Planting autumn colors

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

— Robert Frost

It’s true — autumn officially began this week. And we return to the season that is not only considered the “second spring,” but is also one of the most ideal times for planting.

Although a gradual quiescence, rather than rapid growth follows September and October, these are excellent months to complete planting that summertime activities left undone. Inspired by anticipated, cooler temperatures and beautiful days, we can approach gardening with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.


Fall chores include preparing the garden for planting. Planter mix and leaf mold should be added to the soil, along with pre-plant fertilizer and gypsum. The garden will be ready for planting of bulbs and perennials. Consider mulching the remainder of the garden and keep roses well-watered and fertilized.

Along with bulbs, there are several possibilities for fall planting. Over the past three decades, 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 the Village and partial shade in the Canyon.

Although sometimes difficult to find, 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 4 feet, it needs little water on the coast. A valuable perennial for the 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. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) offers 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 containers.

Although commerce and the Dodgers try to distract me, the lure of the autumn garden is like the Siren’s song. Its beauty provides a welcomed escape from the vagaries and trials of life.

See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award-winning writer Catharine Cooper, and has four dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to