"Go ahead and plant this month," she says. "Don't wait for spring. Now is the time to get your gardens and landscape ready for the holidays and get a head start in establishing roots for maximum spring bloom."
If you have been longing to plant a tree that reflects the four seasons, choose a deciduous variety such as Japanese maple, liquidambar, gingko or white birch.
Other good candidates for flowering trees are Chinese fringe tree, which blooms in spring with clusters of beautiful white flowers; flowering cherry "Pink Cloud"; purple leaf plum; Tabebuia tree with trumpet-shaped flowers in gold, purple or pink; and crape myrtle, with red, coral, pink or lavender flowers.
As a general rule, when planting a tree, never bury any part of the trunk. If you bury even a half-inch of the trunk, it could be fatal to young trees, Akiyama says. In fact, this is the most common cause of death of a newly planted tree. Plant just above the root ball, and leave soil exactly at the same level that it is in the pot.
November also is the perfect time for planting flowering shrubs. Look for dwarf sweet pea bush, lantana, Mexican marigold, breath of heaven, salvia mystic spires, escallonia, leptospermum, pyracantha (with red berries for holiday
decorating), anisodontea (cape mallow), purple princess flower, buddleja and lavatera.
Increasingly, homeowners are forsaking hybrid tea roses in their garden landscapes and moving to floribunda roses, which are more prolific bloomers and offer ongoing color from March/April to January, when they should be pruned.
Akiyama favors the ever-popular Iceberg along with other ultra-disease-resistant varieties such as Livin' Easy, Bonica, Hot Cocoa and the red rose Trumpeter. She says you still can get one last bloom show in time for Christmas from these and other floribundas by deadheading and fertilizing those in your garden. Or add some new ones now.
For instant color to welcome guests for Thanksgiving and other holiday parties, plant winter/spring blooming annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, stock, viola, ornamental kale and Iceland poppies. You can also plant English primroses now for color in the new year.
For holiday color that won't look dated after the holidays, try red and white cyclamen, which are in good supply at nurseries and will last well into spring. This year, our cyclamen planted last December bloomed nearly all year, probably because of our mostly cool summer weather.
And for a tropical Christmas, try red anthuriums, which can stay outdoors until the cold weather hits (50s at night), then keep them on a sheltered patio or bring them indoors.
Perennials you can plant now for instant color include campanula, chrysanthemums, gaillardia, Oriental poppies, salvia chiapensis and physostegia virginiana - a spectacular plant with spiky blooms resembling snapdragons. Also plant spring-blooming perennials such as adenophora (lady bells), foxglove, delphinium, echinacea (cornflower) and veronica.
Winter- and spring-producing vegetables are available in nurseries for instant planting and in many cases holiday harvesting. Look for spinach, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, sugar peas, onions and strawberries. These vegetables don't have to be planted strictly in a vegetable garden. They can be attractive additions to any garden bed or border.
Consider adding other edibles, such as rosemary, society garlic, blueberries, pineapple guava, strawberry bush, artichokes, gray sage and lemongrass. These also will add fragrance to your garden.
If you haven't been to Sunflower Farms Nursery, do yourself a favor and make a visit. It's at 17609 S. Western Ave. , just north of Artesia Boulevard.
I hadn't been there in several months and was surprised to see some significant changes. Be sure to visit the area that Akiyama calls the "Bali section," where you can walk down a pathway laden with tropical plants and almost believe you are in the South Seas. In fact, this was the setting the Akiyamas' daughter, Lisa Akiyama Robenson, chose for her wedding last year, under a pergola her dad built years ago from branches of trimmed trees.
The nursery still has its secret garden, which is fun for children and others to try to discover. But best of all, the quality of plants is first-rate and the nursery staff is knowledgeable and ready to help with everything from plant selection to loading plants into your car.
They also will do on-the-spot garden designs. Bring in a photograph of the area with measurements and sun/shade exposure, and you can walk out with a customized plan for a beautiful landscape.