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Stuff a Gardener’s Stocking

Stocking stuffers don’t have to be useless, jokey items that are quickly forgotten after the holidays. Instead, choose the appropriate stocking stuffers with a gardening twist, and even the smallest stocking will be filled with gardening fun for that special gardener in your life. No matter what type of gardener you want to buy for, we’ve got the right stocking stuffers for their green thumb!

All gardeners love:

  • Weather stations, rain gauges and hygrometers
  • Window thermometers or barometers
  • Hand tools such as bulb diggers, trowels, pruners, foldable saws and cultivators
  • Whetstone for sharpening blades
  • A soil pH reader
  • Velcro support tape
  • Holsters for pruners
  • Hand lotion to prevent chapping
  • Watering cans or wands
  • Kneeling pads
  • Subscriptions to their favorite gardening magazines
  • Garden-themed ornaments or trinkets

Seed sowers appreciate:

  • Seed packets, especially heirloom or unique varieties
  • Seed balls, pellets or garden “bon bons”
  • Soil thermometers
  • Dibble stick
  • Warming mats (just roll them up to put into the stocking)
  • Plant labels including metal with an embossing pen or write on styles
  • Small envelopes for storing seeds

Fashionista gardeners can feel glamorous with:

  • Stylish sun hats and sunglasses
  • Gardening aprons or belts
  • Garden clogs
  • Garden-themed jewelry
  • Gloves in chic colors or patterns

Flowerbed aficionados will appreciate:

  • Bulbs for spring blooms
  • A wildflower guide
  • Floral-themed garden accessories
  • Delicate bud vases for bringing flowers indoors
  • Spray bottle for pesticide or fungus care

Quirky gardeners will enjoy:

  • Whimsical wind chimes
  • Fairy garden accessories
  • Crazy types of plants and new cultivar seeds
  • Kitschy décor, like plastic pink flamingos
  • Garden gnomes and accessories
  • Themed stepping stones or create-your-own kits

Urban homesteaders can always use:

  • How-to guides for canning and preserving food
  • Filters for a kitchen compost bucket
  • Treats and toys for chickens, goats or other livestock
  • Indoor herb garden accessories
  • Microgreen kits

Wildlife-friendly gardeners will appreciate:

  • Bird feeders
  • Bird foods such as suet cakes or hummingbird nectar
  • A squirrel corn cob feeder
  • Local wildlife identification guides
  • Critter-resistant seeds and bulbs

No matter what type of gardener is on your shopping list this holiday season, there are plenty of stocking stuffer options to meet their gardening style. Stop in and finish off that shopping list today!

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Cloches

Back in the early ages of gardening, someone realized covering a plant could protect it from frost and wind chill, preserving blooms and protecting foliage from the ravages of ice crystals and dropping temperatures. In Victorian gardens and parlors, dome-shaped glass covers protected many tender and treasured plants from the nip of winter’s chill. Because of the resemblance to a close-fitting, bell-shaped woman’s hat, these protective devices were called cloches, the French word for hats. You’ve probably seen them over a plant in someone’s garden or greenhouse. Today, in addition to protecting plants and extending the growing season, they provide a touch of whimsy and romance for an elegant garden, terrarium or greenhouse.

Our gift store offers several sizes, materials and styles of cloches for garden use. The clear glass bell-shaped cloches are also popular for in-house decorating. Placed over a miniature orchid to enhance its growing environment or protecting a treasured arrangement, these gardening items show your trend setting and eclectic gardening style. They are ideal for specimen plants, or may be used to showcase a vintage vase, whimsical fairy garden, lush succulent arrangement or favorite potted plant. Even indoors, they provide protection to regulate the humidity and temperature near a plant, eliminating damaging drafts and helping keep delicate, temperamental plants happy.

Although the original cloches protected only one plant, the “cloche concept” now effectively extends the outdoor growing season for row crops. Modern technology and new materials make it easy to continue growing even after the temperatures drop. Hoops, tents and row covers protect late crops from frost and wind, extending the season and ensuring later harvests for the full richness of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers that need just a bit of extra time to mature. Whether you hope to sell late season crops and want to improve your profit margin or would prefer a later harvest for extra canning and preservation, these tools can increase your season and improve your yields.

We have a large selection of protective materials including frost protection blankets, plastic row covers and curved hoops to hold the cloth above the plants without damaging produce or bruising leaves. Furthermore, if you want the growing season to never end at all, you can consider cold frames and miniature greenhouses that can keep your green thumb bright and active even on the coldest days. Come on in to see our complete selection, and keep on growing. 

