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October 18, 1998|Robert Smaus

Things to do in your garden this week.

Plant till you drop. In every corner of Southern California, the fall planting season is now underway, and you should be planting as much as you can to take advantage of the cooler weather and the rains ahead. Plant permanent things like ground covers, perennials, shrubs and trees, plus bulbs and cool-season bedding plants and vegetables.

You might wait until January to plant roses because they'll be such a bargain then, and wait for early spring to plant really tender things that might be damaged by frost.

Durable daffodils. Several varieties of daffodils that you can plant now do much better than others in our mild winters. Favorites that bloom year after year, even near the beach, include 'Unsurpassable,' 'Ice Follies,' 'Fortune,' 'Suzy,' 'Geranium,' 'Grand Soleil d' Or,' 'Trevithian' and the small-flowered kinds called paperwhites or Chinese sacred lilies.

Shady vegetables. Some of the fall-planted vegetables can grow with less than total sun. Those that make edible roots or shoots (leaves) can be planted in a little shade. Lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard, arugula and sorrel need the least light; carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green onions and potatoes need slightly more.

Alpine strawberries (fraises des bois) actually prefer partial shade. Any of these edibles can be planted now.

Shopping savvy. Though they might get burned by frosts in colder areas, look for the big rhizomatous and shrub-type begonias, such as Begonia x ricinifolia, B. grandis or B. 'Alto Scharff,' while they still look good at nurseries and remain in bloom. As potted plants on a shady patio, they're bold and nearly permanent.

Look for perennials that bloom in fall and are hard to find at other times, including aster, Japanese anemones and our native red-orange zauschneria (California fuchsia or hummingbird plant).

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