{ GARDENING }

UNMISTAKABLY AUTUMN

10 gorgeous plants that announce the season

BY Gary Jones, Armstrong Garden Centers' Chief Horticulturist
Can’t tell it’s fall by the look of your garden? No worries! Just add a few of the right trees and shrubs that provide gorgeous fall color and you’ll know when autumn has arrived. Here in Southern California, we need to look beyond the classic maples and oaks that other climates revel in each autumn, because these species don’t necessarily thrive in our mild weather.
Here are 10 tried-and-true plants that will offer years of colorful autumn leaves in San Diego.
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1. SWEET GUM (LIQUIDAMBAR)
Many people confuse sweet gum for maple because the leaf shapes look so similar. Unlike maples, liquidambars are more vertical in shape. They also have a distinct and rather large, spiny seed pod that falls almost year-round. For that reason, it is best not to plant sweet gum trees near sidewalks, patios, or courtyards. In the very late fall, the colors are stunning—from red tones to oranges and peach. The foliage of the Palo Alto turns bright red to orange-red. The Burgundy offers deep, reddish-purple leaves. Festival will give you a range of autumnal hues including peach, rose, orange, yellow, and red.

2. OAKLEAF HYDRANGEA
The flowers and leaves of this plant provide beautiful fall color. Huge, conical white flower clusters take on bronze and pinkish-red tones as the flowers mature. As summer wanes, the large, deeply cut leaves turn bronze and red and may remain on the plant for a long time.

3. MAIDENHAIR TREE (GINKGO)
A mature ginkgo tree in full fall color is a sight to behold: pure, clear yellow. It seems as if every leaf has been formed from the same sheet of bright construction paper. This angular, architectural tree is a beauty all year—with or without leaves. Make sure to plant only male trees for tidiness.

4. BOSTON IVY “GREEN SHOWERS”
Clothe an unsightly or boring wall with this verdant, shiny-leaved ivy. Exit summer and enter autumn, when it assumes a sumptuous robe of rich red. This self-clinging vine covers a lot of area fast.

5. CHINESE PISTACHE
Pistache provides a wonderful, umbrella-shaped canopy of feathery shade all summer. Come fall, leaves turn red, orange, or yellow, depending on the climate. Chinese pistache are adaptable to soil types and a wide range of watering conditions, including very little.

6. CRAPE MYRTLE
You certainly get a unique color combination with crape myrtles including wonderful white, lavender, pink, and red flowers from summer into fall and brilliant orange and red fall foliage. If you live near the coast, make sure to plant a variety that is bred to be mildew resistant. There are more than ten resistant varieties to choose from.

7. POMEGRANATE
The arching branches of this large shrub sport magnificent red fruit by autumn that will stay on long after the tiny leaves turn orange, red, and yellow before dropping. Pruning will keep pomegranates smaller. These shrubs will tolerate poor soil and considerable drought if needed.

8. VITIS ROGER’S RED
This selection of California’s native grape, vitis californica, turns a delightful red in the fall. Plant it where it can be backlit by the low autumn sun but not where the fruit drops on a patio or sidewalk. Roger’s Red is fast-growing and splendid in both fruit and flower. The small fruit is edible with large seeds. Birds absolutely love it.

9. BLUEBERRIES
A must-have in the garden or even a pot. You’ll delight in the sweet, nutrient-rich berries throughout the summer and the gorgeous foliage in all seasons. In fall, the foliage turns a beautiful red before exposing rustic bark in the winter. Come spring, blueberry bushes come to life as new leaves emerge along with dainty white bell-shaped flowers.

10. CALIFORNIA REDBUD (CERCIS OCCIDENTALIS)
This is a fall favorite because its heart-shaped leaves provide a spectacular autumn show, changing from a blue-green to a brilliant gold. Redbud is a large shrub that naturally thrives in San Diego’s climate.

Make sure to water your trees and shrubs enough in the beginning, especially in hot weather; fertilize as directed; and consult your local nursery professional about the type of plants that will thrive in your area of San Diego. Go to armstronggarden.com/storelocator to find the center nearest to you.

Gary Jones is chief horticulturist at Armstrong Garden Centers.

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