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November in your garden: you can enjoy fall color ... and plant it.


You can enjoy fall color . . . and plant it. Also still time to plant annuals, bulbs, perennials

Changing colors provide the backdrop for November gardening: liquidambar assumes shades ranging from yellow to purple; ginkgo and Modesto ash turn buttery yellow; crape myrtle picks up tones of yellow, orange, or blazing red. Another brilliant performer, Chinese pistache, is shown at left.

Even fruits are changing hues: citrus to bright orange and yellow (although few are ready to eat), and persimmons to flaming orange, projecting an almost electric intensity among leafless branches.

But there is more to do than enjoy the color and rake leaves. November is still a good month to plant almost anything, from annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs; see the check list on page 230 for ideas. The season for garden cleanup and pruning is also just beginning. Make a special effort around fruit trees. In addition to raking leaves around the base, knock off any "mummies,' those shriveled black or brown fruits that hang on the tree. Both leaves and fruits can harbor insect and disease problems over winter, allowing them to take hold again next spring.

Gardening gotten under your skin? Itching may be caused by a primrose

The last few years have seen increased popularity of the old-fashioned primrose, Primula obconica. And rightly so. It's a colorful plant for shady areas, enlivening gardens fall through spring with its white, pink, lavender, and red-purple blooms.

However, if you scan gardening literature (including the Sunset Western Garden Book), you'll likely find mention of this plant's darker side: hairs on the stems are a skin irritant to some people.

Actually, this is true of quite a few plants. But last spring, two Sunset employees got rashes similar to a bad case of poison oak and traced this reaction to contact with P. abconica. If you've had a similar, inexplicable experience or have sensitive skin, you might want to wear gloves or plant something else, such as fairly primrose (P. malacoides) or English primroses (P. vulgaris, P. polyantha.)

You can tell Primula obconica from its cousins by its large, round, and more succulent leaves.

The Cape tulip, a colorful African bulb for dry spots

A little-known bulb from South Africa, the Cape tulip (Homeria) adapts beautifully to areas in northern California with mild winters and dry summers. Planted this month, it will bloom for several weeks from mid-March into April. Each bulb produces a flower stalk 18 to 24 inches high. Small, 1- to 2-inch, cup-shaped blooms open one at a time along the stalk (see picture at right). Each blossom lasts about a day but is quickly replaced by another. Leaves are dropping, strap-like.

Two kinds of Cape tulip are commonly available: H. breyniana aurantiaca has soft orange flowers; H. ochroleuca is graced with yellow blooms. Both are frequently sold as color forms of H. collina.

Plant the bulbs in groups, with each bulb about 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Place in full sun with well-drained soil. Water after planting, then leave alone. Plants will naturalize quickly.

A few nurseries and garden centers carry Cape tulip. If you can't find it, order by mail from Anthony J. Skittone, 1415 Eucalyptus Dr., San Francisco 94132 (cata-log $1). It's best to order soon so you can plant by the end of November. You can plant later, but bloom may be delayed the first year.

Drought-resistant landscaping vs. lawns--facts on saving time and water

In the fall of 1983, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) planted three water-conserving demonstration gardens in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. What makes the gardens special is that they were planted around houses that previously had large lawns and traditional landscapes (see small picture above), making possible comparisons of water use and maintenance.

Each was designed by a different landscape architect, asked to produce a garden that would require little maintenance and also be functional, water efficient, and attractive year-round. Drought-resistant plants, drip irrigation, low-volume sprinklers, automatic controllers, and water meters were some of the devices that they used.

From 1984 to 1986, EBMUD compared summer water and maintenance records to estimated maintenance and typical lawn water needs (based on evapotrans-piration rates) for 1981 to 1983. A year after planting, the new landscapes required about 45 percent less water and took about a fifth the time to care for. Once established in 1986, they needed about a tenth of the water and still only took a fifth the time.

For addresses of the demonstration gardens and additional information, write or call EBMUD, Box 937, Alamo, 94507; (415) 820-2436.

