» Archive for December, 2011

Christmas for the Birds

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 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.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Wind chimes make wonderful gifts that fill the air with music whenever the wind blows.
    • Water living Christmas trees frequently while they are indoors, and put them outside after a week or ten days.

Make this Christmas One for the Birds

Watching birds feeding, bathing and playing in your backyard is a joy for almost anyone. The birds are beautiful, of course, but their visits serve an important purpose, reducing plant damage from insect pests. Birds are a welcome addition to the garden.

You can attract birds to your yard with bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths.

There are different types of bird feeders. The best all-around type is the cylindrical plastic feeder. Fill them with a good birdseed mix and they will attract a wide variety of birds, including nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, rufous-sided towhees and sparrows.

Window feeders allow you to watch the birds close-up from inside the house. They stick to the window with suction cups. They are especially nice during bad weather so you can still enjoy the company of your feathered friends.

Niger seed feeders, or thistle feeders, are tubular plastic feeders with very small holes for thistle seed. They are especially popular with goldfinches who will entertain you all day long as they squabble over the perches.

The feeding table attracts larger birds that like to dine together. Robins, finches and evening grosbeaks will gather happily at backyard feeding tables.

Hummingbird feeders are filled with sugar solutions that supplement their diet of flower nectar. Anna’s Hummingbird winters in this area so will come to feeders year-round.

Oriole feeders are bright orange and attract brilliant orange-yellow orioles to the garden, where you can enjoy their distinctive whistle along with their colorful plumage.

Birdbaths will attract birds throughout they year, both to drink and to bathe. Watching the activity at the birdbath can be very entertaining, and there are styles of birdbaths to go with any garden decor.

Birdbaths made out of concrete are very stable and make an attractive addition to the garden as well as providing water for the birds. Hanging birdbaths may work best in some locations. Site your birdbath near trees or bushes where the birds can retreat to dry off and preen in safety.

In addition to food and water, birds need a safe place to raise their young. Nesting boxes, or “bird houses”, will encourage the birds that visit you in the winter to stay. The size and type of the nest box and its entrance will determine which birds use it, because different species are attracted to boxes of different dimensions. Specialty boxes are available at stores which handle bird supplies.

Make this Holiday one “for the birds.”

Gardening Gift List

Sunday, December 18th, 2011 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.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Clean up the yard and compost dead plants. Replace them with pansies and primroses for winter bloom.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.
    • Fruit trees can be planted now from containers while the soil is easy to dig. Many are on sale now!

Gifts for the Gardener

This time of year we are all thinking more about our gift lists than our gardens. But whether it’s decorating your indoor space with houseplants and indoor fountains, or gathering gifts for those who love the garden and outdoor entertaining, there are lots of things to discover at local garden centers.

Indoor spaces are greatly enhanced by the presence of houseplants. The greenery not only softens the corners and adds life to the room, but also improves the air quality. Plants remove air pollutants while adding oxygen to the air, which is especially valuable in the winter when we tend to keep the doors closed most of the time.

Hanging plants, like philodendrons, pothos, or spider plants, can soften the edge of a bookcase, improve the look of an empty corner, or hide areas you don’t want on view. Some upright plants, like weeping figs, rubber plants, or dracaenas, make fine floor plants while prayer plants, peace lilies and Boston ferns are very attractive on tables.

Bright red Holiday Amaryllis, pre-packaged and ready to grow, make a nice gift for any indoor gardener.

Small fountains for the indoors provide the soothing, relaxing and stress-reducing sound of trickling water.

Outdoor fountains are a great enhancement to the patio or garden area. Made of concrete, these large pieces last for many years and can serve as a focal point for a deck or patio. Containers of any size, with or without a plant, are a welcome gift.

Other statuary items include birdbaths and figurines of various sizes and styles to make a statement in the yard, or be tucked into smaller spaces. You’ll find animals, angels, and dragons as well as saints and Asian figurines.

For the bird lover, there are feeders, bird houses and birdbaths. There are many kinds of feeders both for seed-eaters and for hummingbirds and orioles. Bird houses that are designed with the preferences of each type of bird in mind will give a home to the friends you enjoy the most. A birdbath looks lovely in any garden and is a must for the bird enthusiast.

Add music to the garden or patio with beautiful windchimes. Musical chimes range from tropical island sounds to deep Westminster chimes, while the gentle, natural sound of bamboo windchimes is reminiscent of the sound of water bubbling over stones.

On a more serious note, there are tools of all kinds for gardeners and outdoor lovers. Rain gauges and thermometers help you keep track of local weather conditions. And tools run the gamut from pruning shears, loppers and gloves to spades, forks and Grandpa’s Weeder.

There are specialty tools for experienced gardeners. Kneelers make working in the garden a whole lot easier. Use your arm strength to raise and lower yourself to a padded kneeling platform to plant and pull weeds. Special gloves help support arthritic hands and ratchet pruning shears reduce pressure on the hand while getting the job done.

Add a gardening calendar and you and your gardening friends can look forward to another great year of gardening pleasures.

Spruce Trees

Friday, December 9th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Holiday Amaryllis are easy to bring into bloom and they make lovely gifts.
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Primroses and pansies will add color to your flower beds and containers all winter.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.
    • Dogwood trees, flowering magnolias (or tulip trees), and Japanese maples are some of the balled and burlapped items you will find available now.

Spruce Up for Christmas

The holiday season is here and, for many of us, it’s time to choose a Christmas tree to be the center of light and warmth throughout the season. A living Christmas tree adds a special feeling to the Christmas season, and watching it grow throughout the year will bring you lots of pleasure.

Spruce trees are the most popular living Christmas trees. They are slow-growing and will live for several years in a container before they need to be planted in the ground.

Colorado spruce, Picea pungens, are the most popular. These sturdy, symmetrical evergreen trees are usually grown from seed, so they vary in color from green to blue green. Only a few turn out to be a steely blue. These are called Colorado Blue Spruce and command a higher price than their green brothers.

Allow plenty of room for this tree to spread out. Plant it at least 15 feet from a building, fences or walkways. It should never be controlled by pruning. Colorado spruce can be used in lawns, as an accent plant in large spaces or as a background tree with contrasting foliage color. They will grow in any type of soil but need good drainage.

A number of varieties are now propagated that have pronounced silver-blue needles. ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ is a slow-growing dwarf tree reaching 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide at maturity. It has light blue needles and a dense growth habit. ‘Fastigiata’ is unique in the spruce world. It has a tight, columnar shape, and intense blue color and grows to 20 feet tall by only 6 feet wide.

Dwarf Alberta spruce, Picea glauca ‘Conica’, is a compact, pyramidal tree growing six to ten feet tall at maturity. It has short, fine needles that are soft to touch, and bright green foliage that is attractive year-round. It is a good container plant and can be used as a Christmas tree for many years.

Alberta spruces are very hardy to cold but need protection from hot drying winds and from strong reflected sunlight, which will burn the foliage.

True Cedar trees are silvery blue in color. Deodar Cedars are soft and pendulous when young, and grow to be large graceful landscape trees. Atlas Cedars are more stiff with very blue needles. They are pyramidal in youth but more broad and picturesque when mature. Horstmann Blue Atlas Cedar is a semi-dwarf tree with densely-spaced icy-blue needles and an irregular outline. It is slow-growing and compact reaching 8 feet in 10 years.

A living Christmas tree should be placed in a well-lighted room for not more than two weeks. Water it regularly using ice cubes or cold water. Place it away from heater vents and never let it dry out. Miniature lights may be used.

Start a living tree tradition this year that you can enjoy for years to come.