» Archive for December, 2015

Living Holiday Symbols

Monday, December 21st, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses and pansies will add color to your flower beds and containers all winter.
    • Spring bulbs make lovely gifts for friends and relatives. They can still be planted now.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying during the dry spells with Liqui-Cop® copper spray to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees next spring.
    • Wind chimes make wonderful gifts that fill the air with music whenever the wind blows.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.

Living Holiday Symbols

December is a very special time of year. Food and gifts, music and lights, warmth and love surround us. The clans will gather and cherished traditions will be shared.

Some of our traditions go back centuries or even millennia. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather this parasitic evergreen plant and use it to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers. Scandinavians also gathered mistletoe and thought of it as a plant of peace and harmony.

The Christmas tree originated in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles.

The poinsettia is a relatively recent Christmas symbol. Mexican legend holds that these beautiful red flowers, thought to resemble the shape of the Star of Bethlehem, first grew miraculously for a poor child who wanted to bring a gift to the manger scene at the village church but did not have any money. They were introduced to the United States in the early 19th century by Joel Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

Representing immortality and seen as a good omen, holly was considered sacred by the ancient Romans and used as a gift during the festival of Saturnalia. Gradually, holly became a Christmas symbol as Christianity became the dominant religion. Because the holly leaf has sharp, pointed edges, it has come to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns with the red berries representing the blood He shed on the cross.

Jewish traditions give special importance to fruiting plants which gave sustenance to the people. Thus wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates and olive trees have special significance. These are plants that come from the dry climate of the Mediterranean region.

Of course, many of the symbols that are part of our traditions at this time of year come from ancient Solstice celebrations. At the Solstice, with the days at last turning a corner towards spring, evergreen leaves long ago took on a special significance. Greenery brought indoors in the depths of winter became a symbol of continuing growth and rebirth. The Yule Log, traditionally oak, acknowledged the return of the sun, warmth and light and the long-burning log would bring good luck if lit on the first try.

This year as we gather together to celebrate the holidays and their symbols of hope and love, let us enjoy the light and warmth that we give to each other at this time and throughout the year.

Gifts for Gardeners

Monday, December 21st, 2015 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.
    • Wild bird feeders will attract migrating birds so you can enjoy the pleasure of their company.
    • Ornamental kale and cabbage make a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Prune birches and maples, if necessary, before Christmas to avoid problems with bleeding as the sap starts to rise very early in these trees.

Gifts for Gardeners

This time of year we are all thinking more about our gift lists than our gardens. Just think gardening, and you’ll come up with ideas for gardeners and even non-gardeners.

For the non-gardener, a bowl of potted Paperwhite Narcissus will grow and bloom and add a lovely fragrance to the indoors. Wind chimes are enjoyed by many and will add a musical note to the outdoor living area next summer.

Indoor-outdoor thermometers are handy to have and jumbo rain gauges, that you can read from 50 feet away, are a must for this winter.

Watering cans are available for indoor or outdoor watering. The new, old-fashioned galvanized cans are rust-resistant and strong for a long life in the garden. Their classic shapes include the extra long spout for easy ‘long reach’ watering. Smaller watering cans make nice gifts for the indoor gardener.

For a gardener who starts her own seedlings, an Orbit® coil-up hose will keep the greenhouse tidy. The 6-pattern nozzle will gently water seedlings, or wash off the tables.

Looking toward pruning season, there are few tools more important to a gardener than a good pair of pruning shears. Felco® has long been the leader in pruning shears with a dozen different models to accommodate large hands, small hands, lefties, or equipped with a rotating handle to reduce fatigue. A Felco® pruning saw is a must-have for every orchardist. All Felco® tools come with a lifetime guarantee, and replacement blades, springs, etc. are available to keep them in tip-top condition.

Of course, a good pair of gloves is important to any gardener. The elbow-length, Thorngard gloves are great for pruning rosebushes and dealing with blackberries. The popular Nitrile Touch® gloves are loved by many gardeners. And the leather Bionic™ gloves are great for older gardeners as they give support and reduce fatigue for arthritic hands.

The Garden Bench and Kneeler is an excellent gift for those who find kneeling somewhat difficult. The padded bench can be flipped over to become a kneeling pad with upright supports that serve as handles to get up and down. The cushioned surface is gentle on the knees while working in your garden. The kneeler folds up for easy storage.

One of the most coveted garden tools is a good quality digging fork. Beautiful Spear & Jackson tools from England have a reputation for quality and durability, and are made to be used for a lifetime and passed on to the next generation.

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

Garden Ornaments

Saturday, December 5th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t delay. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are still available.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots this weekend for holiday gifts.
    • Don’t overwater your houseplants in the winter. Empty saucers after watering.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.

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 back in style. Also called a reflecting orb or garden ball, they date back to at least the 16th century. They regained popularity early in this century and are now back again.

Gazing globes are available in a wide range of sizes and colors. They come in sizes from 4 to 12 inches in diameter and are made from hand-blown glass or stainless steel. The glass globes are silvered on the inside to create a mirror that reflects the expanse of flowers across the garden within the orb. “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. Stands come in a variety of heights and styles to compliment the landscape. They are an outstanding feature in the garden. Photographers like to use gazing balls to enhance photographs.

Garden statuary covers the whole range from animals and dwarfs to Asian, 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.

Stepping stones and garden plaques can be displayed in the home or in the garden. They add a distinctive focal point to the outdoor living area.

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