Where fertilizer tablets do most good

Timed-release fertilizer tablets are increasingly available. Placed in the soil as you plant trees and shrubs, they release small amounts of nutrients for up to two years. This ensures that there are enough nutrients in the soil to get new plants off to a good start. But you have to use them properly to get good results.

Much of the nutrient release from such tablets is dependent on microbial activity, which involves soil bacteria and other microorganisms breaking down the tablets into chemicals the plants can absorb. These microbes are usually most active in warmer, well-aerated soil near the surface. If you put tablets in the bottom of the hole you dig for planting, conditions may be too cold or poorly aerated for the necessary processes to occur.

As you plant, place the tablets to the side of the rootball after you've added about half the backfill to the hole. Tablets should be no deeper than 8 inches. Also make sure they are at least 2 inches from the rootball. Any direct contact could burn roots.

If you have oaks, you can help UC assess the dieback problem

At least three different fungus are causing twig dieback in northern California oaks. It's not a new problem; in fact, we have reported it twice in the last six years (see page 227 of the March 1985 Sunset). However, the last four years have been particularly severe, and, since extreme cases can result in death of the tree, plant pathologists at the University of California are becoming increasingly concerned and have asked for assistance in the form of a questionnaire.

If you have oaks--healthy or not--and you want to help, write to Eva Hecht-Poinar, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, 147 Hilgard Hall, Berkeley 94720. She'll send you a questionnaire.

At this time, there is no sure control for twig dieback in oaks, but researchers hope answers to this questionnaire will give insights into the spread of the disease. Sunset will report the findings.

Sulfur flower--a tough blossoming perennial from the buckwheat family

A native Californian, sulfur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum) is an ideal plant for dry hillsides or rock gardens, or as a small-scale ground cover in drought-tolerant landscapes. One of the widely adapted buckwheats, it can grow anywhere from coastal to high-elevation areas.

Sulfur flower forms a mat 4 to 12 inches high. In spring, it produces small umbels of yellow blooms that completely cover the plant. As the flowers fade, they turn a coppery red and remain attractive the rest of the summer. Leaves are green on top and whitish gray beneath.

If planted in full sun, sulfur flower is not too particular about soil as long as it is well drained. Plants look best with a minimum amount of water and get along fine on winter rainfall.

This is a good month to plant. You'll find 1-gallon cans in native plant nurseries for about $5. This buckwheat can also be grown from seed; check catalogs of native plant specialists.

Photo: Old reliable for fall color . . . Chinese pistache

From bright yellow to orange to fiery red--or sometimes a mixture of several shades--few trees are as reliable as the Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) for producing stunning fall color in the mild-winter West. Seedling variability is the reason for all the different color possibilities. But if you shop this month, while nursery trees are showing their colors, you'll be able to pick one with the autumn hues you like best.

In northern California, Chinese pistache is best adapted to Sunset Western Garden Book climate zones 7 to 9 and 14 to 16. It's not fussy about soil or water. Its spreading habit and divided leaves, which cast a beautiful light shade, make it an ideal shade tree for lawn, patio, or street. Many trees produce bright red fruit. Trees require careful training when young; at maturity, they can reach almost 60 feet high.

Photo: Apricot orange blossoms of Cape tulip open one at a time over several weeks in March and April if planted now

Photo: Thirsty lawn [left] in Moraga, California, was transformed into the thrifty, water-conserving landscape above as part of a demonstration garden planted three years ago by EBMUD. In summer, the new landscape takes a fifth of the time to care for--and uses only about a tenth of the water

Photo: How to prune trees to reduce wind resistance

This month, thin dense, heavy-canopied trees to reduce damage during windstorms. Remove interior branches that cross other branches, and ones that are weak and spindly. Cut back long, heavy exterior branches, making all cuts to smaller lateral branches or close to the trunk

After pruning, these cuts enhance the tree's original form. As well, they create openness so wind can pass through
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sunset's Garden Guide; includes sidebar on November check list
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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