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Getting Your Trees and Shrubs Ready For Winter

Winter wind and sun are responsible for much of the injuries your landscaping plants will sustain over the winter. The elements are especially hard on broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, hollies, mountain laurel and boxwood. Being evergreen, these plants are constantly losing moisture through their leaves, but since the ground is frozen, the water in the soil is unavailable and they cannot replenish their supply. Drying winter winds and bright, reflecting sun only serve to compound the problem. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent this.

  1. Make certain that the plants have plenty of water before the ground freezes as a plant in a water deficit situation is much more prone to winter injury. Keep watering plants until the first freeze, but water slowly so the ground is not saturated which would lead to ice heave and root damage.
  2. A heavy mulch of shredded bark or leaves, pine needles or straw can be spread around the plant to a depth of 3-5 inches. This will help preserve moisture in the soil and keep the soil warmer so delicate roots are not as easily damaged by ice and frost.
  3. To reduce the effects of the winds, wrap shrubs with burlap or other breathable fabric. This not only breaks the force of the wind, but also shades the plants from sun. Do not, however, wrap plants in plastic or tarps that would restrict air flow completely, or the plants may smother. Another option is to use Wilt-Pruf. It is sprayed on the plant to reduce the loss of moisture caused by wind and sun.
  4. Remember, younger plants, saplings and newly planted shrubs are more subject to winter damage so take special care of these. Plant as early as possible so they have more time to get established before winter sets in, and keep a close eye on them to minimize any storm damage through the season.
  5. After a heavy storm, inspect your trees and shrubs for damage. If boughs or branches have broken, prune them away immediately so they do not continue to tear and cause more injury to the plant. Use a soft broom to brush off a heavy accumulation of snow if needed, but do not try to melt away any accumulated ice or frost, as the temperature change can damage the plants.

With good preparation and conscientious care, your trees and shrubs can withstand even the cruelest of winter cold and storms, and they’ll be bursting into new spring growth before you know it.

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Now For Something Completely Different… Poinsettias!

They have traditionally been the winter holiday’s most popular plant, the sure and steady standby, but have you seen poinsettias lately? These are not your mother’s poinsettias! Endless selections of bract colors and shapes combined with unique foliage offerings and a wide variety of forms and sizes make this year’s collection spectacular. Furthermore, to fit the most unusual of tastes, poinsettias may be painted just about any color to match your holiday decor and finished off with glitter to complete the festive look.

Poinsettias are now available in a tremendous range of colors, shapes and sizes, as illustrated by this table (any color may be found in any bract feature or plant form)…

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Cut Poinsettias

To use poinsettias as cut flowers, the stems must be treated right away. The milky sap must congeal inside the stems to prevent the plants from wilting. Immediately after cutting, dunk the cut ends of the stems into boiling water for about one minute and then immediately place them in cool water. Keep the flowers away from the steam to prevent them from being damaged. You may also singe the cut ends of the stems with a flame for a few seconds before placing them in cool water. Place vase of treated flowers in a cool place for at least 18-24 hours before they are used in arrangements.

 Poinsettia Fun Facts

Other than their use as stunning holiday decorations, how much do you really know about poinsettias?

  • Native to Mexico, the poinsettia was first introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett.
  • In its natural surroundings, the poinsettia is a perennial flowering shrub that grows up to 10 feet tall.
  • The showy part of the plant, the part that most of us call flowers, are actually colored bracts or modified leaves.
  • Poinsettias have been called ‘lobster flower’ or ‘flame leaf flower’ by many in the past.
  • Poinsettias are mildly poisonous. The milky sap can cause a skin irritation for some and an upset stomach if consumed in large quantities.
  • Poinsettias represent 85 percent of holiday season potted plant sales and are the best selling flowering potted plant in the U.S., even though most are sold in only a six week period before the holidays.
  • Dec 12th is National Poinsettia Day!

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Forcing Bulbs for the Holidays and Beyond

Blooming baskets and pots of brightly colored forced bulbs make a fabulous holiday or winter gift for others and ourselves. What better way to dress up the holiday home or cheer up a long, cold winter, reminding us of impending spring?

The forcing process should begin in September or early October if you want the bulbs to be blooming when given in late November or December. If you are starting late, no worries, just print these easy instructions to give with your potted bulbs and let the recipient do the rest.

