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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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Winter Silhouettes

Winter provides us the opportunity to examine our landscape silhouette, the flowing lines and overall shape of our landscape design. Combining varying heights, shapes and forms not only increases winter interest, but it also provides the framework for summer leaves, flowers and colors. So, how’s your garden’s silhouette shaping up?

Trees, Trees, Trees

Trees are the backbone of your landscape and are noticeable in every season. When flowers have faded and foliage has fallen, it is the trees that will be the stars of the show. If your winter landscape is lacking interest, here are some ideas for small to medium trees to provide winter texture and variety. If it’s too late (or too cold!) to plant now, consider the placement of one or more of our suggestions to incorporate after the big thaw.

  • Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’): This long-time favorite slowly grows to 8′ tall and wide. With drooping, twisty branches, this small tree is perfect in a large container, as a focal point or as a specimen in a small garden. Golden hanging catkins often persist through the winter. The contorted twigs and branches provide interest in flower arrangements.
  • Curly Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’): This upright rounded tree with curly twigs and branches grows to 30′ tall by 20′ wide, ideal for larger yards or bigger spaces. The twisted twigs, when encased in ice, bounce the sunlight around. When painted with metallic paint or shades of white, cut branches add interest to flower arrangements.
  • Paper Bark Maple (Acer griseum): This tree slowly grows to a gracefully shaped 15-30′ tall oval tree. Additional winter beauty is from its rich red to cinnamon-brown peeling and curling bark, which draws the eye both for its color and its texture. It’s simply beautiful against a snowy white background.
  • Weeping Cherry (Prunus subhirtella varieties): The fountain-like “weeping” form with slender drooping twigs casts fascinating shadows with its silhouette. Covered with a light dusting of snow or encased in ice, it looks like a sparkling Victorian chandelier and is an elegant focal point in the yard or flowerbed.
  • Slender Silhouette Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’): A columnar variety of an American native, this tall and slender introduction grows to 40′ tall by 5′ wide, perfect for adding strong vertical pop to punctuate the winter garden. This is ideal for narrow spaces or smaller yards.

Of course, our helpful staff is here to answer any questions and offer landscaping suggestions tailored to your specific needs. There is no reason your landscape silhouette needs to fade into nothingness when winter arrives – we have the right trees for you!

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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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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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Winter Warmth with a Chimenea

Is it just a bit chilly to sit outside and enjoy your fall or winter garden? Hundreds of years ago, Mexicans had the same problem. They solved it by making chimeneas and using them for heat and cooking. Will a modern chimenea help you enjoy your outdoor living space even as the weather turns cooler?

What Is a Chimenea?

The original chimeneas were made of clay with a distinct pot-belly look with an elongated chimney structure on top. Decorated with paint and incisions in the clay, each was unique and functional as well as decorative. Now, in addition to the original classic style, chimeneas are available in a wide variety of styles and materials to match every type of outdoor decor. Stainless steel, accessorized in a wide assortment of colors and finishes, is durable, strong and heavy. Cast iron construction is also sturdy and popular, and different shapes include more tapered designs, cones or unique dimensions. Some chimeneas are plain, while others may have relief carvings of flames, vines, suns, stripes or other decorations as part of their construction. Painted designs are also popular. Some designs even feature whimsical elements, such as a jack-o-lantern face, a chubby bear or other fun caricature carved into the structure.

No matter what the construction, chimeneas also have stands or legs to lift them several inches off the ground. Iron stands are popular, while some chimeneas have built-in stubby legs to serve the same purpose.

Chimeneas Indoors

Not only are they great garden accents, but chimeneas are also popular indoor decorating items. A philodendron or fern tumbling out from the opening is fun and sets your decorating theme. A terra cotta pot-bellied style sets well in a primitive or rustic décor in a screen room or enclosed porch. A sleek black pyramidal style blends into a contemporary setting. Of course, you can’t use it as a heat source when in the house unless it is designed to burn gel fuel and proper ventilation is available.

