Sunday afternoon walk in mid-November

I must say I’m shocked by how early it gets dark these days. Winter is definitely nipping at our heels! Yesterday afternoon I took a walk through the neighborhood and even though it was only 3pm, the sun was already so low that it felt like evening.

The neighborhood felt very autumnal; more so than I had expected. Unlike New England where the fall colors are so vibrant they smack you in the face, autumn is a quieter and less raucous affair in our parts.




The California buckeye (Aesculus californica)—always the first to lose its leaves—has been bare for a couple of months...


…and now it’s dropping its chestnut-like fruit.


The leaves on the Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) are turning yellow…


…mixed with mottled splotches of brown.


Leaves continue to fall from a myriad trees, forming colorful carpets below.


Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), among the most colorful trees around town, shed their fruit along with their leaves.


The pomegranate trees (Punica granatum) are turning yellow. Some are still laden with fruit, often bursting open to reveal the arils inside.


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) is at the peak of its glory, even our variegated specimen which I planted less than a year ago from a 4-inch container.


Observing these natural phenomena was great fun, but invariably my mind, never one to relax needlessly, switched gears and began to play the what-if game. I’m sure you’re all familiar with it. You walk by someone else’s house and you begin to redesign their landscape as if you lived there. It’s usually triggered by a sight like this one:


So much room for leucadendrons and bamboos and agaves in between the Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)!


What about here? A lone tree with nothing planted underneath it!


This house has shrubs but they’re so non-descript I would rip them out on my first day if I moved in there.


The next house has two beautiful trees but the lawn is a complete waste of space. It would be so much more interesting with mounded planting beds and large rocks.


The house in the next photo is one I’ve loved as long as we’ve lived in Davis. It’s in perfect proportion to the trees around it and looks very inviting. Still, I’d get rid of the contractor-special plantings and replace it with billowy grasses and succulents. Thing Yucca rostrata combined with Elliot’s love grass (Eragrostis elliottii)!


The house you see in the next photo is typical for that particular street. All the houses have a wide gravel strip. I don’t know what it’s for—drainage or parking?—but it could be used quite creatively. Again, agaves and other sun-loving succulents come to mind. It doesn’t have to be a barren expanse of gravel.


My walk also took me by a house I’ve blogged about before (1 2). The big draw for me are the three Leucadendron ‘Jester’. Take a look at my first post from last November; it’s amazing how much the plantings in this front yard have grown!



As I approached our own house, I was greeted by a sight that, unfortunately, isn’t all that rare in our college town:


I would be so peeved if somebody toilet-papered our trees. This is definitely not the look I want! Fortunately rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, so hopefully the TP will dissolve soon.


  1. What a wonderful walk and tour of your area Gerhard, there's so much beauty in your area even in autumn. Love the way the Leucadendron seems to draw light to itself. Not so sure about the toilet paper tree accessory though...

    I don't mind winter as such but one of the drawbacks is the decreased length of daylight, would have been nicer if that wasn't the case.

  2. Even your examples of "boring" yards are nice. It's the barren yards around here that get me: no trees, no shrubs, no other plants, just lawn in the blazing hot sun.

    I especially love the "rock and gravel" photo. Beautiful!

  3. Wow I didn't know people still did that! (TP) What jumps out most to me in these photos are the beautiful huge trees. Simply gorgeous.


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