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Create a Beautiful Tree in 6 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how to create that beautiful Christmas tree, the kind featured in photo shoots and magazines? Whether you opt for a live potted tree, a fresh cut pine or an artificial tree you can reuse for several years, the steps to a stunning, artistic tree are the same, and you don’t have to be an interior designer to create a lovely Christmas tree. 

  1. Color
    Pick a theme color or color pair. This may be colors you simply like together, or you could mimic school colors, a favorite sports team or classic holiday pairings like burgundy and gold or blue and silver. Consider your tree theme and choose colors accordingly, such as blue and aqua for a tropical, undersea tree, or white and silver for a winter wonderland tree.
  2. Lights
    Use one strand of 70 to 100 lights for each foot of tree (7 strands for a 7-foot tree). This will be the approximate ratio on a pre-lit artificial tree, or you will need to add lights to a live tree. Spread the strands out evenly, and tuck wires into the tree so they are less visible. White lights or a single color are generally more elegant than multi-colored strands.
  3. Ribbon
    Plan on 40 to 60 yards of ribbon unless the tree is in a corner. The treetop will typically take 10-15 yards of this amount. You can also mix two ribbons for a nice effect, too. Wire-edged ribbon is easier to shape into graceful curves, and a broad ribbon will make a more dramatic impact, particularly on a larger tree. Drape the trailing edges of ribbon down the sides of the tree, either straight toward the ground or in a graceful spiral.
  4. Accents
    Add silk or dried flowers as your next step along with garland. Make sure flowers are placed at different depths within the tree so there is dimension. Holiday flowers such as poinsettias are most popular, but you can opt for different blooms to coordinate with your theme, such as roses for a Victorian tree or tropical flowers for a festive beach-themed tree.
  5. Balls
    Use 6-8 boxes of plain glass ball ornaments, either all the same color or 3-4 boxes each of two coordinating colors. Tuck some of these ornaments deeper within the tree to reflect more light and add depth to your decorating. A medium-size ornament is appropriate, or choose balls of different sizes but in the same plain color and basic shape.
  6. Ornaments
    Add themed ornaments last for that finishing touch and to give your tree some whimsy and pizzazz, but try not to go overboard with quirkiness. If you prefer a simpler, more elegant look, avoid overly themed ornaments but choose simple colored ornaments in different shapes that match your overall color plan, such as using drip, icicle, or star-shaped ornaments to complete the tree.

Voila! You have a Christmas tree that will bring beauty and elegance to your holiday decorating all season long.

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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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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.

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!

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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Freshen Up for Fall

Transform summer garden pots, planters and window boxes into magical displays this fall. The addition of mums, winter pansies and ornamental cabbage and kale are always excellent choices but you can really spice things up with the inclusion of a few of these colorful, cold-hardy selections. Which ones will look best for your autumn landscape?

  • Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’
    This graceful, fan-shaped acorus variety is ideal for adding height to plantings. It keeps its color and shape into the winter for visual interest as other plants lose their vibrancy.
  • Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’
    This is the white-variegated version of ‘Ogon’. Its white-green striping is the perfect complement to mixed planting in silver, pink, purple or blue, and its lightness adds freshness to the arrangement.
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’
    This ajuga has a trailing habit and pretty, variegated leaves. Its blue flowers are scattered in fall and summer but this plant blooms profusely in springtime.
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Mahogany’
    The rich mahogany color of the shiny, short-stemmed leaves turns darker and more lustrous in the winter, ideal in a frosted or snowy landscape. Pretty bright blue flowers punctuate this creeper, mostly in the spring.
  • Ceratostigma plumbaginoides ‘Leadwort’
    The prolific flowers of this plumbago are an intense gentian-blue and the foliage turns bright red in low temperatures, adding visual heat to the landscape even on cold days.
  • Euphorbia amydaloides ‘Purpurea’
    This pretty perennial is exceptionally frost resistant. ‘Purpurea’ features upright branches with leaves that form a rosette pattern and turn from reddish to purple in the cold.
  • Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles’
    Here’s an easy, fast-growing helichrysum variety with striking, velvety-silver leaves and a compact growth habit.
  • Lamiastru galeobdolon ‘Herman’s Pride’
    ‘Herman’s Pride’ has serrated, shiny silver leaves with green venation and yellow flowers in the spring. The plant trails as it grows, making it perfect as an accent in hanging baskets, taller containers and window boxes.
  • Lavendula lantata ‘Silver Leaf Lavender’
    This lavender variety has silvery-white leaves that are velvet-like to the touch and hold their color throughout the winter. Dark purple-blue flowers appear by the second year and contrast beautifully with the foliage.
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’
    Proven to do equally well in both sun and shade, ‘Goldilocks’ exhibits wonderful versatility. The golden foliage creeps and hangs in lush profusion of round, shiny leaves.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’
    This sage has a glowing, golden-yellow variegated leaf. ‘Icterina’ maintains its shape and holds its color long into the winter.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’
    The eggplant-colored leaves of this sage warm up any planting. Try it as a culinary herb as well and enjoy the subtle taste.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’
    ‘Tricolor’ offers a unique combination of purple leaves with white borders that turn pink when temperatures drop.

No matter which of these plants you opt for, you’ll enjoy the rich colors and variation they bring to your autumn plantings.

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Fall in Love with Fall Pansies

Ideal for fall gardens, pansies offer a colorful display for almost six months – in the fall when they are planted, in the winter during a stretch of sunny days and again in spring! Winter pansies may be planted anytime starting in mid-September and continuing through October. Multiple plantings spaced a week or two apart can also ensure even more blooms to enjoy throughout otherwise drab months.

Planting Pansies

As with any plant, pansies perform better if the soil that you place them in is well prepared. Choose a planting location that is well-drained and work in 4-6 inches of rich organic matter, such as garden compost, peat moss or Bumper Crop. Plant pansies at about the same level, or slightly higher, than they were growing in their market packs or containers, taking care not to plant too deep or the plants may wilt and rot and the roots could smother. After planting, mulch and water the bed thoroughly. Remember to check the plants often during the first three weeks after planting or until new growth begins, to ensure adequate moisture necessary for healthy growth. Because these plants require very little care, no other maintenance is usually necessary for them to reach their full potential.

Where to Plant Pansies

These versatile blooms can be used in many different parts of your garden or landscape. Add a graceful drift of single-colored pansies or a mass of mixed colors to brighten a border, under a tree or along a fence, pathway, deck or wall. Try tucking single plants in garden beds around perennials and shrubs that have finished blooming to brighten up an otherwise dreary section of the landscape and to help mask older, spent growth. Pansies also do well in containers placed on a deck or patio or next to the entrance of your home to greet your guests with welcoming color. Try pansies in a hanging basket and you can even move them indoors to enjoy when the weather is too poor for outdoor gardening. A small container of fall pansies can also be a great gift for winter holidays, birthdays or just to brighten the day of anyone who could use a touch of color in their life.

