Category Archives: Christmas

That’s a Wrap

That’s a wrap. No more “hoe hoe hoe” and lots of “ho ho ho” as another gardening year ends and the holidays arrive. How was your year? Here’s “ho ho hoping” your tomatoes were all you thought they would be this year and your landscape brought you the “ho ho horticultural” joy you were seeking. Were you naughty or nice? Doesn’t really matter at this point with the ground frozen solid. What matters are visions of sugar plums and spring blooming dreams dancing in your head.
Provide the wild birds a holiday “tweet” with some seed and suet offerings in this season of giving. The landscape color they provide in a white and grey tundra backdrop is a welcome sight as we approach the shortest days of the year. Make sure feeders are clean and seed stays dry so your feeding station is the gift that keeps giving.

When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed....they need a water source and suet too!

When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed….they need a water source and suet too!

Make sure to keep fresh clean water in the tree stand so your live cut Christmas tree continues to draw fresh water. If not, the base of your tree trunk calluses over and then has a “drinking problem” unable to pull water into the tree similar to a straw. One way to check the water level at a glance is to float a ping pong ball or fishing bobber or other small floatation in the bowl. You can visually gauge the level versus having to crawl under the tree and use the finger method. A household pet can usually provide a good indication too based on their level of interest.
Poinsettias provide great seasonal color indoors and are quite festive and durable through the holidays provided you avoid a couple conditions. First and foremost is over watering. Most people kill the plants with kindness. Don’t commit involuntary plant slaughter by drowning your plants. Secondly avoid cold drafts. I’m not referring to a holiday draft brew, save that for yourself. I’m talking about drafty doorways sure to bring on rapid decline of the plant.

Proper care for Poinsettias...don't over water and avoid cold drafts

Proper care for Poinsettias…don’t over water and avoid cold drafts

Conversely the dry air of close proximity to a heat register is not good either. Look for a well lit area that is removed from “extremes” and you should be just fine. Today’s improved varieties of poinsettias developed by breeders for longevity and color should easily survive until April when your thoughts again return to the great outdoors and the plant is pitched into the trash.

Hoe Hoe Hoe

Many studies produce strong evidence that even three to five minutes of contact with “nature” can significantly reduce stress and have a complex impact on emotions, reducing anger and fear and increasing pleasant feelings. That beats drinking eggnog so let heaven and nature sing! Have a “natural” Christmas with evergreen boughs, a fresh cut tree or live potted tree, a Poinsettia, Norfolk Island Pine, Christmas Cactus, Paperwhites, Amaryllis or fresh arrangement!

Evergreen boughs make "scents"

Evergreen boughs make “scents”

Other studies I read continue to suggest that environment can influence your mood. For example, the results of several research studies reveal that rooms with bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve a variety of health outcomes. Now there’s a good reason to get out a ladder and string some Christmas lights indoors and out and be merry! I have personally many times seen the effect some strategically placed Christmas lights can have on the disposition of someone who is feeling a little down during the holidays. A little bit of “electric ivy” can make their spirits bright.

Electric Ivy

Electric Ivy

With winter comes shorter day length and landscape dormancy which makes the aroma, the feel, the sight of evergreen branches such a welcome addition to our homes during the Christmas season. Enjoy the sweet smell of Douglas Fir, the prickly personality of Spruce, the distinctive aroma of Fraser Fir (to my nose Fir has a hint of citrus) or the comfortable presence of Pine that makes you feel at home. Start with some welcoming containers of evergreen for your deck or entry steps. I like to use large ceramic pots that were used for flowering annuals during the growing season but any large pots will suffice. In November before the soil freezes hard, evergreen branches cut at a 45 degree angle to create a point can be pushed into the soil to arrange your festive welcome. If you’re potting up some new containers make sure to have some bags of thawed potting soil stored for use for when you’re ready to arrange. After your arrangement is made and left outdoors the soil will freeze and hold the branches in place. . Look around and be creative, you’ll be surprised how much there is to choose from. Some branches from a Holly, Dogwood or Ninebark shrub or Birch and Willow branches will make the perfect supplement to the evergreen boughs. Just make sure to check with your neighbors and get their permission before snipping in their yard so we keep everyone’s spirits bright.
A few evergreen wreaths and some evergreen garland will help make things merry and festive. I have found the use of the anti-wilt sprays of pine resin that we use on landscape plants in winter are very effective also in helping keep the needles green into January on fresh wreaths and garland.

Hoe Hoe Hoe

The landscape provides a bounty of holiday decorating opportunities with entry porch pots to welcome visitors to your home. Flowers now frozen in pots can be pulled and you can create warm welcoming containers in existing pots that I call “porch pots” for the holiday season. Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, let your landscape add to the festive look of the holidays.

Evergreen branches and decorations in a standard nursery pot with soil

Evergreen branches and decorations in a standard nursery pot with soil

Start with some containers for your deck or entry steps. I like to use ceramic pots that were used for flowering annuals during the growing season. In November before the soil freezes hard, branches cut at a 45 degree angle to create a point can be pushed into the soil to arrange your festive welcome. If you’re potting up some new containers make sure to have some bags of thawed potting soil stored for use for when you’re ready to arrange. After your arrangement is made and left outdoors the soil will freeze and hold the branches in place.
With a good pruning shears and a pleasant November day, a bountiful harvest can be had to add color to outdoor container arrangements and wreaths. The foundation of your arrangement will be evergreen boughs.

