The Fall Color Project 2012

Contributing to the The Fall Color Project this year, hosted by Dave at Growing the Home Garden, won’t be as easy as stepping out the back door and taking a photo of the smoke tree ‘Grace,’ now dearly departed since August, who semi-reliably colored up beautifully in fall, written about here.


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Cotinus ‘Grace’ December 2010

Finding local fall color is never easy. This is coastal Southern California after all, and the nighttime temperatures are just now dipping occasionally into the high 40’s. Frosts are rare and freakish. Evergreens probably have the edge over deciduous trees here.

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But I noticed the Gulf muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, at the Long Beach Airport, was in fine form this year.

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And liquidambars are a reasonable bet for fall color.

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As is Gingko biloba.


This “living fossil” has many fans. According to a recent article in The New York Times, designer George Nelson, of iconic Bubble Lamp fame, strongly favored the gingko:

We moved several times during those 21 years. The most interesting was the brownstone that George bought around 1960, on 22nd Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South. Back then, the block was decimated: there were no restaurants, no stores, no nothing. George had me go door to door to ask the owners of buildings on the block to get the city to plant trees. They had to be ginkgo trees. If you walk down 22nd Street now, you’ll see mature ginkgo trees.”

Though we mourn the loss of Grace, our relationship with her had deteriorated into a 1950s sci-fi movie, The Attack of the House-Eating Smoke Tree. In the early-morning sky made visible again by the departure of Grace, Marty observed the transit of the International Space Station overhead at 5:15 a.m. And the light filling the garden this fall is a color project all its own, lighting up the corollas of nicotiana like tiny flares.

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Thanks, Dave, for hosting The Fall Color Project for 2012.

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4 Responses to The Fall Color Project 2012

  1. Jason says:

    Why do I have an irrational prejudice against ginkgos? I think it is that the shape of the leaf looks so different from what I think a leaf should look like. It is rather prehistoric, but not in a way that I find appealing.

  2. Scott Weber says:

    I really am sad for the loss of your Cotinus…they are so lovely at this time of year. Gotta love the Muhly Grass…I hope mine is as full and gorgeous someday!

  3. kathy says:

    I’ve become less and less attached to trees , a reality of living on a small lot. But here we have many options for fall color..I can drive a couple of blocks and see the vines in their fall costumes, Japanese maples and Chinese pistache are seen in my neighborhood, and my own crepe myrtles color up nicely without too overbearing a profile. My Cotinus is coppiced every year.

  4. Deanne says:

    So sorry you lost your Cotinus. There is beauty in all seasons and sometimes it’s enjoyed more when we make a point to look for it

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