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Outdoor Ornamentation

Do you miss the vibrancy of your flowerbeds and the rich, lush colors of your landscape once winter sets in? With warm weather pots, window boxes and hanging baskets already in place, decorating the outside of your house this winter will be a cinch!

  1. Use only containers that are winter safe. Porous pots, like terra cotta, are not a good choice as they tend to crack when they freeze. Better choices include cast iron or aluminum urns, fiberglass or foam containers and cocoa-lined wire hanging baskets and troughs. For a truly holiday look, consider containers that may have red-and-green coloration or other holiday hues, or look for whimsical holiday-themed designs.
  2. Use the soil that is already in your containers. Remove just the tops from your previous plantings, allowing their roots to remain in the soil as an anchor for your winter arrangement. OASIS Floral foam is another good choice that works well for smaller outdoor arrangements like those in hanging baskets. You may also need some plant or gardening pins to help keep your arrangement in place and secure.
  3. Begin by adding greens to your container (note: your greens will last longer if soaked in Wilt-Pruf for 24 hours before using). Cut branches to the desired length and remove all green needles from the portion that will be inserted into the soil. Create a dense base for your arrangement using either white pine or spruce. Consider allowing some boughs to trail over the edge of the arrangement for more visual interest, or mix up different types of greens for interesting texture.
  4. Create a focal point for your arrangement with the addition of a few tall branches of curly willow, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, red twig dogwood or white painted birch. Position these taller elements near the back of the arrangement to allow more room for additional plants and decorative items. To add more magic to the arrangement, consider painting taller branches gold or silver.
  5. To include additional color and texture, incorporate more winter-themed plants into the arrangement. Magnolia leaves, holly, incense cedar, winterberry, China berry, pepper berry, protea, eucalyptus or other decorative branches and berries are all top choices. Go for a lush, tiered look for the best effect.
  6. To bring your arrangement to life add mini white or colored lights, desired ornaments and weather-proof ribbon. For a more whimsical look, consider garlands, candy canes, cranberry strings or even a fairy gingerbread house. Remove these when the holiday season ends and leave the arrangement intact until time for spring planting.
  7. You might spruce up around the pot to bring even more notice to your arrangement. Consider a ribbon around the pot, or add light-up gift boxes or wrapped boxes around the pot to create a larger focus.

With just a few steps, the outdoor containers you enjoy in spring, summer and fall can continue to be lovely accents for holiday and winter decoration.

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Holiday Tree for the Birds

Celebrate the season with your feathered friends by decorating a tree in your yard, or even one in a container, with special treats they’ll love.

Bird-Friendly Ornaments

There are several types of delicious “ornaments” birds will love, and they can be fun, easy projects to brighten up a winter day.

  • Pine Cone Feeders
    Pine cones are easy to turn into impromptu bird feeders. Gather some pine or spruce cones. Tie a loop of twine or colorful holiday yarn around the top to use as a hanger. Fill the crevices with peanut butter, then roll in bird seed or cornmeal.
  • Orange Halves
    Don’t toss out that orange rind – turn it into a bird feeder! Fill scooped out orange halves with a mixture of peanut butter, suet and seed. Poke a length of wire, yarn or twine through the top to attach to the tree. Coconut halves are another great option.
  • Bird Cakes and Muffins
    Make “bird cakes” to set in the branches: Melt 2 cups of suet in a saucepan. Mix in 2 cups of peanut butter and several cups of cornmeal, until the mixture is soft but not too sticky. Spoon mixture into muffin cups and decorate with black oil sunflower seed. Cool before using.

Great Garlands

What’s a holiday tree without garland? To make a bird-friendly, edible decoration, string unsalted, unbuttered popcorn on lengths of heavy-duty thread, twine or yard (avoid fishing line that birds can get tangled in too easily). For more color and variety, add whole peanuts, cranberries, grapes and raisins to the garland as well, or even a few loops of whole grain, unsweetened cereal such as plain Cheerios. You can even include other dried fruits, but avoid any seasoned or sweetened options (those foods aren’t good for birds). Weave your edible garland among the branches.

And Lastly, the Tree Topper!

Top your bird-friendly feeder tree with a grapefruit “star” the birds will love. Slice the ends off a grapefruit, leaving a 1″ slice in the middle (use the ends to fill with seed or peanut butter mixture, a larger version of the filled orange halves). Wire 5 cranberries around the edge of the slice to form the points of a star, trimming away the excess rind in between if desired. Then, wire the whole thing to the top of your tree.

