In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2000
Regional Report

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The "horned melon" is a fruit whose visual appeal is greater than its taste.

My Holiday Decorations

I love bringing the rich colors and textures of natural plants into our home for the holidays. From tiny to large, an arrangement can be made for any area or space. Every wall is fair game for a wreath, mantelpieces are special focal points for bouquets, front doors and door knockers, even walkways and entranceways can be adorned.

Great Color Combinations

The bright orange of persimmons, pumpkins, and calendulas is the predominant color of this season - these plants look great alone or combined with others. Yellows and whites are also great. I like to combine silvery foliage of dusty miller and white flowered shasta daisy with the yellow flowers of wooly yarrow. Even branches and nuts can be used. The browns of nuts and bare branches work well with the mustardy yellows of winter squash and corncob husks.

Reds and Blues Anyone?

The reds of pomegranates and pyracantha berries brighten any combination. Gourds and Indian corn can showcase these colors, and their novel shapes provide additional interest.

You can add blue by including tiny rosemary blossoms or bolder blue marguerites. Lamb's ears and flowering cabbage and kale offer interesting leaf texture along with the rich purple of fuchsia. Stocks offer fragrance with somewhat muted color, and snapdragons provide dramatic height with a variety of brightly colored flowers.

The Tree Option

Tree leaves offer a gamut of colors. Yellows can be counted on from white birch (Betula pendula), Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum), and gingko(Gingko biloba). Red leaves are abundant on sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), pin oak (Q. palustris), and red oak (Q. rubra).

The smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria 'Purpurea') is known for its striking smoky, rusty lavender foliage, and its dry blooms add wispy "smoke puffs" to arrangements. The heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) offers a kaleidoscope of bright reds and greens, especially the dwarf varieties 'Nana' and 'Pygmaea,' and its delicately cut foliage and berries provide additional highlights. Barberries, hollies, and toyons have nice berries, and arbutus or strawberry tree has wonderfully knobby red puffballs.

Sometimes it's not only the colorful leaves that can be used. A friend of mine planted a magnolia just so she'd have a perpetual supply of the exquisite brown pods and red seeds, as well as the big, glossy green leaves with furry brown undersides. These are all perfect for both live and dried arrangements, and they keep for a long time.

If nothing else, gather a big basketful of leaves and accent it with a big ribbon. The highlighted array of colors and textures will delight even the most blase guest.


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