Thinking about Fall Colors and Landscaping

Written by David S.

Green Thumb Nursery stocks many plants, trees, and shrubs that put on a spectacular fall foliage show. In this newsletter, we discuss some of the best plants for home landscaping that light up the fall season with color. 

The Big Stuff – Trees and Shrubs 

We often think about big trees when we think about sweeping fall colors, but don’t discount the small flowering plants and grasses that also put on a show. In terms of big trees, the Oregon Maple is one of the best. However, not every yard can handle a large tree. If that’s your yard, you can grow Japanese maples if you plan ahead and take care to keep them watered. Japanese maples are beautiful, slow growing and generally smaller understory trees. They pair nicely with dogwoods which are also splendid in the fall. Both trees like some afternoon shade, so a little planning is required. Both will grow well in a large pot but will require extra water and soil care throughout the year. Another beautiful choice for a larger tree is the gingko which will grow up to zone 9. If you are looking for a “sleeper” of a tree, the Chinese Pistache will blow your mind in the fall. It produces a vivid yellow fall show and grows well up to zone 9.  Southern California ranges to hardiness zone 11. Keep in mind that not all options are available for trees in all areas. 

Smaller trees are easier to place, and they can also hide eyesores. Another option is the flowering maple, which does lovely in a pot. Like the Japanese Maple and Dogwood, the Flowering Maple stays under 10 feet in height and provides both spring/summer blooms and fall colors. While these are just a few of your options for designing a fall landscape, they work well. Be sure to ask our experts about taller trees for your hardiness zone. Not only do we have stock, but we can also order too. Keep in mind that some trees and shrubs only ship during certain times of the years, but we are happy to work with you. 

Layers of Color 

Not every community or yard can handle a big tree, The good news is that in Southern California, you can have a world-class fall foliage landscape without worrying about the trees. In fact, carefully chosen perennials can completely remake your landscaping during the fall months without having to plant new plants in the summer. Plus many offer beautiful green foliage throughout late winter, spring, and summer before they bloom. Late-blooming plants help you to create dynamic landscapes that keep your yard in bloom for most of the year. The trick is to layer plants and time bloom schedules so that areas of your yard always have something that is blooming. We call this transitional color, and as one segment of a bed finishes blooming another begins. That may sound difficult and complex, but it can be easy too. A good tip is to make a bloom calendar and list the plants that you like along with their colors by month. The visual will help you to break up colors so that you can place plants where their colors have the most impact. 

One of the most overlooked options for fall color and we often think of fall color as foliage from trees. A good substitute is perennials. Mums and asters are amazing in the fall, and they come in a vast array of colors. One favorite is the periwinkle-color of asters. When sprawling amid a sea of Salvia, the effect is unbelievable.  For shrubs, look to the hydrangea, which like the dogwood trees can produce gorgeous red leaves during fall. The Matilija Poppy is another option with its lovely sage-colored leaves and brilliant white, crepe textured flowers. This is not a plant that puts on fall colors, but it blooms throughout summer and fall. If you opt for a Matilija Poppy, but it in a pot. This is a plant that spreads by rhizome. 

If you want to create tall backdrops then consider a Trailing Abutilon – Chinese Lantern is a beautiful plant with beautiful long flowers that bloom in bright reds with yellow tinges. These are good to hardiness zone 11, and you can train them on a trellis to keep them in hand. They produce beautiful, bright, cheerful flowers in reds and yellows until the first frost. Mix colors to make the boldest impact and use the green foliage of salvias, sedum, and other ground plants to really make your display pop. A good rule of thumb is to remember that darker blooms tend to push color back and brighter tones move color forward. If you think about landscaping, remember that you are in a cube, not a square, so be sure to use all of the space wisely. Again, this sound complicated but the experts at Green Thumb Nursery are always available to help. Feel free to drop by one of our five locations to see plants in person and to ask questions. There are many options for, and they come in a ton of colors. 

Bunching grasses also can put on a display, and their warmer tans and reddish browns can create contrasts amid a sea of other colors. Sedum is another fantastic option as these succulents can produce amazing colors and blooms. In fact, there are so many options with just sedums that you cannot go wrong. The leaves of sedum are beautiful, but they also bloom in odd and surprising ways. 

Be sure to stop by one of our five nurseries located throughout Southern California. Also, keep in mind that products and plant selections change often.  You can visit us online or call ahead to check inventory or to ask questions as we are always happy to give expert advise. 

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