Now stand back and watch as your feathered friends enjoy their holiday feast!

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Plants for Winter Interest & Holiday Decorating

Wouldn’t you love to have an abundance of fresh holiday greens, brilliant berries and colorful twigs at your fingertips at the beginning of the winter holidays each and every year? Endless fodder for wreath making, mantle decorating, garland enhancing and container filling can be yours for the taking if you plan now and plant come spring.

Top picks include…

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You may not be able to add every type of winter interest plant to your landscaping, but just a few select options will give you plenty of raw material to work with no matter what natural decorations you would like to craft. To make the most of these options…

  • Choose plants that will work well in your landscaping, taking into account soil type, sunlight levels and the plants’ mature sizes to be sure they will thrive. Plant them properly and give them appropriate care so they stay healthy and lush.
  • Opt for faster-growing varieties if you want extra raw material to work with for seasonal decorating. This will give you more prunings to use for your holiday crafts, but don’t overprune or you risk damaging the plants and they may not recover.
  • Choose at least 1-2 plants from each category if space permits in your landscape. This will give you even more variety to work with to create stunning holiday arrangements. Alternatively, opt for plants that can do double duty, providing both foliage and berries, for example.
  • Consult with neighbors if they have plants you’d like to use; they may be happy to let you have their prunings and you can share a decorated arrangement as a gift in return. You can also visit Christmas tree lots or botanical gardens to ask about raw material that may be available for free or at a very low cost.

With proper planning for your landscape, you will ensure you have plenty of handy material for all your natural holiday decorating needs.

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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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The Winter Landscape

Although the blooms of summer are a distant memory and the splendor of fall is neatly raked into the compost pile, don’t think your yard has to be dreary from now until spring. Background planting, berries, bark and even blooms are the secrets of a colorful and interesting winter landscape.

Background Planting

Evergreens are the mainstay of the winter landscape. When the shade and flowering trees and shrubs of spring and summer have entered their winter sleep, it’s evergreens that take the stage. Spruce, cedar, pine, hemlock, arborvitae, yew and juniper – there are many beautiful varieties suitable for foundation or specimen planting, windbreaks, screens and groundcovers. Some change into their ‘winter wardrobe’ too: “Reingold” Arborvitae takes on a coppery hue, while junipers like “Bar Harbor” and “Prince of Wales” turn bronzy purple. Don’t forget broad-leaved evergreens for texture contrast, plus make use of evergreen perennials like Coral Bells (Heuchera), Thrift (Armeria), Creeping Phlox, Candytuft (Iberis) and varieties of Sedum for groundcover or edging. A few ornamental grasses such as Blue Fescue retain their color in winter and can create interesting and colorful tufts in a barren landscape. The foliage and flowers of others, like Miscanthus and Fountain Grass (Pennisetum), dry to a biscuit color and look particularly effective against a snowy backdrop.

Berries

Berry-bearing plants are a boon for birds and other wildlife, as well as being a decorative addition to the winter landscape. Try prickly Pyracantha, colorful cotoneaster and hardy hollies – a must for holiday decorating. Hollies come in many shapes and sizes for all sorts of landscaping situations. Plant a dwarf grower like “Blue Angel” (Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Angel’) as a foundation plant, a medium grower like “China Girl” (Ilex cornuta ‘China Girl’) as a screen or hedge and a tall grower like “Nellie Stevens” (Ilex) as a specimen. Hollies require a male pollinator for best berry production. Be sure and ask which pollinator you need for the variety you select.

Bark

The beautiful bark which many trees and shrubs exhibit can be seen at its best during winter, when leaves have fallen and surrounding plants are bare. Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) is a delightful small specimen tree with reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in thin papery sheets. Consider white-barked European or Himalayan Birch or water-loving River Birch with its eye-catching grey-brown to cinnamon colored peeling bark. For attractive mottled trunks, plant Stewartia and Crepe Myrtle. The dazzling stems of Red and Yellow Twig Dogwood brighten as the winter progresses bringing cheer to dreary days. Twig Dogwoods look particularly stunning when planted in groupings in front of evergreen trees.

Blooms

Even in the middle of winter, there are a few plants that will surprise us with flowers. Perennial Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has pretty white buttercup-like flowers; its cousin, Lenten Rose (H. orientalis) blooms a little later with flowers ranging from purplish green to white and pink. Both are shade-loving and grow slowly to a loose evergreen clump. Witch Hazel (Hammamelis mollis) is a large, multi-stemmed shrub with fragrant late winter blooms in yellow, orange or red. Other late winter bloomers, all of which are also fragrant, include Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealii), Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and Sweet Box (Sarcoccoca).