Forcing Bulbs in 10 Easy Steps

  1. Count backwards from the desired bloom date the number of weeks required for bloom plus the number of weeks required for cooling. This is the planting date. To use your forced bulbs as a blooming Christmas gift, you will have to plant in September.
  2. Select a container that has drainage holes and is at least twice as tall as the unplanted bulb. There is an exception for paperwhites that you plan to grow in stone. These should be placed in a container without drainage holes.
  3. Mix a good bulb fertilizer into your potting soil according to directions on the package.
  4. Fill enough of your container with potting soil so that when the bulb is placed on top of the soil the tip of the bulb sits slightly above the lip.
  5. Place your bulbs on top of the soil. Keep them close without touching each other or the container.
  6. Continue to fill the area between the bulbs with soil. Fill until slightly below the lip.
  7. Water the soil gently, allowing excess to drain.
  8. Refrigerate potted bulbs for the appropriate amount of time. Check frequently and water as necessary to keep the soil moist.
  9. Gradually acclimate planted bulbs to a warm, bright location when their required cooling time has been completed. Move back out of direct sun and into a cooler location when the bulbs finally flower to prolong the blooms.
  10.  Rotate container frequently to produce straight stems.

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Post Bloom

After flowering, cut back flower stems and place your containers back in full sun. Continue to water until the foliage dies back naturally. When the foliage is completely spent, place containers in a cool, dry place until early next fall when the bulbs may be safely planted into the garden. Forced bulbs cannot be forced a second time. Paperwhites will never bloom again and should be discarded after forcing. Previously forced bulbs, after planting in the ground, may skip a year’s bloom but will eventually return to their former beauty and regular schedule.

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Gardener’s Calendar (November & December)

Winter is upon us. Depending upon the temperatures, there may still be time to finish remaining chores. If you have any questions about the following procedures or products, please come in and see us. We can help you select the correct dormant oil, fertilizer, selective herbicide and frost protection method. We’re always here to help.

General Landscape

  • Mulch with bark, compost or other local materials to enrich soil, protect plant roots and prevent erosion.
  • Protect plants from frost and wind.

Houseplants

  • Perk up tired houseplants by removing dead and dying leaves. Wash under a soft shower in the sink or tub.
  • Spider mites proliferate in warm dry winter homes. Check for mites by looking for tiny speckles on leaves.
  • Transplant if roots are growing through the drainage holes or over the pot edge. If you don’t want to move into a larger pot, untangle the roots and cut back by 1/3, scour the pots and replant with new soil.
  • Remember to turn your plants each week as they begin to grow towards the weaker window light.
  • For indoor bloom, plant amaryllis, paper white narcissus, hyacinth, crocus and indoor cyclamen.
  • Popular holiday plants such as poinsettias, chrysanthemums and orchids fill the stores. Check them thoroughly for “hitchhikers” before bringing into the home or spray with household plant insecticide or soap.
  • Be creative in your arrangements and combine them with metallic painted twigs, pinecones or seashells.
  • If using a live tree for a “living Christmas tree”, prolong its time indoors by using Wilt-Pruf to reduce the loss of moisture from the needles.

Lawn:

  • Remove leaves, toys, hoses, etc, from lawns to prevent dead spots.
  • Apply winter fertilizer, if not already done. The middle number, phosphorus, aids root growth during the winter.
  • If you have weeds in your lawn, consider using a winter fertilizer with weed control.
  • Mow one time after lawn goes dormant and before freezing. This last mowing should be 2 ½” tall.
  • When temps are freezing, stay off the lawn as much as possible to reduce blade breakage.

Vegetables:

  • Protect cool season vegetables with row covers, leaf or mulch cover.
  • Mulch beds to enrich and protect from rain/snow erosion.
  • Review gardening notes and plan next year’s garden.
  • Test germination rate of leftover seeds, if wanting to use again.
  • If gardening under lights or in heated greenhouse, start seeds of early spring crops: lettuce, kale, mustard, spinach, and other greens.
  • Harvest carrots, lettuce, greens and over-wintering crops.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Stake young trees and vines if needed. In case of a heavy freeze, use Wilt-Pruf or similar product to reduce transpiration of moisture.
  • Prevent southeast trunk injury, a form of winter freeze damage. Use light-colored tree guards to protect the trunks of young trees for at least two years after planting. After two years, paint the trunks with white latex paint. These two methods prevent the tree trunk from splitting when sunlight warms the bark on side of the trunk.
  • Fertilize shrubs and trees, if not done already, and the ground is not frozen. This allows roots to absorb when temperatures are above 40⁰ and when spring returns. Granules and spikes provide nutrients effectively and easily.
  • Prune out dead and diseased tree branches to prevent from falling on roof or pedestrians.
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Season of the Ficus

Houseplants transform a house into a home, purify the air, promote relaxation and improve concentration. The ficus group includes four popular small trees grown as houseplants, each looking very different from one another, and each incorporating these and other great benefits. Wonderful as gifts, smaller plants continue growing and reminding the recipient of the giver’s good wishes for many years. A larger specimen can anchor a room or office, fill an awkward space and set a sophisticated decorating tone. We sell both small and large sizes of these easy-to-grow plants.