We have a fantastic assortment of chimeneas to grace your outdoor or indoor living space. From the classic terra cotta potbelly style to contemporary black cast iron with wood storage space, we have the perfect chimenea to warm you as you enjoy the fall and winter evenings. Come on in to see the selection. Our helpful staff can answer your questions, and can even hold your choice until Santa comes in to pick it for you.

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Living Christmas Wreath

For a unique holiday wreath, consider a living wreath you can enjoy throughout the year. These make beautiful gifts and are a fun project for the entire family to enjoy.

Materials Needed:

  • Wire wreath form (these come in a variety of shapes and sizes – a larger form will require less frequent watering)
  • Sphagnum moss (long-fiber is best)
  • Potting mix (soil mix for containers)
  • Plants (plants should have similar soil, sunlight and watering requirements)
  • Thin wire or “florist’s wire”

Procedure:

  1. Soak the sphagnum moss in water for 1-2 hours.
  2. Gently squeeze the moss to remove excess water. Pack and pat the moss into the bottom and sides of the form, covering the bottom and side wire to create space for the soil.
  3. Add slightly moistened soil between the moss walls, leaving the surface approximately one inch below the top of the form.
  4. Remove the plants from their pots and arrange them on the form. Try several arrangements to find the one you like best, taking care to balance plant sizes and shapes around the wreath.
  5. Using a spoon, dig holes and plant. Cover roots completely while planting.
  6. Cover the exposed soil with additional moss and tuck moss around the plants to retain the soil. This can also help cover any root tops that may still be exposed.
  7. If needed, wrap the form with floral wire to help hold the plants in place or add additional stability to the arrangement.
  8. Water the wreath and keep flat for two weeks to establish the plants and allow their roots to gain purchase.
  9. Until spring temperatures are in upper 40s, hang indoors in a bright or sunny location. During the holidays, use as a flat centerpiece surrounding candles with evergreen cuttings and pinecones. Hang it on the wall as a “picture frame” around prior holiday pictures or a small mirror. You could even frame an advent calendar or picture of Santa Claus!
  10. Between the holidays and spring, water weekly by misting. (You may need to move to a sink for watering). Fertilize every other month by mixing half-dilution of liquid fertilizer into the watering mist.
  11. In spring, move outdoors and hang in a bright but shaded location to prevent burning. Higher temperatures require more frequent watering. Continue to fertilize every other month.

Options: 

  • Consider using shells, pinecones or other items to add depth and interest.
  • For holidays, wrap a portion with colorful ribbon or insert short thin rods with ornaments or seasonal figures into the soil.
  • Succulents with low watering requirements are popular for wreaths. Available in a variety of colors and textures, plant the wreath with just one variety or use an assortment for a completely different look.
  • Use Epiphytic (“air plants”), bits of driftwood and shells for an ocean appearance.

Our garden center has many sizes and styles of forms, plants and other materials to meet your needs. Come on in to see us and get your decorating on!

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Time-Saving Tips for the Holidays

With shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, travel, entertaining and more all part of the holidays, it’s a wonder there is any time left over to just enjoy the season. These time-saving tips can help you make the most of every minute without sacrificing the joy and celebration that matters most at this time of year.

