Oh Tannen-gone Oh Tannen-gone how lovely are your branches

The holidays are over and you are now faced with a couple of decisions. When do I get rid of the Christmas tree and what do I do with it? This of course is an easy decision if the tree is life-like, find the storage container and pack it away for another season. If it’s a fresh cut tree you need to take action soon. Good thing you resolved to be a better pro-active decision maker as a New Year’s resolution. Here are some things to ponder as you wander through your living space considering your next move.
1. I suggest the purchase of a nice foliage houseplant. A Schefflera or Ficus will motivate you to fill the space. It will also clean your indoor air in the next few months as we “plow” through the remaining winter season.
2. Many cities and municipalities offer a drop off site and in some cases pick up for your tree. This is a good choice because they have the equipment to recycle your tree into mulch and compost with heavy equipment. The mulch and compost will be used in parks as path material for hikers and other areas becoming once again one with the earth.

How lovely are your branches

3. Here’s a thought for those of you with a crafty side. The trunk can be cut into discs and converted into coasters and trivets.
4. Branches can be snipped and stored to use for staking plants.
5. Branches can be snipped with foliage as boughs and used as mulch in perennial beds in the landscape.
6. I like to stand up the tree outside in the landscape for January-April. The birds love it as shelter. You can encourage them by adding some suet or a feeder hung somewhere near the tree. Orange slices or strung popcorn is another option in the tree. In spring cut up the tree and add it to the compost pile.
7. Branches can be cut up and used as kindling for your OUTDOOR firepit. Do NOT burn them in a fireplace or wood stove indoors.
8. With permission some people sink them in a pond or lake as a fish habitat. Check first if allowed and seek permission. Make sure the tree is free of any ornaments, hooks, lights or other non-natural decorations.
9. Needles off the tree make a great natural mulch for your landscape, especially for broadleaf evergreen plants like Rhododendron, Azaleas and Holly.
10. Some of the needles can be saved to be used in potpourri and sachets, evergreen scents have that clean purifying effect on our senses when cooped up with the window closed in winter.

Oh Tannen-gone Oh Tannen-gone how lovely are your branches

Avant Garden

If Avant-garde is the act of new and unusual or experimental ideas, then the months of winter are “Avant-garden” or “Avant-yard” as we all anxiously dream and await the arrival of spring.

There is always "bloom" for improvement in our landscapes
There is always “bloom” for improvement in our landscapes

After the cold of winter we look forward to getting active outdoors again and getting our hands in the dirt. Home and Garden shows whet our appetite for what is new and interesting for our outdoor living space this year. A season of promise and renewal awaits our foray into the landscape of great potential.
As we dream you may find you can relate to some of the garden trends for 2016. Among these trends are “Dogscaping”. That’s right you’ll be barking up the right tree with this trend because it is estimated 65% of households have some kind of pet! Toxin free spaces for pets to roam and explore are in demand as pet owners invest in their pets.

Dog days of summer
Dog days of summer….Friendly landscapes for your pet is a gardening trend.

The wellness connection and health benefits of a landscape and vegetation is well noted and a continuing trend. Within the trend is a group of people called “Makers”. This group of “entremanures” goes beyond the fresh air and exercise benefits and harvests everything from hops to tomatoes to berries. They are interested in plants that go beyond aesthetic benefits and provide healing benefits.

Preserving and rebuilding healthy soils is a continuing trend with real interest tied into healthy eating. Not only does good soil have anti-depressant qualities, it is understood that soil is the “skin” of the earth. I read someone say that depletion of that “skin” has led to the collapse of civilizations! Well that is dramatic however you can make a difference in your own backyard. A healthy soil produces healthy plants and healthy produce.

Healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy you
Healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy you

Succulent mania continues where even outside the parched landscapes of California, people have cultivated an appreciation for the diverse and interesting collage of succulent plants.

