In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2004
Regional Report

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California poppies sown now will bloom year-round.

Bloomies for the Gloomies

When the gloom -- or at least the chill -- of winter has set in, we're especially ready for color in our landscape. There truly is brilliance to life beyond the last sunset-hued leaf drifting down from trees! Annuals, perennials, bulbs, and shrubs all offer exquisite reasons for planting now to enjoy them in a couple of months. Here are some I depend on.

Annuals
Alyssum have delicate blossoms and foliage that readily reseeds itself into seemingly "everbloomingness." In spite of the name, flowering cabbage and kale offer pink and purple, crinkled rosettes of leaves throughout the long-lasting winter chill. Calendulas have pumpkin-orange and sunflower-yellow blooms. Campanulas are available in many varieties, with blue, purple, or white bells along stalks ranging from 2 inches to 8 feet!

Bachelor's buttons (blue, pink, and white), and dianthus (the many carnation relatives), are always dependable. California poppies are our namesake, which the Spanish supposedly saw on our Altadena hillsides and the 49ers sent back home as symbols of our land of gold. Forget-me-nots look like tiny blue clouds, Iceland poppies have oversized but delicate, crepe-paper blooms on spindly but strong stalks swaying with the slightest breeze. Nothing's quite so promising in the gloom of winter as their upturned blooms as they unfurl like glisteningly moist butterflies.

Primroses are the fairy princesses of the winter garden -- tiny dancers in frilly skirts on tall stems that lighten up gloomy days, or short staffs of brilliantly clear color bursting from waffled green rosettes. Snapdragons are indispensable in the garden for anyone who grew up pinching the blooms into talking dragons. Their tall-to-short, huge-to-tiny, and early-to-late variations in plants, flowers, and bloom periods provide a continuous supply, handy for nipping. Stocks offer attractive, long-leaved, blue-gray foliage sparked up by multi-colored clusters of fragrance that last long in the garden. Bloomed-out seed heads send off lots of seeds that easily sprout for later color. Sweet peas (sow now for flowers by Thanksgiving), violas (the fragrant ones can become invasive), and pansies are other favorite annuals that thrive in cool weather.

Shrubs
Daphnes have a glorious fragrance that envelopes you as you pass by. I have one by my front door. Poinsettias are a great standby of end-of-the-year holidays, with their blast of classic red or waft of more gentle pastels. Camellias are another favorite.

Trees
Citrus have that marvelous conjunction of ripening orange globes and fragrant blossoms; we send a branch to our relatives in New York each New Year's! The intoxicating scent of Michelia flowers can fill a room for hours. Persimmons are another beauty, and even when the fruits finally fall from the tree, their brilliant variations on orange provide color until wildflowers and weeds sprout in early spring. Other good choices include coral tree (Los Angeles' city tree!), acacia, and bauhinia.


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