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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Oct 16

Fall Color

Posted on October 16, 2015 at 10:49 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

This past weekend I headed to Bend, Oregon, to spend the week visiting my grandsons. As I traveled north, the vegetation showed all signs of autumn despite the balmy weather more representative of summer. Everywhere I looked, there was fall color. The sunny day was too enticing not to get out and explore. Chris, my youngest grandson, suggested we hike around Devil’s Lake. This suggestion involved a drive along the beautiful scenic Cascade Lakes byway above Bend. Images of the mountain range and clear blue skies reflected within the series of lakes as we drove by. Waves of green conifers covered the mountainous landscapes. Our eyes darted to and fro at the striking splashes of golden aspen scattered around the lakes and streams. Hints of reds and oranges mingled within the lush vegetation, indicating maples could also be present.

The fall color was not only restricted to the mountain ranges. My son’s home is located in the southern end of town where the vegetation is comprised of pines and aspen. Several vine maples are planted around his garden, and what a sight to behold at this time of year! Upon investigation, I found my suspicions held true about maples in the Cascade Mountain range.

Vine maple (Acer circinatum) is native and finds its home along the Pacific Northwest. Its brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves of autumn can appear together, taking your breath away. It is considered a shrub growing to 8 feet tall, but takes on more of a tree shape than shrub. This is an excellent shade lover if you are in the market.

While visiting a nursery here, I also spotted another colorful plant, Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’, otherwise known as fragrant sumac. This plant grows to a height of 2 feet but spreads to 8 feet wide. Unlike the shade-loving vine maple, this sumac's intense color comes from sun exposure.

Euonymus alatus is another plant worth checking into for dazzling fall color—so dazzling in fact that its common name is burning bush! Once established, this plant will grow in all types of drought conditions. I did learn the hard way that gophers will seek out this plant and devour its root system!

Chinese pistache
 Pistacia chinensis
I would be remiss if I didn’t add Cornus (dogwoods) and Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache) to the list of “knock your socks off” autumn color. Both small trees are stunning.

If you are considering replacing your lawn, there is nothing like visiting your favorite nursery to get inspired by autumn color. Plan an autumn garden that will astound anyone passing by. They won’t require a trip to the East Coast or even north to areas such as Bend for that show!

And speaking of lawn-replacement inspiration, don’t forget to attend one of the two workshops this month on "Alternatives to Our Thirsty Lawns," presented by Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD. Join them tomorrow, October 17, in Mill Valley or next Thursday, October 22, in Ross.

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