» Archive for December, 2007

Brighten the Season with Houseplants

Sunday, December 16th, 2007 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose living Christmas trees now. Most will be able to be kept in their containers and used for one or two more years as a Christmas tree.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.
    • Evergreen hollies are handsome shrubs year-round. Their red berries are colorful in winter and provide decorative sprays for the indoors.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Wild bird feeders will attract migrating birds so you can enjoy the pleasure of their company.

Houseplants for Fresh Air

Living plants serve many purposes in the home. They are aesthetically pleasing and add to the atmosphere in any room. They soften the corners of the room or the furniture, and they add fresh oxygen to the indoor environment.

In addition, plants have been shown to actually clean the air. Experiments at NASA have shown that plants break apart the chemicals most commonly released by plastics, paints, synthetic carpets and cleaning supplies. Because high levels of synthetic chemicals can affect astronauts aboard space stations, NASA investigated plants as potential air purifiers.

They found that certain plants can be used to target specific chemicals. The Boston fern, for example, removes the most formaldehyde — a chemical used to preserve carpeting, upholstery fabrics and the foam in mattresses and couch stuffing. Spider plants target benzene, the chemical released from house paint.

Many synthetic materials are used in modern homes, and a lack of air circulation combined with increasing levels of synthetic toxins can create an unhealthy environment, especially in the winter when we keep our houses closed up tightly. This situation has become known as “sick building syndrome.”

If you live in a newer, energy-efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where the air feels stale and circulation seems poor, the liberal use of houseplants seems like an easy way to help make a dent in the problem.

For an average 12-by-12-foot room with standard levels of chemical toxins, two or three healthy plants will usually do the job. Stand a large dracaena in the corner and place a peace lily and a palm next to it, or hang a Boston fern in one corner and let a golden pothos trail over the end table.

For the most benefit, group plants in areas where you spend the most time, like in the bedroom or next to your favorite chair. Place a plant or two on your desk at work to clean the air and brighten your spirits.

The following plants are most effective in removing potentially harmful chemicals from the air in your home: Dracaena, English ivy, weeping fig (ficus), philodendrons, rubber plant, spider plans, peace lily, ferns, palms, snake plants and Chinese evergreen.

Houseplants reduce stress and help people relax, feel calmer and more optimistic.
Not only do they target the invisible chemicals right under your nose, they also increase the overall quality of your life.

Holiday Traditions

Monday, December 10th, 2007 by Jenny Watts
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying now with copper sulfate to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees next spring.
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots this weekend for holiday gifts.
    • Evergreen hollies are handsome shrubs year-round. Their red berries are colorful in winter and provide decorative sprays for the indoors.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.

Living Christmas Memories

Living Christmas trees are becoming more popular each year because of their many advantages over other types of Christmas trees, and the special tradition they bring about.

Some of the biggest advantages of using living Christmas trees are the lessening of fire hazard, their future use in the landscape and the fact that they may often be used for more than one year as a living Christmas tree in the home.

These trees offer year-round beauty when planted in the landscape and can be decorated outdoors for many years to come. They also become a yearly source for cut greens to make wreaths and other decorations for the holiday season.

Colorado Blue Spruce are the most popular living Christmas tree. It has very stiff, horizontal branches which easily hold up the ornaments. Foliage varies in seedling trees from dark green through all shades of blue green to steel blue. It makes a fine landscape tree in our area, with branches that grow all the way to the ground.

True fir trees also are beautiful, perfectly shaped trees. The Nordmann fir has lustrous dark green needles borne on symmetrically arranged branches. It grows in a perfectly pyramidal shape and is a fast-growing and adaptable tree from Asia Minor.

Noble firs are one of the most popular cut trees, but they are also available as living trees. This symmetrical, pyramidal tree has the darkest green foliage, bluish-gray on the tips and silvery-green underneath. It makes one of the finest living trees for use during the holiday season.

Douglas fir trees are well known, especially for their fragrant foliage. They are native to this region and are quite fast-growing, so they can only stay in the container for a year or two. Other trees that can be used as Christmas trees include pines, Deodar cedars, Coast redwoods and giant sequoias.

When you bring a living tree into the house, leave it there for no more than two weeks. Place it well away from heater vents, wood stoves, and fireplaces. Water it slowly and thoroughly by dumping two trays of ice cubes onto its soil surface every day.

Decorate your tree with small, cool bulbs — flashing bulbs are best of all. Don’t use tinsel as it’s too hard to get off. You can use strings of popcorn or madrone berries which the birds will enjoy when you move the tree back outdoors.

With care and planning, your Christmas tree will serve as a living memory for many years.

Winter Hardiness

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 by Jenny Watts

Survival Strategies

As winter approaches each year, we make many preparations for the cold like adding antifreeze to our cars and changing the filter on the heater, to help prevent damage to mechanical things. Plants also need to prepare for the oncoming cold and they do it in a variety of ways.

‘Hardiness’ refers to a plant’s ability to withstand cold. Some species of plants are more resistant to cold temperatures than others and, therefore, are hardier.

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