those autumn leaves, so-cal edition

Here’s a short roundup of some of the leaf colors going on in the garden. This is Southern California so it was tough coming up with the stereotypical sizzling reds and yellow and oranges of a lot of autumn gardens in colder climates. But I think we’ve got some pretty cool colors, including the color that might cause the most envy from the northern latitudes: green!

Unfortunately this is what the preceding plant looks like when you back away from the few remaining colored leaves. Most of the autumn color is from the pile o' bricks in the background.
I've mentioned my fondness for the look of poison oak before. This is a relative from California and much of the rest of the country, Rhus aromatica, a.k.a. R. trilobata, the Gro-Low clone. It's not poisonous, but not so amazingly colored as its evil cousin either.
Yellowing apricot leaves...
Euphorbia tirucalli, the Sticks on Fire clone, showing the orange and red colors that start to develop as the temperature plummets into the high 30s. I've grown--and battled to remove--the typical green version which gets pretty huge and out of control. This clone doesn't get nearly so huge, but I don't trust that fact enough to let it out of a pot.
This photo of a little plum is more interesting than pretty. These are the December leaves of one of those multi-variety grafted trees. Each of the varieties is coloring up in its own way.
Another Euphorbia, E. cotinifolia. This one's a bit of a cheat. The leaves are this color all year until they drop for the winter.
A close look at the chalk dudleya, D. pulverulenta. Some of the white stuff covering the leaves has been rubbed off in the foreground leaves.
On the left, the mediterranean Phlomis monocephala, in its stressed gold-green summer coloration. Soon the plant will turn greener with more rains. To the right, Central-California Coast native Astragalus nuttallii with leaves edging towards blue and gray.
And all over the garden are seedlings showing lots of that green color I talked about. Here's a young plant of the local stinging lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus. It doesn't really sting, but the little haris can definitely poke you. Handling a dried plant after it's died down in the spring without gloves is not one of the more pleasant things I've done.

Happy fall, everyone. I hope you all enjoy whatever colors the season brings you.

9 thoughts on “those autumn leaves, so-cal edition”

  1. It’s nice to enjoy the fall color where ever you find it. Our color here is mostly the Black Oak trees turning gold. Everything here has serene muted colors. With so much green, you start to see the varying colors of green.

    many of the plants you have are unfamiliar interesting varieties I’d lke to know more about.
    I have to make a list of ones to look up.

    We laugh about poison oak being our main Fall color! Beautiful and SO healthy!

  2. Hi James,
    Fun: So-Cal Autumn leaves! Love the succulents blushed with red!!

    I’m actually amazed at the fall color up here. Never thought there were 4 seasons when I moved West.
    I’m yearning for Southern California… looking to escape our rains but knowing I’d have to hit the right time when you’re having sun.
    xo Alice

  3. I’ve been surprised this fall to see my smoke tree ‘Grace’ coloring up goldeny-orange. Must be that slight cold snap a couple weeks back in SoCal. Between Grace and the grapevine, they’re doing a good job with autumn color this year.

  4. I love your atumn colours and thanks for reminding everyone that for some of us Autumn means our plants start growing again after the drought of summer. Green is certainly the predominant colour here at present and most of my plants put on more growth now than in spring. Christina

  5. I looked up Lupinus hirsutissimus. The name Lupinus means “wolf,” referring to the untrue notion that this plant robs nutrients from the soil. irsutissimus means, generally, ‘hairy’. It’s a CA annual native. Interesting, James, I had never heard of it and now know! Are they attractive in your garden, meaning do you like them?

  6. Sue, I haven’t had one of those scary run-ins with poison oak that some people have, so I still have this “oh gosh isn’t it stunning” attitude. Really, I’ve threatened to landscape with it. It looks so colorful just a quarter mile away from here…

    Alice, we really do have some dramatic changes if you plant the right selections. Some of my neighborhood is trying to live the all-green 365 days of a garden looking lush and tropical lifestyle, but that really misses out on what happens throughout the year.

    Denise, nice to know smoke trees can color up even down here. I’m not sure that I’ve seen the ‘Grace’ cultivar around here, but I’ll keep an eye out for it. Cotinus is one of my favorite genuses of small suburban-friendly trees.

    Ricki, there’s a screaming orange tree I encountered on the way to Home Depot over the weekend, something I’ll have to get closer to to try to ID. And the liquidambars are turning their colors all over town. But otherwise our colors are pretty subdued too.

    Wendy, I really like that dudleya too! You have to get close to see the little red leaf tips.

    Arleen, well, I actually propagated it two seasons ago, and this is the first year it’s getting a chance to come back on its own. I had maybe four last year, now it should be closer to 15. They’re actually one of more attractive local lupines–and no more hazard than agaves or roses.

    Christina, green is the color that I get most excited to see, especially when the green comes on the heels of the long dry season. For climates such as yours and mine it certainly works in the plants’ favor that the scant rainfall comes at a time of year when plants can use it before it evaporates.

    Sue again, my guess is that the “wolf” name goes back to very early days. Strange, since lupines and others in their family actually are great to develop the soil nutrients. I’m glad I was finally motivated to plant some of these after having noticed them here and there while hiking. I’ll have lots of lupine photos once they begin to bloom in the garden.

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