Evergreen branches

Evergreen branches

You can purchase evergreen boughs in bundles or prune your own. Here in Michigan Douglas Fir is a great choice because of their fragrance. Fraser Fir is easy to work with and provides beautiful evergreen color. Colorado Blue Spruce will add some color and interest, just make sure you’re wearing gloves when working with their prickly attitude. Scotch Pine and White Pine are also great choices. Oregon greens are available for purchase and evergreen boughs of Noble Fir and Incense Cedar as examples provide great interest.
Now that you’ve placed the foundation stems of evergreen boughs in the pot working from the center to the outside arching them over the side, the fun is just beginning.

Red Twig Dogwood adds lots of color!

Red Twig Dogwood adds lots of color!

Now we get creative with remnants of the landscape to add color and interest. My favorite cuttings or stems to work into my arrangements are:
• Red Twig Dogwood
• Curly Willow
• Gold Twig Dogwood
• Birch branches
• Upright Sedum
• Deciduous Holly Berry Branches
• Agastache
• Ninebark Branches
• Echinacea or Rudbeckia spent bloom seed heads
Use your creativity to find items in the landscape to offset the evergreen branches in both color and texture.

Gold twig Dogwood
Finally you can add some artificial elements to the arrangement. Solid color ball ornaments can be added, some are available on sticks to poke into the soil. Plastic colored ball ornaments may be a good choice if breakage is a concern. Artificial berry stems can be purchased to add bright colors. LED lights can be added for nighttime interest and color. If a plug is not handy or extension cords would be unsightly, LED lights use little power and are available in battery operated options also.
Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, your landscape is in the spirit of the season with festive gatherings in porch pots, and a little help from you.

Happy Holly Daze

It’s time to deck the halls and yard in a festive flurry as we all test our holiday design skills squeezed into our already busy daily schedules….sounds like fun huh? I call it “Holly Daze” and you suddenly discover you’re in the thick of it when standing on an aluminum ladder in the dark holding a ball of lights and an extension cord.Auld Lang Pine You Auld Lang “Pine” for some help navigating the hap…happiest of holidays. Here are some “Holly Daze” pointers to help you through this “most wonderful time of the year.” Rick’s Six so to speak…….

1) Measure the area in your home where your tree will go before going to shop for your tree. Then take the tape measure along with you when going to get the tree. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree and immediately plunge it into fresh water. Place a ping pong ball or fishing bobber in the bowl of the tree stand so you can see at a glance the water level. Maintain a sufficient water level in the tree stand at all times.stack of trees

2) In our area tying the tree to the top of the family sleigh is legal. You are however responsible to securely tie the tree. How many of us have cringed observing the vehicle on the expressway with a mattress tied to the top of the car? Place the tree with the trunk or butt or handle facing the front of the car, not the top facing the front. Think aerodynamics. It is your responsibility to prevent driving with a load that is “dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing off or shifting” for both your safety and the safety of others on the road.

3) If you light up the exterior of your home, it is generally considered neighborly practice to unplug the lights at night when you go to bed.Christmas lights This is particularly true if you have thousands of blinking lights and a 15 foot tall inflatable Santa in the front yard.

4) Christmas greens add fragrance, style and drama to your entry areas. Fresh green roping, wreaths and boughs are the perfect welcome to visitors arriving on your doorstep. Consider using an anti-dessicant spray like Wilt Stop to your greens to keep them fresh. A biodegradable pine resin spray can keep those greens looking fresh all the way to Valentine’s day if you choose to keep them up that long.blog porch pots With the popularity of container gardening, have some Porch Pots on the front steps to add to the holiday cheer. Some evergreen boughs, some clippings from the landscape and some ornamentation will make for a container of Christmas cheer.

5) Speaking of Christmas cheer, don’t drink and decorate. The Christmas spirits will cause you to think your presentation is beautiful but may be just the opposite to your audience…..those who drive by your house. glass of wineBesides it would be downright dangerous to drink and climb around on ladders with extension cords in your hands. Decorate like you drive…..and while you’re at it, wait with texting until the halls are decked.

6) Christmas is for kids but don’t use them for design or style advice. More can be tacky. Try repetition of a style or color. It ties the display together, gives it “reason” and is far more stylish than clutter.

It's over....call it a day....sorry that it had to end this way

It’s over….call it a day….sorry that it had to end this way

Happy Holly Daze! Before you know it as Johnny Mathis would sing…..it’s over….call it a day….sorry that it had to end this way…..

Fraser Fir

“Hoe, Hoe, Hoe”……..After a very hot and dry summer……thought you might like a peek at Christmas Tree Hill in North Carolina. Took this picture of Fraser Fir getting ready to be harvested for the Christmas season……will be here before you know it!

Fraser Fir growing on Christmas tree hill