signs of fall

Fall doesn’t announce itself ceremoniously draped in dramatic curtains of crimson and gold. We’re a little, ahem, minimalist and understated here in Southern California as far as seasonal transitions. But there are many autumnal similarities we share. Like everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, we do get that spectacular angled light, and the days become inexorably shorter. That’s my biggest gripe with autumn, losing the long, summer-camp-style days. I haven’t really minded the heat this summer. Really.

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Signs of fall here might include the aeoniums waking up from their summer dormancy. Now they can be brought out from partial shade and placed under a gentler autumn sun. But not if the days are still reaching the 90s. I moved this pot into full sun too soon and scorched some of the leaves on the echeverias. which amazingly doesn’t show in this photo. I do grow some aeoniums in full sun all year, but not this rarer, blue-leaved aeonium, probably Aeonium hierrense, underplated with Echeveria agavoides and Sedum confusum.

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More signs of fall might be feeling comfortable with stowing all the fans in the attic. There will be at least a few more weeks if not a month more of scenes like this. Move over, corgi, and share that fan for once.

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A more horticulturally universal sign of fall would be the Japanese anemones coming into bloom, as they are here at Rancho Los Alamitos. I heard Jim Folsom, Director of the Huntington, speak at the Rancho on Sunday, and I wish he’d had hours more time to share his stories of Hertrich and railroads and building a world-class botanical garden. Thankfully, he’ll be speaking at Natural Discourse, too, this upcoming October 17.

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More signs of fall: freshly moved plants, like this Agave ‘Snow Glow,’ replacing a lusty Agave sisalana. (Actually, I didn’t stop planting and shuffling things all summer, and have the losses to show for it. Fall is the much preferred season for planting here.) ‘Snow Glow’ was getting squeezed by some expanding Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ and needed maybe 2 more feet of room to grow, which it will get here.

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The large Agave sisalana (photo taken in May) was pupping furiously and encroaching on a grevillea. It was long past time for its removal. This rubbery-leaved agave with the sharp leaf tips is often mistaken for a furcraea. Indeed, that is how I acquired it, as “Furcraea sp.” That shaggy rosette of the dark ‘Zwartkop’ aeonium gets reduced by over half as it drops leaves throughout summer.

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The seemingly thriving adenanthos died in late August, but the grevillea surges ahead. (My fault, the soil was bone-dry.)

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Another reason the sisalana had to go is because both Aloe ‘Hercules’ and Agave ‘Mateo’ are making good size. “Mateo’ in the blurry background on the right has been incredibly slow.

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Euphorbia ammak made about a foot of growth this summer, most of it after I pulled out the 6-foot Euphorbia lambii growing practically on top of it. The lambii sheds leaves freely and copiously all summer. Just a word to the wise if you’re planting complex succulent gardens under its canopy.

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There’s no use denying, the signs of fall are coming thick and fast.

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10 Responses to signs of fall

  1. Christina says:

    Gosh, I was trying to get that anemone, I guess it is ‘Honorine de Joubert’ in two nurseries here just a few days ago, but no luck. Your gorgeous photos of it making my longing to see it growing in my own garden almost painful. I have to try to get it online, YES!
    The photo of your Corgi stretching out in front of the fan is so cute, just love it!
    Beautiful plant combinations around the particular captivating Agave sisalana! I also like your a off white blooming grevillea a lot.
    Opposite of you, I was really suffering from the heat this summer and I am longing for a cooler fall, where it is finally possible again to work comfortably in the garden. I lost quite a few plants that I newly had put in the ground this summer :-(, so hopefully will have more survivors when I plant this fall.

  2. David Feix says:

    Similar signs of fall here, and it’s already cooled off so rapidly, plus even some rain(!) today, I wonder if we’ll get our typical several heat waves still this October.

    Being in the business of making gardens, there’s never a time I’m not planting lots of new plants. Just hope there’s still available water to irrigate with! Hoping real rainfall holds off until after this weekend, when my new roof will be completed…

  3. It ***RAINED*** here in Davis today and it’s 20°F cooler than it was this time last week. I think fall is here. YEAHHHHH. Me and my succulents are thrilled. I might even get to do some revamping and planting. Time for that front lawn to come out!

    Your ‘Snow Glow’ is stunning, BTW!

  4. Alison says:

    I didn’t learn until quite recently that Aeoniums are dormant all summer, and that’s why mine wasn’t growing, but had stayed all curled up. I thought something was wrong with it. Just in the last week or so I noticed it was starting to relax. Just in time for me to dig it out of the big mixed pot it’s in and put it in the greenhouse.

  5. Kris P says:

    Other than the shorter days, I’m not feeling the presence of fall yet. I’m hot and grumpy, and spending my time in the garden sifting grassroots out of soil. But there’s another slight chance of rain in the forecast for early next week so perhaps the tide is turning…

  6. Luisa says:

    Your garden is so beautiful — the shot of the grevillea with the agave spines is just killing me. Little corgi feet, heh. I love fall so much.

  7. adrienne says:

    I have been enjoying your excellent posts for a while but this is my first time to comment. I live and garden in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. My garden is in a transition stage from an English cottage style to a more realistic Southern California cottage garden style so I really appreciate all of the information you provide us with.

    Unlike you though I am very tired of the heat and love the signs of fall that we are beginning to see…it is my favorite season. We just might be getting some rain this weekend. Hooray!

  8. Denise says:

    @Christina, I love that anemone too but will enjoy it in public gardens. It’s not much of a guzzler when established but takes coddling to get it established. I’m really enjoying the pale grevillea blooms against the dark aeonium. It’s kind of a Catch 22, trying to switch to a dry garden because of the drought, but the new plants need extra water to get established! I’m running up against this problem too, and also the problem that a lot of my established garden doesn’t need/want the extra water the new transplants require. Tricky stuff!
    @Congrats on the rain, Gerhard! Should make digging that new agave garden a lot easier.
    @Alison, I’ve noticed that some aeoniums pull their horns in more than others during summer, but I’ve got so many unnamed hybrids I couldn’t tell you which. I know both Zwartkop and Cyclops undergo dormancy. Aeonium canariense not so much.
    @Kris, I’d be grumpy too if workers I hired did such a half-ass job, leaving you holding the bag. Sifting grassroots sounds like a job that needs you plugged into an audiobook!
    @Luisa, that’s the agave that got the boot! It is beautiful, and I kept a small plant of it. The mealybugs were all over it too. What a buggy summer it’s been.
    @Adrienne, I’m so glad you took the time to comment! We need a virtual support group to get us through this drought. I’ve always hated the heat of summer too, so I can’t explain the change other than I dread the shorter days to come more. Unless it gets up to 100, the house stays pretty cool. Best of luck with your garden transition.

  9. hoov says:

    Ein’s little feet stretched out behind, so cute!

    It’s cooler at night, what a relief. Happy Autumn.

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    There are lots of signs that autumn is here but I wouldn’t mind a few more of those long summer days and warm nights. Ein is such a cutie! Agave ‘Snow Glow’ is a beauty.

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