With so much color to enjoy in so many ways, fall and winter pansies should be a staple of any garden and will bring great gardening joy to the landscape even during colder, dreary months.

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Tulips: Spring Starts Now!

Members of the lily family, tulips are native to central and western Asia. In the 16th century, they were introduced to the Netherlands where most tulip bulbs are grown today. With over 100 species and nearly 3,000 varieties, tulips have been divided into 14 groups, including Darwin hybrids, Triumph, Lily-flowering, Double early, Rembrandt, Scheepers’ Hybrids (or French) and Parrot variations. Their classification is based on form and habit. A 15th group includes species tulips with the smallest plants growing to just 3 inches.

Tips for Planting Tulips

Tulips are an easy care addition to any landscape, and they are easier to plant than many gardeners realize.

  1. Choose only top-sized bulbs without any bruises or obvious damage. Bigger bulbs generally indicate better quality and bigger flowers.
  2. Plant bulbs as soon as purchased or store in a cool, dry location.
  3. Choose a sunny (or part sun) location with well-drained, rich soil.
  4. Plant 2” deeper than recommended to promote re-blooming each year.
  5. Apply bone meal 3 times a year – in fall when you plant, in spring as bulbs emerge from the ground and after flowering has finished. This will provide food for the foliage and bulb growth for next year’s flowers.
  6. Protect tulip bulbs from pest damage by laying wire mesh on top of your bed just beneath the soil. Sprinkling VoleBlok in the holes when planting can also be helpful.
  7. Mulch and water the bed thoroughly after planting.
  8. Plant before the ground freezes.
  9. Deadhead flowers after they have faded, but leave the foliage to die back naturally. Do not cut off the leaves until they have turned brown, or else they will not develop large enough bulbs for a good show the next year.

Tulip Timesaving Tip

Don’t have much time to plant a large, luxurious tulip bed? Plant 100 tulips in just 1 hour!

  1. Choose a part to full sun location and dig a hole 6’ x 6’ to a depth of 6-8”, placing the displaced soil on plywood or cardboard.
  2. Place 100 tulips, pointed end up, evenly over the area.
  3. Gently slide the soil from the plywood or cardboard onto the tulip bulbs. Tamp the soil lightly, sprinkle the bed with bone meal and water well. In spring, the entire area will bloom!

Tried & True Tulip Selections

Some tulips can be finicky, and while some tulips will disappear from your garden after a year or two, these selections promise trouble-free blooms for years!

  • ‘Daydream’ – Darwin tulip, changing colors while in bloom to vibrant apricot-orange, blooms mid-April into May, Ht: 22”. Fragrant.
  • ‘Lilac Wonder’ – Species tulip, large rose-lilac flowers with yellow bases and anthers, blooms May, Ht: 7”. Prefers full sun.
  • T. praestans ‘Fusilier’ – Multi-flowering species tulip, orange-scarlet flowers, blooms April, Ht: 8-12”.
  • T. clusiana var. chrysantha – Species tulip, good naturalizing tetraploid, deep yellow flushed with rose toward the edges, blooms April, Ht: 8”.
  • ‘Pink Impression’ – Darwin tulip, huge flower with strong, clear pink flowers, blooms mid-April to May, Ht: 22”.
  • ‘Menton’ – Scheepers’ hybrid, blooms are shades of apricot, rose, pink and peach, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.
  • ‘Mrs. John T. Scheepers’ – Huge Scheepers’ hybrid, golden-yellow tetraploid is a three-time award winner, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.
  • ‘Persian Pearl’ – Species tulip, deep magenta-rose with buttercup yellow star on the inside, blooms April, Ht: 6”.
  • ‘Maureen’ – Scheepers’ offspring, large, oval-shaped flowers of glistening white, blooms late-May, Ht: 28”. Four-time award winner!
  • ‘La Courtine’ – A Scheepers hybrid, yellow flowers are oval-shaped, flamed with red from the bottom up, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.

With so many to choose from, it’s always time for tulips!

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Problems With Your Compost Pile? Fix Them!

A compost pile should be part of every gardener’s yard, since it adds so many benefits for recycling and providing organic material in the garden. There are times, however, when it can be tricky to keep a compost pile in peak condition and breaking down material most efficiently. If you encounter any of these common problems, you can easily correct them and keep your compost pile at its best.

  • Pile is Too Dry
    Without adequate moisture, beneficial microorganisms cease to function and decomposition stops, turning a compost pile into a clumpy mess that does not decay into usable organic material. Keep the pile moist at all times, but not overly wet. A dampness like a squeezed sponge is ideal. It may be necessary to use a hose to water your pile occasionally, or a tarp or piece of plastic over the top of the pile can help keep moisture in the pile instead of evaporating.
  • Foul Odor
    A stinky compost pile is no gardener’s friend, and over-watering the pile will compact the material. When air space is decreased, the pile becomes anaerobic, resulting in an unpleasant odor. Turn the pile frequently to increase aeration and add larger pieces of dry, porous, carbon-rich material such as wood chips or straw to absorb excess water and improve air circulation.
  • Pile is Cool
    Check all the items required for a hot, quickly-decomposing pile: carbon, nitrogen, air and water. Correct any deficiencies. Another issue may be that a pile that is too small will have difficulty insulating itself. Increase the size of your compost pile by adding more material so it can generate sufficient heat from decomposition to keep itself warm.
  • Pests in the Pile
    While insects and worms are welcome helpers in a compost pile, a poor pile may also be attracting mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife. This usually means that the wrong material was used for composting. Never add meat, fish, bones, dairy products or oily food to the compost pile, all of which can have strong odors that will attract unwanted wildlife. Similarly, no human, cat or dog manure should be added to the pile. Avoid adding weed plants or diseased plants as well, since those weed seeds or disease spores could be transmitted to your garden or landscape when the compost is spread.
  • Poor C/N Ratio
    When planning the optimum conditions for compost decomposition, the standard recommendation is 3-to-1; three parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon-based material is brown and nitrogen-based material is usually, but not always, green. Chopping or shredding additions to the compost pile will speed up the decomposition and help keep the pile balanced.

