As we approach Labor Day, the first sign that fall is around the corner, my thoughts turn to the upcoming season. We are fortunate in our Mediterranean climate to enjoy a long balmy autumn and that opens up a wider range of plants to add to our gardens. Golds, oranges and reds are traditional fall colors and there's plenty to choose from in that palette. Consider adding the later blooming Day of the Dead marigolds, which come in an orange and a sunny golden yellow. These taller marigolds, to 4', add vibrant colors to a sunny bed. Fall is rudbeckia season and there is a wide selection in colors. Not just golds but also chocolate browns, dark reds and even a greenish gold.
It's also a great season for Mexican Hats (Ratibida), a vigorous, clumping perennial. I had one in a sunny bed that bloomed nearly non-stop for three years before I pulled it when I redesigned that bed. It features gold and reddish-brown colors and is very cheerful. Fall is also the time for Heleniums, which add vibrant red & gold tones to a sunny bed. Beloved by bees, my H. 'Mardi Gras' is always filled with nectar hunting bees.
Echinaceas are around now and wow there are some pretty fabulous new colors on the market these days. Not just the traditional pink or white but a number of orange, red and apricot colors. There's nothing quite like a successful stand of coneflowers to add pizazz to a sunny spot. Fall is also salvia season and if you're looking to add purples and blues to your garden there are a million salvias from which to choose. And if you're a natives fan, this genus offers a dozen different native varieties covering the color spectrum.
Autumn is also the time for fall blooming vines. The choices are endless, whether you select one of the better known evergreen vines such as red trumpet vine, perennial morning glory, pink jasmine, pink or white bower vine (Pandorea) or one of the many varieties of passion flower vine.
There's a host of less common but sensational vines as well. Cobaea, known as Cup & Saucer vine, produces rich wine-colored cup-shaped flowers. The flowers on the aptly named Porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis) may be tiny and not showy but the berries that follow are the most sensational turquoise color. Kennedia nigricans offers vivid black and gold flowers that one has to see to believe. There are several fall blooming clematis, including the vivid blue flowering C. Roguchi. For a smaller vine, there is Asarina. With its delicate leaves and cheerful pink, purple or white flowers, it makes a great selection for a potted climber. Lastly, there is Mandevilla, offering up vivid red or pink flowers. It will bloom up till nearly Christmas time in milder zones.
For more of a look into the subject of fall vines, check out my feature article in the Sunday September 2nd S.F. Chronicle Home & Garden section.
Okay, what are you waiting for? Autumn is nearly here and nurseries are stocking up!