» Archive for December, 2012

Garden Ornaments

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • 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.
    • Fruit trees can be planted now from containers while the soil is easy to dig.

Garden Ornaments

Decorative ornaments serve to personalize the garden, making it more than an attractive arrangement of trees and shrubs. Garden ornaments can be almost anything, from home-made sculptures of endless variety to sundials, wind chimes, statuary, fountains and gazing globes.

The gazing globe, one of the most romantic of garden ornaments, is a stylish accent in the garden. Also called a reflecting orb, they date back to at least the 16th century. They regained popularity early in this century and are now back again.

These colorful balls, 4 to 12 inches in diameter, are made from hand-blown glass or stainless steel, and look like giant Christmas ornaments. The glass globes are silvered on the inside to create a mirror which reflects nature. “Glow in the Dark” globes are especially popular. Luminescent crystals emit a soothing green glow for hours after dusk!

Gazing globes are set on pedestals and used on lawns, in flower beds and woodlands, and around garden pools. The globes reflect back your garden flowers, the sky and trees. They provide color, shape and interest in your garden. Gazing balls are made of blown glass and can be fragile during storms and freezing weather.

Garden statuary covers the whole range from animals and dwarfs to Oriental, classical and religious figures, large and small. They can serve as focal points or rest quietly among the plants to be discovered by keen observers.

Birdbaths and fountains also come in a wide variety of styles. To attract birds, they should be placed near large shrubs where the feathered fellows will feel safer with a nearby bush to dive into. Fountains and waterfalls can be the centerpiece of an area, with the sound of running water creating a relaxing atmosphere. Most fountains simply recirculate the water so you only need to fill them up when water evaporates.

All concrete basins should be covered with plastic in the winter here so that they do not hold water. When water freezes, it may cause the concrete to crack and leak.

Even bird feeders can make nice garden ornaments. Some feeders are decorative and cute while others are strictly functional. But the birds that come to them will add their lively decor to the yard as they flit about in the garden.

Garden stakes are increasingly popular. From dragonflies to suns and moons, these small ornaments add charm and interest to potted plants or garden beds. Some of them even glow in the dark.

Wind chimes tinkle in the morning breeze and bring music into the garden. They can make your garden a place of peace and calm to relax and meditate on the beauty all around. Some wind chimes are tuned to musical chords and you can listen to them and choose the sound that appeals most to you.

Garden ornaments will extend your living area into the outdoors adding color, character and your personal touch to your home decor.

Garden Tools

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 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.
    • Primroses and pansies will add color to your flower beds and containers all winter.
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Rhododendrons are hardy shrubs that are particularly beautiful in the spring when they bloom. Choose plants now so they can get established over the winter.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.

An Endless Variety of Garden Tools

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”- adding organic materials to the soil to loosen the soil and add nutrients. 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.

There are two main types of garden rakes. The leaf rake can be used on lawns and patios, and a smaller version is ideal for raking leaves out from between shrubs. An “expando” rake can be used for both jobs. The steel tined rake is used in the garden for the final soil preparation before sowing or planting, as well as many other garden tasks.

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 gardener likes 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.

A pruning saw is especially appreciated by the serious orchardist. Nothing is nicer than a sharp saw that cuts with ease. The folding saw easily fits into a pocket when not in use. The more expensive saw blades hold a very sharp edge and do the job quickly and cleanly.

Well-built, quality tools will reward you for decades to come with greater ease, a healthier body and a job well done.

Living Christmas Memories

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots this weekend for holiday gifts.
    • Don’t overwater your houseplants in the winter. Empty saucers after watering.
    • 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.

Living Christmas Trees

If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll undoubtedly have some form of decorated tree. If you buy a living potted evergreen tree this year, rather than a cut or artificial one, you can plant it outdoors after the holidays. This way you can enjoy it for years to come.

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 that 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 Grand fir has lustrous dark green needles borne that are very fragrant. It grows in a perfectly pyramidal shape and is native to North America.

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 your tree home, keep your tree outside in a shady spot out of direct wind, or inside an unheated garage. The trick to keeping it alive is not to break its dormancy with too much heat, and to avoid extreme temperature changes. Water every two to three days, but don’t allow the root container to sit in water as roots will rot.

          Indoors, choose a spot away from wood stoves, fireplaces, heating vents, and drafts.  A cool room is best, perhaps 65 to 68 degrees in the day, less at night.

When you bring your living tree into the house, leave it there for no more than two weeks. 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.