    The best materials to add to your compost pile include…

    Brown Material (Carbon-Based)
    – Dried, dead Leaves
    – Shredded paper, including newspaper
    – Wood ash
    – Sawdust
    – Eggshells
    – Chipped brush and wood chips
    – Straw and twigs

    Green Material (Nitrogen)
    – Grass clippings and sod scraps
    – Vegetable and fruit peels, scraps and rinds
    – Disease and insect-free plant material, such as clippings and prunings
    – Horse, cow, chicken and rabbit manure (herbivores)
    – Coffee grounds and used coffee filters
    – Used tea bags
    – Used potting soil

No matter what issues your compost pile may be having, problems are easy to correct and you can quickly adjust your pile to be productive and efficient. Before you know it, you’ll have plenty of rich, nutritious compost to nurture your garden and landscape all year long.

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Get Started Composting

Fall is an excellent time to start a compost pile with all of the leaves falling, and if you develop compost now, you will have a rich source of organic material for your garden and flowerbeds in spring. Getting started with compost is fairly simple if you keep in mind the following…

  • Size Matters
    Smaller particles break down faster than larger chunks. Shredding or mulching garden wastes will help speed up the process and develop usable compost faster. Chop up larger pieces of household materials before adding them to your compost pile to speed up their decomposition.
  • Take a Turn for the Better
    Turning helps aerate the pile and shifts outer parts closer to the center where they can heat and decompose more effectively. A well-mixed pile will also have better consistency and more evenly distributed nutrients. Use a pitchfork, spade or rake to gently turn your pile periodically, such as once every 1-2 weeks or whenever you add a large amount of new material to the pile.
  • Know What to Compost
    Materials that can be composted are sod, grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, manure, chopped corncobs, corn stalks, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings and many kinds of plant refuse from the garden. Some household waste, such as coffee grounds, banana peels, eggshells and vegetable peelings are also ideal for a compost pile and will reduce the trash you accumulate.
  • Avoid Unwanted Materials
    Materials to avoid composting are large amounts of weeds, grease, fat, meat scraps and bones, cheese, coal ashes, diseased plants, cut weeds and charcoal. These materials do not decompose readily and can create poor quality compost. For example, meat, grease or dairy products in your compost will begin to smell strongly, which could attract rats, raccoons or other unwanted visitors. Diseased plants or weeds can survive in a compost pile, contaminating your garden when you add the compost to the soil in spring.
  • Cover as Needed
    Covering your compost pile with a tarp or large piece of carpet can help preserve the heat and moisture essential to promote appropriate decomposition. The cover can also keep the pile from freezing or getting too wet in winter conditions, and it can easily be removed to add new material or turn the pile as needed.

Before you toss out your next bag of trash, check for compost material and start your pile today! Your garden will thank you tomorrow.

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GIFTS FROM THE GREENHOUSE

Living gifts are wonderful for any holiday, and they are particularly popular in winter when they bring a lovely touch of nature indoors for us to enjoy until spring. Fortunately, there are many popular plants that make stunning holiday gifts.

Poinsettias

Available in shades of white, pink, red, gold, plum and variegated combinations, poinsettias are great for decorating your home as well as the perfect holiday gift. We sleeve your plants to protect them as you take them to your car. Do not leave these plants in an unheated car, and take them indoors quickly when you get home. Poinsettias’ colorful bracts last well beyond all the holidays and even into the spring if properly cared for. These easy-care plants prefer bright, filtered light in a spot free from drafts. Let the plant become moderately dry between waterings, and don’t fertilize while in bloom. Ask for our re-blooming guide if you want to try your hand at re-flowering your poinsettia next year.

Christmas Cactus

With colorful flowers in red, pink, salmon, orange, lavender or white, Christmas cactus will do best in a sunny south, east or west window. Keep the soil evenly moist but not too wet or else the roots may rot. To encourage your cactus to bloom, avoid any artificial light at night starting in September. You will also need to keep the plant in a cool location, allow the soil to dry well between waterings and don’t fertilize. Over time, these plants can grow to tremendous proportions and will have dozens of blooms just when their colors are most welcome.

Cyclamen

Cyclamen is a popular perennial plant with generous colorful flowers that bloom for a long time. Keep cyclamen evenly moist from September through May. Let them dry from June to August so the tuber can rest. Ideal light is a sunny east or west window, but do not allow the foliage to touch the glass or it may freeze or burn with the temperature changes. Cyclamen prefer a cool room (60-70 degrees). Feed them from September to May, then stop for the summer months to encourage winter blooming.

Amaryllis

This plant never fails to break the gloom of winter and provides enormous pleasure with its large, gorgeous blooms. If you want an amaryllis to bloom for Christmas, it must be started in the fall. Plant your amaryllis in a container not much larger than the bulb itself with a third of the bulb above the soil. Place in a warm, sunny spot, watering when the soil is dry. As the bulb grows more actively, increase the frequency of watering. Your plant will flower in brilliant red, white or a variegated pattern of the two. After flowering, you can save the bulb for next year. Ask one of our staff for instructions or pick up our free guide about amaryllis.

Azaleas

Florist azaleas normally bloom in spring, but they can be forced into bloom anytime. Azaleas are available in many colors, with the most popular shades including pink, white and peach. These flowers come in both single and double blooms and they can last for up to a month, ideal for a holiday gift or winter decoration. When an azalea is blooming, do not allow it to dry completely.

Norfolk Island Pine

These little trees are native to Norfolk Island in the Pacific, where they will grow as high as 200 feet with trunks 10 feet in diameter. Smaller versions are easy-to-please houseplants. A slow grower, Norfolk Island Pines will send out about 6 inches of new growth each year. Bright, indirect light is fine although in the winter the plants can stand full sun. Keep the plant moist, but never sodden. Feed your plant every 2 months. Repotting is best done in spring but needs to be done infrequently, since the plants are slow growers. These trees lose their lower branches as they grow.

Paperwhite Narcissus

Of all flower bulbs, paperwhite narcissus are one of the easiest to bring into flower in the indoor garden. Paperwhites are the delicate white flowering, notoriously fragrant narcissus that reliably bloom indoors about 4-6 weeks after planting. Paperwhites are grown in a dish with stones (or in a pot with soil). Fill the dish halfway with stones and place bulbs on top. Place bulbs close together, but not touching. Add water up to the base of the bulbs. Pack more stones around the bulbs until just the tips of the bulbs are visible. Place in a bright, cool area (60-65¡ F) and water regularly.

No matter which plant you choose, these gifts from the greenhouse add a fresh touch to any home throughout the winter.

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Kiss, Kiss: Mistletoe, a Holiday Tradition

One of our sweetest holiday traditions is kissing under the mistletoe, but how much do we really know about this custom or, for that matter, the plant itself?

