Fall gardening with annuals, shrubs and flowering trees

Some garden shrubs are colorful all year round, so we take them for granted.

These include the colored croton or Codiaeuum variegatum, acalypha, and the many colorful ti plants. However, they make excellent foliage plants to use in fall flower arrangements when used with a little imagination.

Autumn has officially arrived in the northern hemisphere since the sun moved south of the equator. The fall equinox for us is the spring equinox for those south of the equator. As the sun moves away from us, the days get shorter and the plants tend to slow down in growth. This normally results in the rainy season in eastern Hawaii and the driest season in western Hawaii.

Even if we don’t see the brilliant fall colors ablaze in the forests and gardens of the continent, we can improvise. This year, with all the rain on the west side of the Big Island, Kona is green. So now is the time to go shopping in nurseries and garden centers. The rest of the island suffered from drier weather but this often stimulates flowering rather than leaf production. Either way, you can find great ideas to bring the feeling of falling into our gardens. When the nights are chilly and the days often cloudy, try out some of the fancy new Impatiens hybrids. New Guinea hybrids are particularly attractive. These new hybrids are much more compact and flower profusely. They come in all flower colors and also have multi-colored leaves. The other Impatiens on the market are the traditional hybrid types for being compact and flowering.

Fall in Hawaii is colorful with red and yellow African tulips, a Timor shower, a rainbow shower, and even the royal poinciana trees at the end of bloom. Several species of bauhinia or orchids are also now blooming. A tree rarely seen here but common in cooler parts of South America is the silk tree or Ceiba speciosa. This close relative of the kapok tree is rare here but popular in Southern California. Some Hawaiian nurseries will bring it at the request of California nurseries. Your garden could be even brighter with the addition of crotons, bougainvillea and hibiscus to name a few. Some large tropical trees like faux kamani and blue marble start to shed their old leaves as they put on new ones so the ground below is littered with color.

Along with the many tropical ornamental trees and shrubs available, you can also consider colorful annuals and perennials to brighten up your conservatory or porch. Most of the continent’s most prized annual summer flowers are at their best here from November through May. These annuals are generally tolerant of cool weather. As the winter temperature never drops extremely low, they thrive here, especially at higher elevations like Waimea and Volcano. Some, like marigold, are excellent all year round. They are especially good for sunny and dry places.

Marigold is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. It grows well and is popular in all states of our Union, from Florida to Maine, Hawaii to Alaska, and all civilized countries around the world.

When Cortez conquered ancient Mexico, he found worries growing there. The magnificent golden marigolds were so beautiful that Cortez brought seeds with him to Spain. There, marigolds became the favorite flower for devotees to place on the altar of the Virgin Mary and because of this they were called Mary’s gold and later became known as marigolds.

Marigold seeds have been carried to all civilized countries of the world. They were so easy to grow and so beautiful that they became popular everywhere. In India, marigolds are the favorite flower to put on a necklace to place around a person’s neck to indicate friendship, and because of this, they have become known as friendship flowers.

Marigolds, zinnias, petunias, and many other bright flowering annuals are natural for adding color. You can also extend the beauty and interest of your floral borders by including low maintenance foliage plants. Which are the best for adding color and texture contrast?

Coleus immediately comes to mind and is probably the most popular. No wonder, it’s so versatile and lively! Plants with their brightly patterned leaves are flashy in the sun or shade. You’ll especially enjoy how coleus can turn problematic shaded spots into a rainbow of colors. Use it to beautify areas along the north or east sides of your home or garage or in containers on shady porches or patios, even under trees. Coleus can also take direct sun in the cooler gardens. Coleus is as much a favorite houseplant as it is a garden subject. They thrive in pots and are easily propagated by cuttings. Other favorites include the many varieties of begonia, canna, caladium, and geranium. Check out the wide range of seeds and bulbs available at garden stores. Other interesting plants that you will want to consider are Euphorbia leucocephala or the snow on the mountain and the many colors of poinsettia. A close relative, Christmas poinsettia will hit the market soon, and an early purchase can add color from November to March.

You can sow the seeds of these annuals in boxes, pots or outdoors. If you are using some sort of container, make sure the drainage is good. You can sow the seeds in vermiculite, peat, sand or mixtures of these. You can also buy plants already started in several garden centers and nurseries in the area. If you start your own plants, water them, when the seeds are in place, cover the containers with a piece of glass or plastic and place them in a protected place out of direct sunlight. In a few days the seed will germinate and more light will be needed to avoid leggy and poorly colored seedlings. When the first pair of true leaves develop, it’s time to transplant. Place the small plants in pots or plant bands. Later, plant them outside in their permanent location.

Using your creativity, you can brighten up your home and garden from fall to spring.


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Terri S. Tomasini