Stop by soon and talk to us about planning your landscape to include background plantings, berries, bark and blooms for winter interest. Your yard will never have the winter doldrums again!

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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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Care of Christmas Greens

Fresh cut greens – pine boughs, holly sprigs, mistletoe, etc. – are wonderful for winter and holiday décor, both indoors and out. Extend the life and enjoyment of your fresh greens by following these easy steps:

  • SOAK – Immerse greens in cold water overnight or up to 24 hours. The needles will soak up moisture to stay plump and firm. A good location for accomplishing this task is in a utility sink or bath tub, but be sure the water won’t freeze while the greens are soaking. Use only fresh, plain water without any additives or chemicals.
  • DRY – Allow greens to drip dry for an hour or so in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. This will remove excess water from the branch ends so they do not leak.
  • SPRAY – If desired, spray Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant, on greens when they are finished dripping. This will seal moisture into the needles extending the life of your greens. Do not use this on Princess Pine, and note that this product may change the color of blue-colored cut greens like Colorado Blue Spruce and Blue Juniper. Test the spray on an inconspicuous area first to be sure you don’t mind any changes.
  • DRY – Allow the greens to dry thoroughly after spraying and before decorating and hanging or arranging. This will be sure there are no water spots on any of your bows, accent pieces or ornaments that are part of your fresh arrangements.
  • COOL – Keep greens in as cool a location as possible, out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source, including heating vents, ceiling fans and air ducts. Moving arrangements of fresh greens onto a cool porch or into a garage each night can help extend their vibrancy.
  • BUNDLE – Arrange your fresh greens in dense bundles and bunches, either as wreaths, vase arrangements or swags. As a group, they will help keep each other fresh with slightly higher humidity between each green.
  • CLEAN – Keep fresh greens crisp and clean through the holiday season by dusting them lightly. Use only a clean, lint-free cloth without any sprays or chemicals. This will remove dust that may dim the arrangements, but chemicals could damage the greens or change their colors. Do not brush the greens so harshly that you may damage or dislodge their needles, foliage or berries.

With proper care, your fresh cut greens can be stunning holiday decorations for several days or weeks, bringing a touch of nature into your home even when the world is cased in ice and snow.

Fresh Cut Trees

There’s nothing quite like a fresh, vibrant Christmas tree with its bold branches, crisp scent and natural charm. But which tree is right for your holiday décor? There are several popular tree species that can be ideal decorations.

Douglas Fir

  • This tree holds its dark green needles for a good while, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer to decorate their tree early or like to enjoy their tree into the new year. The soft branches and needles emit a faint lemon scent when rubbed. Douglas Firs have an airy open shape, great for lots of ornaments, garlands and lights.
  • Scotch Pine
    This tree has a beautiful bluish cast which gives it a bit of a frosted appearance, especially on lighter new growth. The needles are long and soft, giving the tree a bushier, fuller appearance even without quite as many branches. It has a wonderful pine fragrance reminiscent of the most classic holiday celebrations.
  • Fraser Fir
    This pine is an aristocrat among Christmas trees with its short grey-green needles and majestic shape. Typically, this tree stays fresh the longest with long needle retention, ideal for longer periods indoors. The branches have a more open shape, great for displaying stunning ornaments. Fraser firs have a delicate evergreen fragrance.
  • Concolor Fir
    This tree looks similar to a blue spruce in shape and color, but its needles are soft, rather than sharp, and have a fresh lemon scent. The branches are very sturdy and great for hanging ornaments, garlands, lights, candy canes and other decorations.

When Your Fresh Cut Tree Isn’t So Fresh

When Christmas is over and your tree starts to droop, you have many options to keep it useful. First, you can easily recycle your tree; many parks and towns sponsor tree recycling programs in January. If you live near a beach, there may be a program to install cut trees on sand dunes to help control erosion. If you prefer to use your tree at home, the boughs make perfect mulch for perennials and the trunk can also be chipped for mulch. Chunks of the trunk can even be made into simple bird feeders or similar garden crafts, or you can use the whole tree as an impromptu brush pile to provide protection and shelter for winter wildlife. You might even consider decorating your tree again using cranberry and popcorn strings, small birdseed ornaments and chunks of fruit to create a bird feeding station.

Fresh cut trees are amazing holiday traditions for many families, and there is a perfect tree type to suit your decorating preferences to make amazing holiday memories.

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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!