Succulent mania
Succulent mania

Easy to grow and arrange, if you don’t over water them your green thumb will flourish.

Community planting of trees is also a continuing trend. Neighbors not waiting on municipalities to fund or plant trees, but rather taking it on themselves to plant trees in the community.
LED lights, outdoor sound systems, furniture and cooking areas are creating multi sensory opportunities in the landscape beyond what the typical yard has encompassed.
There is also a trend to go back….a trend for nostalgia to invoke pleasant childhood memories. Maybe a plant Grandma had in the garden, Mom’s vegetable garden or summer holiday memories of lounge chairs and grilling. I believe that as a child, if you take a deep breath of an aroma, it is locked in your memory for life. Maybe it was the bouquet of lilac blooms in a glass of water on your Grandma’s kitchen table that take you back.

An aroma from your childhood is locked in your brain's memory for life....like the blooming lilacs in Grandma's garden
An aroma from your childhood is locked in your brain’s memory for life….like the blooming lilacs in Grandma’s garden

Hardy gardens are a definite trend, especially in areas of the country where water is scarce. Also known as “legacy” gardens the plant material is intended not just for our benefit, but also for future generations. Small space or container gardens continue as a trend for both aesthetic as well as edible plants. Small space gardens can brighten our little corner of the world and yet are easy to control or maintain within our busy lifestyles.
Dare to dream during the winter months and plan for something simply “Avant-garden” this year.

Auld Lang Pine

The Scot’s song Auld Lang Syne can be translated into English literally as “old long since” or as reference to days gone by. I’m not big into the winter season so I generally refer to it as “Old Lang Pine” as I look back on the year past and “pine” for warm weather and a new growing season. The Christmas trimmings begin to look sad as we prepare for a fresh start in a New Year.

Auld Lang "Pine"

Just as we all have some Christmas traditions many have New Year’s traditions too. For me I run the lawnmower on New Year’s eve at some point.  Laugh if you want but it’s safer than shooting guns in the air as is the tradition in some parts of the world. Some years due to snow I can only start the mower in place and let it run for a few moments. This year because of the lack of snow I may be able to take a couple of laps in the yard. My neighbors attribute my behavior to a cup of kindness but I find a much deeper meaning. To make a “lawn” story short, just like a newly mowed lawn we get to trim the past from our lives as the clock strikes midnight and move on with a fresh outlook….a new beginning. I also like to listen to the Dan Fogelberg song “Same Old Lang Syne” a few times. Call me “sappy” but there is something about that song that always touches me. Maybe it’s the line about drinking a toast to innocence, or the “old familiar pain” as the snow turns into rain. It was only recently I realized that the melody phrase at the beginning of each verse is taken by Fogelberg from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, one of my all time favorite if not most favorite music pieces of music which explains a lot. In my reading I learned that people in Spain consume 12 grapes at midnight, one grape for each stroke of the clock. Looking for a deeper meaning I was disappointed to surmise the tradition began in 1909 when grape growers started the practice to take care of a grape surplus. Others eat pork or ham based on the idea pigs symbolize progress. The pig progresses forward using it’s snout to “root” about in the slop in a forward direction before moving. Not sure there is much validity to this premise and it may cause you to lose your appetite unless you’re big into pork chops.

Whatever your New Year’s tradition I wish for you a safe celebration and a blessed prosperous New Year. From the words of Auld Lang Syne one of the less known verses says

Picking Daisies

“We too have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine; but we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.” May you have a kick in your step in the coming year, may the daisies bloom beautifully. May the lawn mower work when it’s supposed to, and may you have a “root” awakening. Most of all I hope you’re like the lovers in the Dan Fogelberg song who “laugh until they cry.”

I had a friend send me some words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the other day that are perfect for those of us who have disappointment in their past, and who doesn’t, so I’ll share these words. “Nor deem the irrevocable past as wholly wasted, wholly vain if, rising on its wrecks, at last to something nobler we attain.”