Category Archives: News and Tips

Merry Wreaths

Sleigh bells jingling; children caroling; the warm, sweet scent of treats fresh from the oven: The winter holidays are a magical time filled with goodwill and the good company of family and friends. Such a special time of year deserves to be celebrated with special decorations. So this season, why not move beyond the old balsam wreath with the large red bow and create some holiday sparkle all your own? Just look around your yard and home and you’re sure to find the markings for the very merriest of wreaths.

Instead of selecting traditional greens such as balsam or white pine for the base of your wreath, consider something a little more exotic…perhaps incense cedar, with its flat, green leaves and mustard yellow fruits, or broadleaf evergreens, such as inkberry, holly, boxwood, even rhododendron. Seeded eucalyptus, which displays blush pink or silver gray berries above its faded green leaves, and magnolia, with its glossy green leaves that dry to a matte finish, are other unexpected choices.

If you are using evergreens such as cedar or vines such as ivy, attach these to a wire wreath frame using floral wire. For a wreath of cuttings, first attach the greens to florist’s picks, then insert them into a Styrofoam form. In either case, be sure the wreath frame you select is considerably smaller than the desired finish size of your wreath, as the wreath will expand in size as you add plant materials.

To form the base of the wreath, layer the greens on top of each other, facing them in one direction and attaching them as you go, until the frame is completely covered. Then begin adding your decorations by wiring them, attaching them with floral picks, or hot-gluing them to the greens. Gather sprigs of blue-leaved juniper with its blue berries and lay them atop an evergreen base for subtle contrast. Or scavenge your yard and garden for interesting vines, twigs, and seedpods. The dried brown cones of Echinacea, arranged in groups of three or five, add interesting shapes and textures to a wreath, and the colors of red rose hips or bittersweet, with is split orange capsule and red seeds, look striking set against a dark green background. Clusters of almonds, pecans, and walnuts will lend a woodsy note, while the airy flower heads of plumed or bottlebrush grasses will offer a spectacular contrast of forms. For a sizzling finish, try hot peppers in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and don’t forget to raid the herb garden for bluish green rosemary and silvery lavender.

As you contemplate next year’s garden, consider adding plants that can be harvested for next season’s wreaths. Include grasses, flowering shrubs, and broadleaf and other evergreens in your planting scheme, as well as plants that dry well or that offer architectural interest after the flowers have passed. This way you’ll enjoy your gardens while they are in blooms, as well as appreciate their beauty in wreaths after the flowers have faded. This holiday start a brand-new tradition and decorate your home with the bounty of your gardens.

December Garden Tips

Get Ready For Winter

  • Clean, oil and store tools for the winter.
  • Prepare snow-blower for winter use. Consider a tune-up and servicing.
  • Apply winter fertilizer on lawn after the last mowing. This can be done around the same time as your lime application.
  • Consolidate all your garden notes for the year-favorite varieties, successful new plants.

For The Holidays & After

  • This is a great time to make gifts from your garden. Wreaths, herb bouquets, herbal vinegars, pressed flowers are just a few ideas.
  • Keep that bird feeder well stocked for the winter. Your birds depend on you.
  • Have a happy holiday season!

For Your Flower Bed

  • Shred and compost freshly collected leaves. Alternate layers with the last of the grass clippings from your lawn.
  • Apply a final mulch to foundation beds, perennials and roses. Make sure ground is frozen. This additional mulch layer prevents heaving during periodic thaws in January and February.
  • Apply boughs from spent Christmas trees and wreaths as a mulch layer for perennial beds. Wait until ground freezes.

For Your Trees and Shrubs

  • Apply WiltPruf, an anti-dessicant, to protect broad-leaf evergreens as well as your holiday greens, wreaths, even your fresh cut Christmas tree. See our staff, or visit the WiltPruf website, for details and further instruction. Now is the time to apply it to your evergreens, including hollies. It acts as a “chap-stick” for your plants, protecting them from moisture loss due to drying winter winds.
  • Pre-dig hole if you’re planning on purchasing a live Christmas tree.

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. Hybridizers have expanded the range of colors from the familiar red to pastel yellow and vibrant bi-colors. One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”. While this can be done, it’s a very fussy, exacting process and since the plants are not that expensive, you might just choose to start fresh next year.
For those of you who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to rebloom begins with the care you give it the first season.