The Mistletoe Legend

American author Washington Irving discusses mistletoe and its uses in Christmas Eve, along with other holiday festivities during the Twelve Days of Christmas in the early nineteenth century. For kissing under the mistletoe, Irving describes…

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

Another part of mistletoe’s kissing mythology is part of a Norse legend. Frigg, the goddess of love, was so grateful when her son Baldur was raised from the dead (after being killed by an arrow of mistletoe wood), that she praised the plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it.

Stealing a kiss under the mistletoe is believed to have originated in England among servant classes in the late 1700s, and it was considered bad luck for a young lady to refuse such a kiss.

While there are many ancient myths and legends from all over the world surrounding mistletoe, the traditions involving kissing are by far the most favored. Today, both fresh sprigs as well as artificial clusters and topiaries of mistletoe are available as holiday decorations, often mixed with holly or pine sprigs and accented with crystals or ribbons.

The Mistletoe Plant

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.) is one of 1,300 species of mistletoe worldwide but one of only two that are native to the United States. Our mistletoe is a semi-parasitic, shrubby plant with oval, evergreen leaves and long clusters of sticky white berries. This plant roots itself in trees and survives mostly off its host’s life support system. But, despite its parasitic tendencies, mistletoe has been a natural part of healthy forest ecosystems for millions of years, and can even promote biodiversity as other seeds stick among the mistletoe and sprout.

Mistletoe is poisonous to people, but the berries and leaves provide high-protein food for many animals. Many bird species rely on mistletoe for food throughout the winter and nesting material in the spring. Butterflies lay their eggs on the plants and use the nectar as food. Mistletoe is also an important pollen and nectar plant for bees.

Pick-up some mistletoe and have a happy holiday!

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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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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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Holiday Light Safety

Holiday lights are, by far, the most popular holiday decoration, adding sparkle and elegance to the season. Whether you use classic strings of lights, themed light displays or elaborate light dances, follow these important precautions when illuminating your home this year, both indoors and out, then sit back and enjoy the beauty of the season.

  • Use only UL approved light strands, extension cords and replacement bulbs, and purchase them from reputable dealers and retailers.
  • Use lights only in the manufacturer specified environment: indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside the home.
  • Examine previously used lights carefully. Repair or replace frayed wires and damaged sockets or discard worn lights and purchase new strands.
  • Identify and replace all burned out bulbs (note: 2 burned out bulbs can shorten the remaining life of a light set by 39 percent, four bulbs by 63 percent).
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords with no more than three strands of lights per cord.
  • Carefully place extension cords to avoid tripping. Running cords against a wall is preferred. Indoors, extension cords should never be run under rugs or caught directly under furniture legs.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • A warm plug or wire and fuses that repeatedly blow means the circuit may be overloaded. Reduce the number of light stands to the circuit.
  • Fasten strings of lights securely to tree trunks and branches, walls, posts, mailboxes and other structures. Outdoors, support and hang lights with plastic zip ties or insulated holders. Never use metal tacks, staples or nails. Do not string lights on metal structures or near standing water.
  • Do not use light strands in nurseries, children’s play rooms or children’s bedrooms.
  • Do not hang lights near main electrical and feeder lines.
  • Indoors, only hang lights on a fresh tree or an artificial tree labeled as fire-resistant.
  • String lights carefully so light strands and cords are not pinched in windows, doors or under furniture, which can damage the cord’s insulation and increase the risk of short circuits.
  • Keep holiday lights on only during the evening hours and turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Cover unused outlets on light strands and extension cords with electrical tape or plastic caps to minimize the risk of short circuits or pets or children contacting a live circuit.
  • Holiday lights are meant to be temporary. Take lights down when the season is over and store strands carefully for next year.

With careful attention to safety, you can enjoy stunning holiday light displays for many joyous seasons to come.

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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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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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Decorating for the Holidays

Whether your prefer a single candle in each window or a 12-foot tree covered with glittering decorations, our ideas will help you create a special home, from the simple to the dramatic! Try some new and stunning decorations this holiday season, including…

  • Garlands and Swags
    Graceful drapes of greeneries and ribbons are the perfect choice for mantles, doorways, arches and railings. Weave two coordinating ribbons around a swag for a stunning contrast, or attach cones, berries or dried or silk flowers with a dab of hot glue for a colorful burst. You might also weave a bead strand into a garland or swag for extra glamour.
  • Wreaths
    Classic wreaths can be stunning on doors, over mantles or on windows. They can be completed with a single bow or festooned with berries, trumpets or other decorations to match your décor. Whimsical wreaths may be made of candy or faux cookies, or you might tuck small gift boxes or other accents into the design.
  • Fresh Cut Greens
    Pine boughs and holly sprigs look and smell great, whether they are scattered on the mantle, tucked behind pictures or brimming from vases and baskets. Tie a bunch together with a big bow for a delightful, simple door decoration. When using in a vase, make a fresh cut at the base of greens before arranging and check the water often the first few days to keep them plump and fragrant.
  • Roping
    Simple ropes of pine, laurel, boxwood and princess pine look great along a fence, railing or light post. Add large, bold bows along the railing or fence with even larger bows at the base of the gateposts for an easy decoration and to bring the look together.
  • Ornaments
    Ornaments don’t just belong on trees anymore! Fill a tall, clear vase or glass pillar with colorful ornaments to display them elegantly, no tree required. For a more elegant look, use ornaments of just 1-2 colors, or ornaments only in coordinating shades and similar hues. You can also display ornaments in a broad open dish, around the base of a pillar candle or worked into a wreath or swag.
  • Treats
    Your favorite holiday treats can also be elegant decorations. String candy canes along a garland or arrange them in a vase for a sweet decoration. A gingerbread house can be a beautiful centerpiece, or fragrant gingerbread cookies can be attached to a garland or swag.  You can even add a dish of bright peppermints as a candle base or ribbon candies to a wreath.

No matter what your decorating style, there are creative and unusual ways you can add festive elegance to your home to celebrate the season.

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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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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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Bird Feeding Basics

Winter is the perfect time to think about attracting bird visitors to your yard. Bird watching is a great hobby that can be enjoyed by both younger and older members of the family and getting started is both easy and inexpensive.

Bird Feeders

The type of bird feeders you select will depend on where you want to observe your feathered friends, as well as the kinds of foods you are offering and the types of birds you want to attract.

Hanging feeders, suitable for smaller birds, can be hung from a tree, pole or hook. Platform feeders can be mounted on a pole/post, deck railing or fence, or even just set on the ground. There are also window feeders that can be mounted directly to a window for enjoyment close at hand plus suet feeders or cages which hold suet cakes – a must for attracting insect-eating woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Feeders should be located in a sheltered place where they are not exposed to strong winds or vulnerable to attack from predators such as hawks and cats. Try grouping several different feeders together to attract the maximum number of different birds. All feeders should be kept clean and in good repair.