  • Start early! You may not enjoy seeing “Christmas Creep” in stores before Halloween, but if you start addressing holiday cards ahead of time, make freezer recipes for holiday meals or try shopping for holiday gifts with Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and other fall sales, you’ll have far less to do the closer the holidays get.
  • Tabletop topiaries are great for holiday decorating, and need nothing more than a festive bow for instant seasonal appeal. They also make a green and growing addition to your home when you need it most in the late winter months. Pick one up from the nursery for an instant gift – no wrapping needed!
  • Cast stone cherubs and garden sculptures make wonderful holiday decorations set off by greens and berries. When the holidays are over, you don’t need to lug them into storage. You can even change their decorations seasonally to reuse them as fun and whimsical accents throughout the year.
  • Present gifts in reusable gift bags, stockings, baskets, tins and garden totes for easy wrapping job that’s recyclable. For even more flair, use a colorful scarf as an impromptu ribbon, or trim the package with seed packets or small garden tools instead of disposable bows.
  • Start Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs now. Use potting soil rather than gravel for longer lasting blooms. Also consider other living holiday gifts, such as fragrant herbs, luxurious poinsettias or even a shaped rosemary plant or miniature Norfolk Island Pine decorated for the season.
  • Float a candle or a sprig of greens in a crystal bowl for an instant elegant center piece. Add more color with marbles or pebbles in the bowl, or choose a bowl with etching or seasonal patterns for subtle flair.
  • Start your holiday baking early and freeze doughs or completed recipes to save time later. Baked goods – cookies, breads and fudges – also make delicious and easy gifts, with no extra time needed for another batch if you’ve doubled the recipe.
  • Keep a few extra wrapped gifts in a handy closet, labeling the contents with Post-It notes so you can quickly choose a gift for an unexpected guest. Easy items to give include warm gloves or socks, fragrant candles, seasonal photo frames, mini tabletop games, tote bags and luxury soaps.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate! Consider a pot luck holiday dinner, enlist your kids to keep the tree stand full of water, share shopping tasks with a sibling, join a cookie exchange for less stress holiday baking or shop online to have gifts wrapped and delivered right to the recipients.
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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!

Herbal Delights

No matter how cold the temperatures or how deep the snow, you can enjoy the pleasures of herbs this winter season by growing them in your windowsill. Herbs are great for adding zest to any food and are a delicious substitute for salt and artificial flavors. They can also make dinner a visual delight! Add herbs to breads, soups and stews for flavor or use as a lovely garnish. Here are some great selections to try…

Rosemary is a must for the cook. Fresh rosemary is much richer and more fragrant than dried sprigs. Its needle-like foliage has a piney or resinous aroma and flavor. Rosemary is good with any meat or poultry, with stronger tasting fish, and with pizza, breads and potatoes. It is companionable with garlic and citrus flavors. A pleasing apple jelly can be scented with rosemary for a gourmet touch.

Chives, being a member of the onion family, is one of the few flavoring plants that appreciates some fertilizer. The hollow spears should be cut as needed by clipping a few spears just above the ground. It is used mostly as a garnish or final ingredient wherever a light onion taste is wanted, and it won’t overpower your recipes.

Mints are a necessity for herb windowsill gardens. No one would want to be without spearmint and peppermint, and maybe orange mint, for fresh teas and additions to fruit cups and ice cream. Fragrant and luscious, mints also make delightful garnishes for drinks or can be frozen into ice cubes.

Sage is a standby for poultry, breads and stuffings and combines well with corn or apples. Fried leaves are good to nibble. Experiment with different types of sage to enjoy their subtle variations and different flavors.

Thyme, a huge family of small upright, mounding or creeping plants, comes in a variety of flavors. You will find varieties labeled French, English, Common and Lemon, with leaves that may be all green or silver-edged or even variegated with gold. Every herb garden should have some thyme, and it pairs will with lamb as well as in marinades and salads.

Oregano is the hardier cousin of marjoram. It is a familiar flavoring in Italian and Greek cooking, in meats, sauces and of course in pizza. Oregano can be added to salads, used in marinades or mixed in with breads for rich flavor without any butter needed.

When growing your herbs, be mindful of their sunlight needs and keep them away from heating vents that can dry the soil out too quickly. Use organic fertilizers like fish emulsion and seaweed sparingly. Although fertilizers make the plants beautiful to look at, the less fertilizer used on an herb, the better it will taste. Now is a great time to start growing or to add to your culinary herb collection. Winter is the perfect time to start adding zest and flavor to your cooking!

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