» Archive for December, 2009

Living Holiday Gifts

Saturday, December 19th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Living Christmas trees make a fine tradition. Slow-growing Colorado spruce trees can be used for 3 to 5 years before they need to be planted. Water them every other day while indoors.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Water living Christmas trees frequently while they are indoors, and put them outside after a week or ten days.
    •Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.

Living Gifts

Head to the nursery this month for plants that can be enjoyed long after the holidays. Evergreen shrubs like Daphne, Camellias and Rhododendrons are lovely gifts that will be enjoyed even more when they come into bloom in the spring.

The sweet fragrance of Daphne is one of the pleasures of springtime. The small, evergreen shrubs have handsome foliage and a profusion of pinkish-white flowers that bloom in February. One stem will scent an entire room.

The beautifully shaped flowers of Camellias cover the glossy, evergreen leaves throughout a long season. The early flowering ones begin blooming now with dainty, single flowers and those that bloom in April and May have perfectly formed double flowers. They are lovely in a partially shaded area and do well in containers on the patio or deck.

Rhododendrons also have spectacular flowers in large clusters in the spring. They are generally deer-resistant, like partial shade, and will grow for many years in a large container.

Roses are available this month at the best prices of the year. For best selection, look for bare-root roses this month. If you want roses for cutting, choose hybrid teas, like ‘Fragrant Plum’. For small spaces or containers, choose varieties that stay compact, such as ‘Sunsprite’, and to add a focal point to any landscape, choose a tree rose, like ‘Betty Boop’.

The interior landscape will welcome a fresh, new houseplant. From hanging ferns and spider plants to tall palms and dracaenas, there’s a plant for every situation. They add life and color to the area and clean the air at the same time. Or create a dish garden with a combination of small plants in an attractive container, for a unique gift.

Bonsai plants and succulents also make nice gifts, and a bag full of Daffodil bulbs will be happily received by almost any gardener.

Trees of all kinds will grow into beautiful specimens that will outlive us all. From fruit trees to dogwoods, Japanese maples, and flowering magnolias, trees become an important part of any piece of property. Beauty, shade, fruit, and a greener planet are all good reasons to plant a tree this season.

Give a gift that will continue to grow and remind them of your thoughtfulness for a long time to come.

Gardening Essentials

Friday, December 11th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Living Christmas trees are now available. The slower growing spruces can be used for several Christmases before you need to plant them.
    • Dogwood trees, flowering magnolias (or tulip trees), and Japanese maples are some of the balled and burlapped items you will find available now.
    • Wind chimes make wonderful gifts that fill the air with music whenever the wind blows.
    • Fruit trees can be planted now from containers while the soil is easy to dig.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.

Gardening Essentials

At heart, garden people are plant people. But dedicated gardeners also know the pleasure of quality garden tools. Cheap tools bend and break and can be the source of much frustration. A good garden tool is something to treasure.

The spade, the shovel and the spading fork are three primary tools with overlapping functions. The spade is essential for “double-digging”, for loosening the soil and for incorporating organic materials. The spading fork is easiest to use in light loamy or sandy soils, or in heavy soil that has been well-worked. The pointed-blade shovel can do both jobs and is generally the first choice of the beginning gardener. It serves the additional purpose of moving gravel and sand.

Hand tools are essential for all gardeners. Choose the best aluminum or steel-bladed trowel available. Flimsy, low-priced tools won’t last one single use in tough soil – they just bend out of shape. A hand trowel, a 3-pronged cultivator and a weeder make a nice “tool trio”. The Japanese Hori-Hori weeder knife is especially strong and versatile.

Another fine gift is a good pair of hand shears. Beginning gardeners usually choose the anvil type, in which the blade comes down on a soft steel “anvil.” This type will cut larger branches without springing the blade. The more experienced gardeners like the scissor or “bypass” shear which makes a clean cut every time. New shears have handles curved to fit your hand, which are more comfortable than the old designs and leave you with fewer blisters. Top quality Felco shears are made with replaceable blades and are built to last a lifetime.

Bonsai enthusiasts will enjoy a ceramic pot or specialty tool, or a new book with instructions and ideas for interesting forms to work with. There are books at the nursery on a dozen subjects from garden pools, landscaping and pruning to the newest “Western Garden Book” and “How to Grow More Vegetables.”

Bird feeders provide hours of entertainment for older folks and housebound people. Not only will they have the joy of watching wild birds, but you will be helping them with baby bird care and raising their young through the fledging stage. Hummingbird feeders attract those colorful birds to your patio year-round.

Bulbs can still be planted for spring flowers. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus bring cheerful color to the garden after a long, cold winter. Holiday Amaryllis in gift boxes make nice gifts at a reasonable price.

Add a gardening calendar and you and your gardening friends can look forward to another great year of gardening pleasures. The “2010 Garden Calendar” from Ecology Action has a handy “things to do” list for each month. The “Gardening by the Moon” Calendar gives detailed timing for appropriate gardening activities, and the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” is a helpful and fun book to have on hand.

We wish you all a very happy holiday season, and hope we can help you be successful gardeners in the year ahead!

Landscaping with Bulbs

Saturday, December 5th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots for Christmas gifts.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Plant bright red amaryllis in pots now for Christmas gifts.

Light Up Your Garden With Spring Bulbs

Flowering bulbs, with their great variety of bloom color, flowering time, plant height and shape are an important addition to any landscape or garden.  Since bulbs give us our first spots of color after a long winter, they are always welcome harbingers of spring. In addition, they need no watering except the winter rains.

Bulbs always look nice planted in front of a section of evergreen shrubs.  Many houses have plants up against the house which make a nice backdrop for groupings of bulbs.  A border of bulbs planted along the edge of the lawn will add a splash of color to the lawn area.

Spring bulbs can also be planted under deciduous trees.  The bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out, giving them plenty of light to make strong stems.  Some bulbs that perform well under trees and shrubs are grape hyacinths, crocus, leucojums and daffodils.

In a perennial bed or border, spring bulbs will bloom during March, April and May before most perennials start to flower.  Locate the bulbs in the planting bed so that the dying foliage will not be noticed.  Spring bulbs used in the perennial border can be left in the ground the year round or they can be removed and replaced by other plants after flowering is complete.

Some bulbs can be planted with low growing ground covers like ajuga, violets, vinca minor or English ivy.  Choose bulbs that are at least twice as tall as the ground cover.  Small bulbs like crocus can also be planted in a lawn.  They will be finished blooming by the time you get out to mow the grass and they look very cute popping up out of the lawn. 

Spring bulbs will bloom between early February and mid-June.  First to bloom are crocus and grape hyacinths, followed by daffodils and tulips through April and May.  The visual feast ends with Dutch iris and elegant Alliums.

Planting bulbs of one variety or color in mass will have greater visual impact.  Never plant bulbs in a single straight row or in a single circle around a tree or bush, except in very formal gardens. Bulbs look better and more natural when they are planted in masses.  Plant bulbs of one color in small spaces in the landscape.  One color will have greater impact and make the planting space look larger.  In large spaces, a planting of two or three colors can be effective. Plant each color together, don’t intermix them. The color of spring flowering bulbs is enhanced when interplanted with pansies or other compatible early flowers.

Try some fun combinations like blue hyacinths with grape hyacinths and white, miniature narcissus. Add some blue pansies for a living bouquet. Plant yellow-and-white daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ with ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ Tulips, or cream-and-pink ‘Elegant Lady’ Tulips with a mixture of pink -and-white daffodils. 

Enjoy painting your landscape with beautiful bulbs.