Bird Seeds

Just like us, birds have certain food preferences. Black oil sunflower seed is one of the most popular seeds, attracting a large variety of different birds. Some seeds such as Nyjer (thistle) are very specific – if you want to attract colorful goldfinches, then this one is for you. Mixes containing sunflower, thistle, cracked corn, millet and other seeds are also available, to tempt many bird visitors. Larger birds that feed on the ground, such as doves, quail and wild turkeys, will love cracked corn.

Natural Food Sources

If you are serious about attracting birds to your yard throughout the year, then think about planting trees, shrubs, perennials and even annuals that will provide natural foods at different times. Birds love berry-producers such as crabapples, hollies, hawthorns and viburnums. Perennial favorites for seed eaters include members of the black-eyed susan family (Rudbeckia), coneflowers (Echinacea), goldenrod (Solidago) and coreopsis. Seed heads of ornamental grasses are also highly sought after. Of the annuals, sunflower (of course!), marigolds and cosmos are popular. Just be sure to leave seed heads on the plants so birds can take advantage of them.

Don’t Forget Water!

Water for bathing and drinking is one of the basic requirements for all birds, even for species that won’t visit feeders. If you already have a bird bath, be sure to keep it filled with clear, fresh water. A bird bath heater will keep water available even during freezing weather. A mister, dripper or bubbler will move the water around and attract even more birds with sparkling splashes.

From feeders and seeds to plants and water sources, we have everything you need to get started attracting birds. Come on in today and you’ll be able to enjoy your feathered friends this fall and winter!

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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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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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Audition Some Autumn Bloomers

Extend the beauty of your garden with vivid autumn-blooming perennials. When you think of fall-blooming plants, don’t stop at mums – there are many perennials that can add color to your yard at this time of year.

Top Autumn Bloomers

While there are different autumn-blooming perennials for different growing zones and climate conditions, some of the most popular and widespread options include…

  • Fall Daisies
    For fall daisies (besides daisy mums!) grow Boltonia or Nippon Daisy. Boltonia is a tall (3-4′) grower, suitable as a background plant. White or pink daisies are borne in profusion atop fine grey-green foliage. The Nippon Daisy (Chrysanthemum nipponicum) is covered with large crisp white daisies in October. Both love lots of sun and make excellent cut flowers.
  • Autumn Sedums
    Bold-foliaged sedums provide texture as well as color in a sunny place. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is the most well known. It has coppery-pink flower heads. Sedums ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Stardust’, with soft pink and white flowers respectively, are also attractive. For a totally different color combination plant sedum ‘Vera Jameson’. It has gray-purple foliage with rose pink blooms and looks stunning when planted with Blue Fescue, Artemesia Silver Mound and other silver-foliaged plants. As an added bonus, all the sedums are attractive to butterflies.
  • Autumn Asters
    Asters are another fall bloomer that butterflies love. These perennials like sun and moist, well-drained soil. There are many colorful aster varieties in shades of pink, purple, blue and white. Some favorites include tall-growing aster ‘Alma Potschke’ with bright pink flowers, blue-flowered aster ‘Professor Kippenburg’ and low-growing aster ‘Purple Dome’ with its deep purple blooms.
  • Autumn Goldenrod
    Sunny yellow goldenrod (Solidago) is another bright addition to the fall garden. Wrongly blamed as the cause of fall allergy problems, goldenrod has rightly taken its place in the fall garden. It looks particularly effective combined with blue flowering plumbago, purple asters and ornamental grasses.

Fall Bloomers for Shade Gardens

Even shade gardeners can enjoy late blooming perennials. Tall growing Japanese Anemones are a stately addition to the perennial garden. Bloom colors range from pure white to various shades of pink, and flowers can be single, semi-double or double blooms. Anemones grow well in light to moderate shade and spread quickly to form large clumps, filling in space vacated by spent summer plants. Turtlehead (Chelone) is another fast spreader for shade. Rose pink flowers cover the tops of the plant from early September to October. For a deeply shaded location, try Toad Lily (Tricyrtis), which has clusters of beautiful cream flowers, spotted with maroon along its upright stems. For light shade, plant Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siphilitica), whose intense blue spikes can be admired from mid-August until frost.

No matter what type of garden you have, the end of summer does not need to mean the end of colorful blooms. Instead, just opt for amazing fall bloomers and enjoy brilliant color even longer!

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Japanese Beetle Reduction Methods

Japanese beetles can be a scourge of the garden and landscape, but what can you do to keep these pests at bay?

About Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) spend their early lives as underground grubs eating turf grass roots. They prefer well-watered, healthy perennial ryegrass and hard fescues in full sun. Emerging as adult beetles in mid-June through July, they begin feeding on over 200 varieties of plants, including shade and fruit trees, shrubs and ornamentals. They also mate and the females lay 50-70 eggs in the soil.

The eggs hatch in the fall and white C-shaped grubs begin eating roots. Autumn is the best time to check your lawn to see if the grubs are present. Dig several one-foot squares 6″ deep in your lawn, turning over the turf and looking for these distinctive grubs. If you find them, taking action immediately can help control the infestation.

Reducing Japanese Beetle Populations

Non-chemical preventative treatments include spraying beneficial nematodes such as Heterorhabditis or Steinernema onto moist lawns and soil in September. Nematodes, naturally occurring soil organisms, are parasitic to soil grubs and many insect larvae, including Japanese beetles. Spray in the evening and ensure the soil is moist to at least 6″ deep. One product, Lawn Guardian, contains two types of nematodes; one lives deeper in the ground to give a “double whammy” to the feeding grubs.

Natural predators include ground beetles, ants and Tiphia, a parasitoid. Applying Bacillus popilliae Dutky to the soil causes “Milky Spore Disease” to the grub. Chemicals to control the grubs include trichlorfon, imidacloprid, halofenozide or thiamethoxam, so look for pesticides that include these compounds to help eliminate Japanese beetles. Neem oil can also be helpful to control these pests. As always, read and follow the directions carefully when using any type of chemical pesticide.

In the garden, row covers can help minimize Japanese beetle populations during the growing season, but this can also reduce crop productivity as fewer flowers are pollinated. Still, if an area is heavily infested with Japanese beetles, a smaller crop may be a better alternative than accidentally nurturing these pests. If only a few beetles are present, hand-picking them off plants and killing and disposing of the insects – toss them in a bucket of soapy water – can keep the populations manageable.

