In the Gulf Coast region, autumn comes in quietly without the fanfare of a palpable shift in seasons. It won't be announced with plunging temperatures, dropping leaves or tree foliage turning to bright colors. Instead Gulf Coast fall gardens are often at their peak, given the reprieve from summer's harsh conditions.
This far south we invent ways to imitate a natural fall look in a climate that lacks a true autumn. Most often we reflect the feeling of fall by planting combinations that boast bright oranges, vivid reds and brilliant yellows.
In the spirit of a traditional fall, a croton (Codiaeum variegatum 'Petra') bush livens up a partially sunny area of my garden, above. It combines with variegated shell gingers (Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata') and cut-leaf philodendrons (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), which serve as the layered backdrop. Croton is a colorful textural shrub for yearlong pizzazz and gives a nod to autumn in a Gulf Coast garden.
Croton comes in handy for seasonal displays. One October I hollowed out a fresh pumpkin to use as a container, filled it with fresh potting soil, planted it with fall colors and elevated it on a birdbath, above. With a bright croton as the centerpiece, I combined African bush daisy (Gamolepis chrysanthemoides) and 'Blackie' ornamental sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), then snipped some crape myrtle branches from the garden to complete the arrangement. The pumpkin decomposed too quickly, but while it lasted it was the perfect fall flair to spruce up the front walkway. You could use an artificial pumpkin to avoid decomposition.
Duplicating fall colors is easy with the myriad coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) options. Eye-catching hues, shapes and textures provide numerous combinations for a traditional fall look. A container filled with coleus 'Molten Orange', 'Peter's Wonder' and 'Red Flash' caladium nuzzles a burgundy false roselle (Hibiscus acetosella) shrub in my edible garden, above. With a mild winter, coleus acts like a perennial in zones 9-11. For other zones in the Gulf Coast Region be sure to overwinter your favorite coleus cuttings. They'll be ready to plant when the soil warms in spring.
How do you give your Gulf Coast garden the look of fall?