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Water’s Wise Gardening: Creating fall colors for California

Editor's note: Award-winning landscape designer Michael S. Waters joins SDGLN as a contributor. He will write a monthly column on gardening.

As a landscape designer I often hear client’s reminiscence of the splendor of autumn in climates less temperate than California. Having traveled to many of these beautiful places, I can certainly understand why. Mother Nature puts on quite an awe-inspiring spectacle in autumn.

Cheer up fellow San Diegans. We have many dramatic deciduous tree choices for our own diverse climate.

Here are a few dazzling species: the versatile American sweet gum, the brilliant maidenhair tree and the crimson beauty of the Chinese pistache. You can find information on these trees by looking them up on your favorite search engine. Take into account the trees’ mature size and its typical root type. This will indicate its best placement.

Not everyone has the space to plant one or more of these trees. So here is something we all can enjoy in our gardens. Whether you are living in an average-size home or an apartment with a patio, you can have a ball with container gardening. Get creative and inspired with your gardening and have fun with it!

The first thing to do is to pick out your container. Find something with fall colors and textures. If you prefer, you can use a neutral and rely solely on your plants for the dramatic effect. I choose a tan and dark brown drip glazed container. The dark brown drips are reminiscent of a stand of leafless trees.

Local nurseries will have some great seasonal plants displayed for customers. Strategically pick and choose your plants.

Here are some things to look for in a well designed planting container. Use a mix of heights, textures, leaf type and size. Add some complimentary and contrasting colors and you’re off to a great start. Also add some other lively elements like movement and fragrance. Try choosing flowers and plants that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Finding the right plant is like finding the right partner. We will want to get as many beneficial attributes as possible. In another fall container example, purple three awn grass is a sensational plant. This purple tinged California native grass adds height, movement and a fine texture to any container.

Purple Three Awn Grass: A light and airy grass adds texture and movement.

Moon Bay Nandina: this resilient plant creates a backdrop with fiery fall color and texture.

Purple Wood Spurge: Not only does purple wood sound fun, it serves as a great base plant.

Sustania Cranberry Nemesia: This amazing Proven Winners trademarked plant gives a scarlet punch of color. It also has a great soft fragrance and attracts butterflies. Talk about a multi-tasker.

‘Blackberry Star’ Sweet Potato Vine: Purple and green cascading heart shaped leaves make a bold impact.

The finished container is the featured photo. To me it says fall is full of diversity, beauty and excitement. It sounds just like our community!

Michael S. Waters, award-winning landscape designer and owner of Waters Wise Landscape Design, has been creating aesthetically pleasing, reduced water landscaping in San Diego since 2001. Visit www.waterswisedesign.com or call (619) 884-5521.