For the latest information and updates on Japanese beetles, as well as more control tips, contact your favorite garden center or County Agent.

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Fall Horticultural Oil Application

Autumn is an excellent time to apply horticultural oil. The oil smothers many soft-bodied insects and hard-shelled scales that are impenetrable to many insecticides, and can therefore help control some of the most stubborn insect populations. But is it right for your plants?

About Horticultural Oil

Horticultural oil, or hort oil, is typically derived from petroleum, and is a type of ecologically-friendly mineral oil. Some cottonseed and soybean oils can also be effective horticultural oils. Emulsifying agents are typically added to these oils so they can be mixed with water and used as a spray, which helps distribute them evenly over plant foliage to be most effective.

Pests That Don’t Like Horticultural Oils

Different types of horticultural oils can be effective against many unwanted garden pests, including…

  • Spider mites
  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies
  • Mealy bugs
  • Psyllids
  • Lace bugs
  • Caterpillars

In addition to smothering the larvae or insects directly, the heavy oil also makes it difficult for many insects to crawl therefore starving them to death and preventing them from spreading diseases from plant to plant. Additionally, the oil repels many insects looking for winter homes. The oils also act as fungicide against powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot on some plants.

Applying Horticultural Oils

Application of horticultural oils is easy, requiring only a simple hose-attached sprayer. Because oil and water do not mix, frequent agitation by shaking is required even if the oils are mixed with other agents to be more sprayable. These products are most effective if applied when plants are dormant, since oil-based products can burn and harm actively growing foliage, buds, flowers and fruit. Some lighter weight, summer-formulated oils are available, but they should be used only sparingly and only if absolutely necessary. Autumn and winter are the best seasons to apply horticultural oils when insects are a problem, though autumn applications can occasionally cause problems with plants dying back and other winter damage. Because the oils can evaporate and dissipate quickly, they should only be used when insects are present, otherwise they will be ineffective. In freezing weather the oil coverage will be inconsistent, so cool but not bitterly cold temperatures are best.

Of course, always follow the instructions for proper application rates, plant sensitivity and ideal weather conditions to ensure the most effective treatment. Because these oils are still pesticides, protective gear such as gloves and goggles should also be worn to avoid accidental irritation or more severe contamination.

Using hort oils can be a great way to control insects on your plants, but only if the oils are used appropriately. Come in for a consultation to see if these products can help end your insect problems.

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Repotting Houseplants

Fall is an excellent time to repot many houseplants. Potted plants that have been growing outdoors during the summer have probably grown quite vigorously due to the high light levels and greater humidity. If the top growth of the plant has increased in size by 20 percent or more, it probably should be transplanted into a larger container so the roots can stretch and settle comfortably.

Before You Repot

Before repotting, check the plant and the soil carefully for insects.  Add systemic granules to the soil and spray the leaves with an insecticidal soap to remove any unwanted pests. If an insect infestation is particularly bad, it may be necessary to remove most of the plant’s soil and replace it with fresh potting soil. Avoid using soil from the garden, however, which will harbor insect larvae and eggs as well as weed seeds and other material you do not want in your houseplants.

Acclimating Plants

Bring your plants indoors well before any danger of frost for proper acclimation to the indoor environment. The change in light levels and humidity could shock more delicate plants, and they may wilt temporarily or drop leaves before they adjust to the new conditions. If possible, bring them in just a few minutes at a time for several days, gradually increasing their indoor time to several hours before keeping them indoors all the time. Flowering tropicals will also benefit from cutting back some of their foliage to avoid shock before being brought indoors.

To help houseplants overcome the transition from outdoors to indoors, position them in a bright, sunny area and consider adjusting indoor temperature and humidity controls to more closely mimic outdoor conditions. Make adjustments slowly and gradually, and the plants will adjust.

Time to Repot

Once your houseplants are adjusted to their indoor fall and winter environment, they can be safely repotted without adding to their stress. Repot the plants early in the day, and move them to a slightly larger pot. Avoid jumping several pot sizes, which could lead to excessive root growth while the foliage is neglected. Be sure to fertilize and water the plants appropriately to provide them proper nourishment as they settle into new pots. Do not expect luxuriant foliage growth right away, however, as it will take some time for the plants to begin growing again, especially in fall and winter when most houseplants are entering a dormant, slow growth period.

By repotting your houseplants in fall, you can help healthy, vigorously growing plants adjust to a new environment and continue their growth with ease in a new, larger, more comfortable pot.

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Fall Lawn Care

Fall is the best time of the year to overseed your existing lawn or establish a new lawn. If your lawn is a bit thin, has bare patches or needs good care, now is the time to take care of it so it can become thoroughly established before warm temperatures arrive in spring.

Overseeding A Weak Lawn

A weak lawn may have thin or scraggly patches, seem overrun with weeds or have bare patches that are difficult to keep green and lush. Overseeding can help eliminate these problem areas and create a more consistent, luxurious lawn.

  1. Spray broadleaf weeds with a selective herbicide and wait 2 weeks for the weeds to disappear. Several treatments may be necessary if the yard is thick with weeds.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A garden extension service can help determine pH levels, or home test kits are available.
  3. Mow shorter than normal and rake clean to remove unnecessary debris that may keep seeds from reaching the soil.
  4. Core aerate if you have compacted soil or heavy thatch. Remove the cores and dispose of them properly to keep the soil light and airy for seeding.
  5. Apply starter fertilizer and lime if determined to be needed by the pH test, or choose a grass type that will thrive in your soil’s conditions.
  6. Dethatch your lawn if thatch is thicker than ½ inch. This can be done with heavy raking or a special dethatching rake may be necessary in extreme cases.
  7. Overseed with the proper seed. If core aerating, lightly topdress with topsoil or humus.
  8. If needed, cover the freshly seeded area with netting or hay to discourage birds or other wildlife from consuming the seed before it grows.
  9. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deep root growth.
  10. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer.

Seeding A New Lawn

If you have no existing lawn or the entire ground is overrun with nothing but weeds, it may be best to start from scratch and create the lawn of your dreams.

  1. Kill existing vegetation with nonselective herbicide. If you want to preserve nearby trees or shrubs, take steps to protect that vegetation from the treatment.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A testing kit can provide a good pH estimate, or a gardening center or garden extension service can provide a more precise evaluation.
  3. Prepare soil by breaking up the surface with a rake or spade using a crisscross pattern. All large lumps should be broken up, and any large rocks should be removed.
  4. Broadcast starter fertilizer, lime and gypsum as determined by the pH test. This will provide a nutrition boost for fresh seeds.
  5. Spread topsoil or humus to a ½ inch depth for appropriate planting.
  6. Rototill to a depth of 4 inches and grade smooth. This will mix all the top layers together for uniform soil and nutrition, ensuring even turf growth.
  7. Sow proper seed and mulch lightly with salt hay to control erosion and conserve moisture.
  8. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deeper root growth to resist droughts and repel weeds.
  9. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer to provide nutrition throughout the season.