Ficus Types

There are several types of ficus to choose from. Whether you are giving the plant as a gift or want to enhance your own home with more greenery, consider these different varieties to choose the ficus option that best suits your needs.

  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjimina): Your classic ficus variety, the weeping fig has green or variegated foliage with 2-4″ long, twisted and pointed leaves on twiggy, spindly branches. The tree has a graceful rounded and weeping appearance. Can reach 5-6′ tall, making it ideal for smaller spaces such as apartments or condominiums.
  • Rubbertree (Ficus elastica decora): Emerging from bright red sheaths, the large, thick, oval variegated or green leaves of the rubbertree grow 10-12″ long and 6″ wide with a central rib of white on top and red on the underside. These can reach the ceiling in time, and this plant is often considered foolproof for its easy care. Because of the space needs, these plants are best for larger areas with abundant room.
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus F. lyrata): Similar in size to the rubbertree with a strong structural form, this fig’s leaves mimic the elegant, curving shape of a violin. The large leathery and textured leaves reach 12-18″ in length. This is another variety that will do best with more space so its form is well appreciated.
  • Indian Laurel (Ficus retusa nitida): Growing to a 6′ tall weeper, dark green oval 2-4″ long leaves cover the drooping branches of this elegant small tree. New leaves provide light pink and bright green color contrasts to the older leaves. This is an ideal specimen for smaller spaces or anywhere a burst of natural color is appreciated.

All of these ficus varieties are among the easiest to grow houseplants, whether you want to nurture them from smaller, younger plants or are interested in larger, more mature specimens. Stop on by and pick some wonderful ficus plants up for gifts or for yourself.

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Cut Christmas Tree Selection and Care

A fresh cut tree can be a wonderful addition to your holiday décor as well as a treasured Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, with poor care a cut tree can be looking wilted and worn long before December 25, but if you know a few tricks, you can keep your tree looking vibrant and lush throughout the season. Extend the life of your cut tree this Christmas and enjoy the beauty of the season much longer! 

  • In selecting a tree, make sure the “handle” at the bottom is long enough to allow the trunk to fit into your tree stand. Otherwise, it will be necessary to remove large branches near the base, which could ruin its appearance, shape and visual balance.
  • Check the tree’s freshness before your purchase by bending, pinching or flexing needles. They should be somewhat pliable and not fall off easily. Avoid purchasing a tree that is already showing signs of dryness.
  • Make a fresh cut to remove 1/4″ to 1″ of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. If you use a “center pin” stand, make sure the hole is drilled in the stem after the tree is trimmed.
  • Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible within 6-8 hours after cutting the trunk. This will help the tree better absorb moisture to keep the needles plump and secure.
  • If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location, such as a garage, before being taken indoors and decorated. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket full of water. The tree may need to be supported to keep it from tipping over.
  • To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
  • Use a stand that fits your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough for the trunk to fit through the hole. Other stands are open, which may allow a greater range in trunk size. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  • Keep your tree away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, heaters, heating vents and direct sunlight, all of which can make it dry out more quickly. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  • Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged an unable to absorb water.
  • Apply Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant, to branches to help prevent moisture loss and needle drop. This should be done as quickly as possible before decorating the tree.
  • Do not use additives in the water, including floral preservatives, commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey, etc. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain the tree’s freshness.
  • Miniature lights, particularly LEDs and other energy-efficient bulbs, will produce much less heat and reduce drying of the tree. Do not overload the tree with too many lights.
  • Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set. And, do not overload electrical circuits, fuses or circuit breakers.
  • Always turn off the lights when leaving the house or when going to bed. Minimize how long the lights are on, such as not leaving the lights on during the day when they are less visible.
  • Monitor the tree for freshness by bending or pinching needles to test their flexibility. After Christmas or if the tree is dry and brittle, remove it from the house.

With just a few common sense steps, you can find a lovely fresh cut tree and keep it beautiful throughout the holiday season.

