By Marianne Taylor
I don’t know the precise moment when it happens, but when it does, your senses are taken by surprise. There is an unspoken feeling in the air, and a collision of brilliant colors in the landscape seizing your attention. You have a subtle lag in your pace and can give yourself permission to enjoy some quiet solitude. The golden hues of the afternoon are great for a nap.
Shorter warm days and longer cold nights create an atmosphere so dry and crisp you inhale the many bold aromas of savory sages while exhaling the day’s stress and tension.
Surprise! It’s intoxicating fall!
Fall embodies the transition from the heat and hustle of summer to a season of gathering and rest before winter sets. I am in love with fall, my favorite season. Fall transforms my soul to a reflective state of mind, slowing my pace down to enjoy the bounty and abundance of the season. Maybe that’s why the Pilgrims chose November to celebrate gratitude while gathering with the Native Americans.
Fall in the garden brings many surprises. It gives us permission to slow down. It allows us an opportunity to be creative and bring the outdoors, indoors.
Take a stroll around and see what attracts your senses. Grab the kids and let them assist in finding crooked branches, berries, leaves or the last blooms of the season. There are hidden treasures in the autumn garden to be found, connection in nature and time with yourself.
It’s hard to peel me out of my garden on days like these. My garden is bursting with colorful native plants and butterflies dancing. I can count on these plants to perform when it’s time for me to craft a natural centerpiece for my holiday table.
For a centerpiece, I purchase a block of florist foam oasis from the Dollar store and add twigs, branches, flowers, leaves and any other natural discoveries. Arranging is an informal process. Once finished, I place the centerpiece on a decorative table runner or large charger plate. No watering is required on either project. This is a fun project to do together with your children or grandchildren. It’s time well spent together, and the byproduct is conversation, connection and lasting memories.
I love making a wreath that will last a while and smell good, too. I gather a variety of twigs, Toyon berries, Eucalyptus leaves, Buckwheat, Oregon Grape and seed pods from Lion’s Tail to form a welcome door wreath. It’s a simple and inexpensive project.
I use a grapevine wreath as the foundation and hot-glue each item onto the grapevine, spray-paint either silver or gold the seed pods from the Lion’s Tail. Arranged in an informal way, the wreath has an orderly look of nature on the door.
Your landscape might not have California native plants, but your garden is exploding with a variety of colorful berries, branches or blooms. Use what garden treasures you find and let your creative juices flow. You can’t go wrong in nature. If you don’t have a garden but would like to explore and create a natural bouquet, get out on the many trails in Orange County and see what you will find along the trails.
For up-and-coming gardeners to California native planters, fall is the season through February to plant in your landscape. The winter rains help establish their root systems. Native plants have many benefits: less water once established, homes to endless pollinators, seasonal color, clean air and less garden maintenance. Natives have different bloom seasons; the native plants listed below are what I used in my wreath producing annual colorful berries or branches in fall and winter.
California Native Plants with Fall Bloom
- Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon or Christmas Berry) has great big clusters of red berries in winter. These berries are not very toxic.
- Platanus racemosa (California Sycamore) can have leaf color in fall that will be yellow one year, almost red other years.
- Aristolochia californica (California Pipevine) flowers in late winter. My favorite butterfly plant that resides by the restroom at the Los Rios Park.
- Arctostaphylos glauca (‘Ramona’ Big Berry Manzanita). Use branches for curvy shape, color or berries
- Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) can be a very good in contrast in a native garden.
- Eriogonum fasciculatum foliolosum (California Buckwheat) holds its flowers all winter.
- Chrysothamnusnauseosus (Rabbitbrush) Aster chilensis (California Aster), and Zauschneria latifolia johnstonii (Bush California Fuchsia) are three plants that have great fall color. These are commonly in flower until February.
- Acer circinatum (Vine Maple) has fall or early winter leaf color, just before the leaves fall off.
- Leonotis leonurus (Lion’s Tail Flowers) from late spring through fall appear as the fuzzy orange curved tubular flowers. When petals drop, round seed pods remain.
You can find these native plants at Tree of Life Nursery. Owners Jeff Bohn and Mike Evans have been in business since 1976. Check out their array of California native plants. In-house designers will help you create a native garden, ready for bloom by next fall. A native garden provides a place to sit and ponder, creating your very own rest stop. Happy gardening.
Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin’ Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin’ Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.