Which Seed?

Not every lawn will thrive with the same type of grass seed. Allow our staff to help you select the seed that best suits your needs, soil type and planting conditions. Apply at the recommended rate and incorporate into the top ¼” of soil. Do not bury the seed or it may not germinate evenly.

No matter what the condition of your lawn, fall is the best time to take steps to help it rejuvenate so you have an amazing lawn to enjoy in spring.

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The Fall Vegetable Garden

Fresh vegetables don’t have to end as the days grow shorter – fall is a great time to plant an autumn garden to extend the growing season. Many vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower are of a higher quality when grown in the fall, while others, like kale, develop better flavor after a frost. Spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard and rapeseed all grow rapidly and flourish at the end of the season, ideal for autumn gardening. Loose-leaf lettuces do well, too.

To prepare your bed, immediately pull out whatever plants have finished producing. Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches, rake the area lightly and work in a light application of composted manure or 5-10-5 fertilizer to provide adequate nutrition for rapid-growing fall veggies.

Broadcast a mixture of seeds like mustard, kale and rapeseed, or combine seeds of several types of lettuce like curly leaf, red leaf and oak leaf to allow you to harvest your salad already mixed. It works best to plant greens in blocks or wide rows, because they’re easier to harvest and you’ll have fewer weeds. If you plant blocks each time a new space opens up, you’ll have staggered plantings that can produce over a long time.

Some autumn vegetable varieties will tolerate cold better than others. Read seed packets before you purchase them to determine what will be best in your area, but don’t be put off by such notations as chard’s taking 60 days to mature. The greens are good when they’re younger, too.

Water seeds after sowing and keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing. Seedlings may also need to be sheltered from extreme heat. Protect them by shading them from the sun with Reemay fabric until they are established.

Although insects tend to be less bothersome in late fall, some vegetables in the cabbage family, including mustard, kale and collards, may attract cabbageworms. Apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) sprays for an organic method of control. As the plants begin to fill out, thin them enough to allow air to circulate and dry off moisture. This helps prevent insect problems too.

Harvest your fall vegetables as soon as the plants reach edible size. Even after the first frosts, you’ll be able to keep harvesting to enjoy the yield of your extended-season garden.

Top Fall Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce, Head
  • Lettuce, Leaf
  • Mustard
  • Rape
  • Spinach
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King of the Cold: Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Looking to add interest to the fall and winter landscape? This year, plant ornamental cabbage and kale for bold textures and vibrant colors.

About Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Unlike most other annuals and perennials, these two hardy plants improve in appearance after a frost or two, which bring out more intense and brilliant colors in their foliage – perfect as an autumn accent or centerpiece plant. Identified by a number of names including floral kale, decorative kale, ornamental-leaved kale, flowering kale and flowering cabbage, ornamental cabbage and kale are classified as Brassica oleracca (Acephala group). Offering unlimited use in the landscape, these plants have large rosettes of gray-green foliage richly variegated with cream, white, pink, rose, red and purple. Kale leaves are frilly edged and sometimes deeply lobed.

While typical ornamental kale and cabbage varieties are easy to find, you can also try more unusual options, including dwarf varieties as well as upright, taller hybrids that can even be used in cut arrangements.

Using These Attractive Plants

Popular in borders, grouped in planting drifts, or planted in containers for the deck or patio, ornamental cabbage and kale typically grows to 12-18” high and wide, depending on the cultivar. Plant these specimens at least 12” apart in an area with full sun that has moist, well-drained soil. Organically rich soil with proper compost or fertilization is best to provide adequate nutrition for these lush plants. Although they are able to withstand light frosts and snowfalls, ornamental cabbage and kale will typically not survive hard freezes and are best treated as showy annuals.

The best foliage color will occur if ornamental cabbage and kale is planted in early fall as temperatures are cooling, or you can sow seeds 6-10 weeks before the first anticipated frost date – just be sure the seeds have sun exposure in order to germinate properly. These plants are usually attractive in the garden until Thanksgiving or slightly later, or in mild climates they may even last until spring temperatures begin to rise. Hint – when the plants smell like cooked cabbage, it is time to pull them out!

While these plants are superficially similar to the familiar cabbage and kale vegetables popular in salads and other edible uses, it is important to note that ornamental varieties are cultivated for color and shape rather than taste. Keep them out of the kitchen and in the garden instead, and you won’t be sorry!

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Plant a Tree This Fall

There are so many reasons to add a new tree to your landscape this fall that it’s hard to find a reason not to.

Just think about it, trees will…

  • Beautify the Environment
    Trees add texture and color to the landscape. They soften the harsh lines of buildings and driveways, while their foliage and blooms add seasonal color changes and variety.
  • Stabilize Soil
    Tree roots prevent soil from blowing or washing away, minimizing erosion and providing protection for the surrounding landscape.
  • Provide Wildlife Habitat
    Trees provide shelter and food for birds and numerous small animals, including squirrels, raccoons, insects and more.
  • Make Food
    Many trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds, sap and berries for human consumption. Wildlife will also rely on the food provided by trees.
  • Create Oxygen
    Through photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other poisons from our air and release pure oxygen for us to breathe. One tree can produce enough oxygen for 10 humans for one year!
  • Filter the Air
    Trees act as giant filters trapping dust and pollution particles with their leaves and bark until the rain washes the particles away.
  • Cool the Air
    Air will remain several degrees cooler in the shade of a tree canopy. This is accomplished by not only by blocking the sun’s rays but also through transpiration. Tree leave transpire, or release moisture, which cools the surrounding air. A large tree can release as much as 400 gallons of moisture from its leaves daily.
  • Reduce Utility Bills
    Deciduous trees planted on the south and southwest sides of a home will shade the structure during hot summer months and reduce air conditioning or other cooling needs. In the winter, with the leaves fallen, the sun is able to warm the structure, reducing heating bills.
  • Reduce Noise Pollution
    Strategically planted, trees can dramatically reduce the volume of unwanted noise from loud neighbors, nearby businesses or car traffic.
  • Hide undesirable views
    Purposefully sited, trees can camouflage unattractive views and create privacy, providing a natural sanctuary in your yard.