Spruce Up for the Holidays

From the Fir Family come some of our most beloved Christmas trees, the Colorado, Norway and White Spruce varieties. Both the Colorado and Colorado Blue Spruce have a nice pyramidal shapes with strong limbs that can hold heavy ornaments or light strands. The Colorado Blue is set apart by its stunning steel-blue foliage. The Norway Spruce has short, soft, deep green needles and the White Spruce possesses a robust full form. Both the Norway and White Spruce should be purchased planted in containers or balled and burlapped as they tend to lose their needles quickly when cut.

Beyond the holidays, spruces make a lovely addition to any landscape. When viewed in the northern forests, these majestic, needled evergreens are glorious with their graceful, symmetrical, conical forms. Smaller landscapes may also enjoy the merits of this genus with the many slow-growing and dwarf cultivars that are commonly offered, many of which are also ideal when selected as living holiday trees. Larger spruces work wonderfully planted in a row as a windbreak but shine equally as well when chosen as a specimen plant. Added benefits include deer resistance and salt tolerance.

Caring for Your Living Christmas Tree

If you do opt for a bagged, balled or potted spruce, there are certain steps you need to take so they can survive the rigors of the holiday and be ready for planting. 

  1. Only leave a live spruce tree inside the house for a maximum of 5-7 days.
  2. If possible, place the tree in a garage, carport or sheltered area to help acclimate it to a warmer location before putting it into the house. Keep the root ball moist.
  3. Before bringing indoors, spray the tree with Wilt-Pruf to help keep it from drying out.
  4. Place the tree in a tub of 2 inches of water and cover with newspaper or mulch to retain moisture.
  5. Place the tree away from heating vents, wood stoves and baseboard heaters.
  6. Check water level daily and refill as needed.
  7. Prepare your planting hole outside by digging it early and covering with plywood until needed. Store soil in the garage so it does not freeze.
  8. If possible, acclimate the tree once more by putting it in a garage or sheltered area for a few days before planting outside. Continue to keep the root ball moist.
  9. Plant the tree as you normally would, mulch and water well.

Growing Tips 

  • Plants require full sun, good air circulation and moist, well-drained, acidic soil.
  • Spruces are shallow-rooted and should always be planted high rather than low.
  • Mulch the root zone with a thick layer to keep plant roots cool and moist.
  • Consider available space and ultimate size of the chosen variety before planting.

 Since we are interfering with the natural growth cycle of these trees, their survival through the season cannot be guaranteed. However, customers who have purchased living trees from us and followed the guidelines have reported 80-85 percent success rate with the trees thriving in the spring. It is fun to look out into your yard at trees from Christmases past!

Outdoor Holiday Decorations

During the holidays we often spend a great deal of time, money and effort to decorate inside our homes, but why not continue that decorating outside? There are so many types of beautiful outdoor holiday decorations, you can make the exterior of your home just as distinctive and lovely for the season as the interior.

Containers

Large matching containers on either side of your driveway, walkway or front door make an elegant impression. Evergreen shrubs or small trees, gaily festooned with mini-lights, ornaments, bows and topped with a star are a welcoming sight for visiting friends and family. Consider holly or another plant with brightly colored winter berries. Neat and tidy camellias bloom during or soon after the holidays. The slow-growing, evergreen shrubs, Dwarf Alberta Spruce and the fragrant sarcococca will happily reside in containers for many years. Uplighting the container with solar powered lights eliminates power cord concerns and allows passersby to enjoy of your holiday décor during the evening hours.

Wreaths and Evergreen Garlands

Wreaths and garlands of fragrant greenery waft a holiday scent into the home every time the door opens. These are sold readymade as well as in bundles of greenery to make your own. Affix them to the front door, an entry banister or even draped along porch railings or entry columns for more elegance. Use bows, ornaments, seashells, fishing lures or whatever you fancy to coordinate the entry decoration with the house décor for a connected theme.

Fences and Gates

Whether you have a quaint picket fence, a rustic split-rail fence or an elegant wrought iron fence, you can decorate it. Swags of garland and greenery are quick and easy to add, and you can give them more color with strategically placed bows that not only hold up the greenery but accent it as well. Wrap a strand of lights along the garland so it will shine even in the darkness, or space out unbreakable ornaments to hang between posts. Swags of garland can also go along the top of a gate (be sure to leave an opening so the gate can be used), or opt for wreaths on the gate instead.

Driveways and Paths

Light up the lanes leading to your home by using solar-powered lights in holiday colors, or opt for themed lights to create a cheerful, whimsical holiday path. For a more elegant look, consider simple luminaries spaced regularly along an entry path, garden path, driveway or up a small staircase leading to your front door. Not only will the extra illumination be an elegant holiday look, but it can help give visitors a better view of the path to prevent slipping or tripping.

From inside to outside, have a happy holiday!