse that there are only 47 more shopping days until Christmas. What will these days bring? Better weather or economic news? The end of the war in Iraq or tranquillity to the Design Review process ... not likely, and besides I don’t have much control over these issues. Instead, I worry about how the garden will look for Thanksgiving and beyond.


The goal is a beautiful garden for the upcoming season, for the enjoyment of our family, friends, and neighbors. Not only will it reflect our good taste, but it also demonstrates our aversion to be the blight of the neighborhood. Although Thanksgiving and even Christmas may be an over-sanguine target for garden perfection, the fall and winter garden has its considerable charms ... and one needs to start planning now and planting soon.

Seasonal planting habits and a certain cautiousness led many gardeners to use the same commonplace plants every holiday. Pity. As a garden fanatic, I say we try planting something different, because we’ll still be enjoying the plants long after the holidays have ended.

As a starter, I will be planting Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, on my deck. Not only will they provide the requisite showy red flowers, the leaves can be used to flavor the eggnog and garnish my Mother’s holiday fruit salad. This hardy perennial grows to 2-3 feet, and does well either in planting beds or containers.

Nearly ever-blooming in Laguna, Scaevola “Alba" provides showy white flowers as a ground cover or planted in a hanging basket. Other scaevolas can be found in nurseries, varying in color from blue to purple. They all require very little care and prefer full sunlight.


To provide berries for our wreath, I’ve planted California Holly, Heteromeles arbutifolia (which also serves to block our neighbor’s trash cans). A native to our environs, it is covered with red berries from November to January. Growing naturally as a dense shrub or pruned into a small tree, California Holly is useful as a screen or hillside planting.

Related to the snapdragon, Garden Penstemon, Penstemon gloxiniodes, brings a showy display of pink, rose, lilac, and white flowers throughout the year. They thrive in well-draining soil and will grow either in full sun or partial shade. Sprawling in rock gardens, penstemon can also be trimmed as an attractive border plant.

You must plant Iceland Poppies, Papaver nudicaule, this month, for color by Christmas. I just can’t resist their spectacular and brilliant flowers. Florists tell me they make an excellent cut flower.

Catharine and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Who would have ever thought (including ourselves) that love could last so long? That someone as thoughtful and sensitive as Catharine could live with someone who would just as soon focus on a glass of wine and rack of lamb than the plight of the less fortunate? I believe there is still time to be a better and caring person, not for just the holidays, but always. See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI is married Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to