Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2006
Regional Report

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Pumpkins are the mainstay of Halloween decor.

Halloween From the Garden

Gaggles of ghouls ... hundreds of horrendous, howling hoodlums ... plenty of punkins ... bastions of black cats ... apples for dunking, and peeled grapes to feel while blindfolded. The terrors of the spookhouse. Spine-tingling fun! The first of our fall-season celebrations is almost upon us, and in case you've still got some gaps in your decor, or need to begin something -- for your own delight as well as for your guests -- here are some quick ideas from the garden.

Colorful Foliage and Fruits
First of all, the mainstay -- pumpkins and winter squashes. Then, the overgrown zucchinis and yellow crookneck squashes. Their knobbiness and colorful striping provide great texture and hue in fall "bouquets." And the billions of cherry tomatoes left provide healthful, itty-bitty nibbles in arrangements and other decorations.

Leaves are starting to change, if only to muted golds and russet browns. Depending on your microclimates, trees with promise include scarlet and red oaks, birches, liquidambar, maples, ginkgos, Chinese pistaches, Chinese tallow trees, tulip trees, ornamental pears, redbuds, persimmons, sour gums, Raywood ashes, and zelkovas. Even some crape myrtles are still coloring their ruffles.

Shrubs get in on the act, too, with barberries, cotoneasters, plume cedars, winged euonymous, Virginia creeper, Boston ivy, and the sedums. Heavenly bamboo also gives a kaleidoscope of reds and greens and yellows, especially the dwarf varieties, from the delicately cut foliage and berries. Rose hips are colored up, and pomegranates are getting there. Ornamental pomegranates offer both blossoms and miniature fruits for red-and-green mixes.

Berries, too, offer their tidbits of brightness for table or door decor. Pyracantha, barberries, hollies, toyon, and viburnums, to name a few. Bottlebrushes are welcome oddities, textural treasures for arrangements. The purple foliage and plumes of the smoke tree lend a delicate touch to any arrangement.

Blossoming rosemary sprigs bring the bright blue sky indoors along with their heady fragrance. Soft, furry lamb's ears and their bloomstalks add purple height to arrangements. The multitude of different colors and fragrances of drought-tolerant salvias is becoming more well known. Pineapple sage is perhaps best known and certainly the most delicious smelling. Another sage, oddly attractive, is Canary Island sage, with its cottony sheathed stems and mauve-to-brown blooms.

Autumn's chill accentuates the rich hues of achilleas, armerias, asters, azaleas, begonias, calendulas, California fuchsias, chrysanthemums, coreopsis, cyclamen, daylilies, felicias, geraniums, gerberas, gloxinias, hydrangeas, kalanchoes, primroses, rudbeckias, snapdragons, stock, verbenas, violas, and African violets.

And, of course, don't forget the old standby for rich fall color -- ornamental kales and cabbages.

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