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light – Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.

Water – Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.

Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.

Water Garden Care: Fall-Winter

Cleaning the Pond (Sept-Nov)

Clean out any debris that may have fallen into the pond and sunk to the bottom. Decaying materials, such as leaves and twigs, release gases that are harmful or fatal to fish, should the surface become covered with ice. You may have to drain the pond to accomplish this task. Should you decide to drain the pond, just follow these steps:

1. Pump pond water into a container large enough to house your fish for a time.
2. Put an aeration device in holding tank and put fish into tank.
3. Pump out 75-80% of pond water, then turn off pump.
4. At this time, scoop out as much debris as possible. A fish net makes the job fairly easy.
5. Turn filter back on to clean out any fine material, rinsing pad often.
6. Fill pond with water, adding a dechlorinating agent, such as Aqua Safe, if your water does not come from a well.
7. Add salt to the water at a rate of 5lbs./1000, (use rock salt, pond salt or kosher salt).
Note: only add salt for the amount of water you are adding back to the pond.
8. Let water sit for a day for temperature to adjust, add a product such as Treats-all to help reduce
chance of disease, as the fish will be somewhat stressed, then reintroduce fish to the pond.

Ideally the pond cleaning should be done after the leaves have fallen off the trees. If you wish to clean it before leaf drop, you can place a net over the pond to catch any leaves. Cleaning the pond is a very important step to proper pond health.

Winter Care of Plants

1. Hardy Lilies and Lotus- When lilies and lotus have finished their season, and the leaves have died back, pick off the brown leaves and sink the plants in the deepest part of the pond.
2. Tropical Lilies- While not the easiest plants to winter, their beauty makes it worth the effort. When the plants appear to have gone dormant (usually mid-November), remove them from the pond. Unpot the tubers in a container of moist sand, keeping them at a temperature of 40-50 degrees. Check periodically to make sure tubers remain moist. Tubers can be started again in April in a sunny, warm tub, inside.
3. Tropical Marginals-Most of this group can be kept as houseplants in a window, as long as the pots are submerged in water.
4. Hardy Marginals-This type of plant can be left on the shelf of the pond, or submerged for extra protection. Remember to raise up in early spring.
5. Tropical Floaters-Plants in this group should be scooped out as soon as they turn brown from frost. Don’t leave them in too long or they will sink, making them more difficult to remove. If you wish to try to save these plants for next year, place them in a container of water and keep in a warm sunny spot, inside, although due to the lower cost of these plants, it is not usually worth the effort.
6. Division-Lilies and certain other aquatic plants can be divided in the fall, though most water gardeners prefer to do it in the spring.

Planting a Live Christmas Tree

Family traditions are a big part of the holiday season. Many families have created landscapes that are planted with evergreens from Christmas past. Memories grow on with Spruce, Fir and Pines that were once a part of the holiday festivities. Properly planned, a live tree can be decorated, enjoyed and eventually planted in the space of three to four weeks surrounding Christmas day.

If you plan to buy one of these live trees, decide in time to take the proper steps to insure a successful transplant. First, select the spot where the tree will be planted and dig the hole early in December before the ground freezes. Dig a hole that is suitable in size to the root that you are planning on planting. Remember, measure twice and cut once! You might want to store your backfill in a wheelbarrow that is sheltered in the garage until you need it. This will insure that the soil in workable and not reduced to a frozen mound of un-movable earth. Next, fill in the hole with leaves and cover it with a tarp until you plan to plant.

Plan on keeping your tree indoors no more than 7-10 days. This way it will only need to put up with dry warm air for a short time. Keep the root ball moist at all times. Many use wooden barrels, plastic or galvanized tubs in order to water properly and yet protect the floor.

After Christmas, plan on acclimating your tree to the outdoors for about two-three days. This can be done in a screened porch or garage. Afterwards, carry your tree to its prepared site. Remove the tarp, scoop out the leaves and place the root ball in the hole. Add the soil from your stored wheelbarrow to fill the hole completely-firm it well with your feet. Give the tree several buckets of water at this time. Mulch the tree in well with the leaves or other compost or bark mulch.