In our area, fall is just about the best time of year to purchase and plant a tree. The soil is warm, air temperature is cool and morning and evening dew increase available moisture to nurture a new tree. Stop in and see our extensive collection, and we can assist you in choosing the tree that is perfect for your landscape and lifestyle needs.

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Birdscaping

As wildlife habitats are threatened by development, the creation of a bird-friendly environment that provides food, water and shelter is crucial to the existence of our wild bird population. Caring for our feathered-friends is an educational and enjoyable activity for the entire family that brings beauty and song to our lives.

Benefits of Wild Birds

Birds are great guests to have in your yard, garden or landscape, and they provide more benefits than many homeowners and gardeners realize. Wild birds can…

  • Control insects by feasting on both flying and crawling insects, as well as spiders, slugs, snails and other creepy-crawlies.
  • Pollinate plants by flitting from flower to flower as they seek out insects or eat seeds, taking pollen along between blooms.
  • Manage weeds as they consume copious amounts of weed seeds before the seeds ever have a chance to sprout.
  • Control rodents when raptors visit the yard in search of mice, rats, gophers, voles or other unwanted pests.

Attracting Backyard Birds

Fortunately, it is easy to attract a wide variety of backyard birds when you offer them what they need most – food, water and shelter.

Food for Birds

Wild birds rely on both natural and supplemental food supplies so it is important to consider both when birdscaping. Feeding the birds is most important in the winter when natural food is scarcer, but they will visit feeders at any time of year. Migratory birds require additional food in the spring and fall as they pass through the region and nesting birds will utilize feeders in the summer.

Tips:

  • Provide a variety of natural foods for birds by planting berry bushes, seed-bearing flowers, nectar-rich flowers and sunflowers. Leave windfall fruit on the ground for birds to nibble. Minimize pesticide use so birds can feast on insects as well.
  • Add supplemental feeders to your yard, such as birdseed feeders, suet feeders and nectar feeders. Clean feeders weekly to avoid mold that can be dangerous to birds, and be sure feeders are full when birds need them most.

Water

Improve your backyard bird habitat by adding water. Birds require a constant supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. This is especially important in late summer, when water is scarce, and in the winter, when it is frequently frozen.

Tips:

  • Place bird baths in a protected location safe from predators, and keep the baths filled at all times so a fresh supply of water is constantly available.
  • Scrub off algae as soon as it is appears and thoroughly was the bird bath each week to minimize feces contamination or other messes in the water.
  • Provide motion for greater attraction by using a bubbler, wiggler, dripper or fountain. Birds will see the sparkles of the moving water and will hear the splashes from great distances, so more birds will visit.
  • Use Mosquito Dunks to safely prevent mosquito larvae in warm weather. A clean bird bath with moving water will also harbor fewer insects.
  • Add an outdoor-safe submersible heater to the bath in winter to keep the water liquid instead of frozen, or consider using a fully heated bird bath during the coldest months.

Shelter

It is important to offer safe and comfortable shelter for your wild birds to nurture their young, protect them from predators and shield them from the elements. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs and providing bird houses, along with roosting boxes and pockets, are all beneficial additions to your birdscape.

Tips:

  • Choose both deciduous and evergreen landscaping trees and shrubs to offer birds different types of shelter in all seasons.
  • Minimize pruning to give birds denser, more secure shelter to take advantage of when they feel threatened.
  • Plant in layers and create thicket-like pockets or corridors in your landscape so birds can move around freely without feeling exposed.
  • Supplement the shelter in your yard with good quality bird houses, winter roost boxes or nesting pockets to give birds even more options to stay safe and secure.

When you meet birds’ needs for food, water and shelter, your birdscape will soon be home to a fun and friendly flock of backyard birds.

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Autumn: Why Plant Now?

Although many gardeners plant trees and shrubs in the spring, knowledgeable gardeners plant in the fall to take advantage of all this fabulous season has to offer. But why is fall planting better than spring planting?

  • Stress Reduction
    Transplanting causes stress as plants are removed from containers, balls or established locations and changed to new locations. Planting in the fall, when a plant is entering dormancy and is generally hardier and sturdier, reduces this stress so the plant can thrive.
  • Establishing Strong Roots
    Fall planting “establishes” trees and shrubs by encouraging root growth. Because the soil is still warm, the roots continue to develop until freezing, though the upper parts of the plant are already dormant. When transplanting in the spring, the developed roots are active and delicate tips or rootlets, as well as buds and new leaves, are more easily damaged.
  • Weather Resiliency
    Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better able to withstand the rigors of the next summer’s heat and dry conditions because they have much longer to develop healthy roots systems and become thoroughly established. This is especially critical in dry climates or areas prone to drought or irregular rainfall.
  • Faster Maturity
    The “head-start” of fall planting results in a larger plant in less time, helping create a mature landscape without waiting for smaller plants to catch up. This can be especially critical when replacing dead or damaged plants in a mature landscape to avoid a gap or uneven look.
  • Water Conservation
    Planting in the fall saves watering time and promotes conservation by eliminating daily watering. Cooler temperatures with the addition of both morning and evening dew contribute greatly to soil moisture availability in fall without as much supplemental watering.
  • Color Confirmation
    Fall is the best time to see a plant’s autumnal color. Planting in the fall eliminates the surprise of the wrong color or unexpected shades that may not coordinate with nearby plants. By planting in autumn, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing and planting, and you will be able to match better with your existing landscape.
  • Saving Money
    Last but definitely not least, buying your beautiful trees and shrubs in autumn can save big money. We discount prices on trees and shrubs to create room for holiday season materials and pass the savings on to you. Selection may be more limited later in fall, however, so don’t wait too long to take advantage of great savings.

Autumn can be the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, whether you are adding to your landscape, replacing plants or starting a whole new look. If you plant in autumn, you’ll be amazed at how lovely your landscape will look next spring.

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Deterring Deer

Deer may be beautiful and elegant, but they aren’t always welcome in the garden. Even just a few visiting deer can tear up a landscape, eat an entire crop, destroy a carefully cultivated bed and cause other havoc, such as creating a traffic hazard, damaging bird feeders or leaving behind unwanted “gifts” on sidewalks and pathways. But how can you keep deer out of your yard and away from your garden and landscape?

Popular Deer Deterrent Techniques

People try all sorts of home-grown methods to keep deer from destroying their landscape and gardens. Some of the more common tactics include…

  • 8 ft. fencing, including wire or electric fences
  • Big, loud dogs on guard in the yard
  • Deer repellents such as commercial chemicals
  • Predator urine or other anti-deer scents
  • Motion detectors connected to lights or sprinklers

All of these methods work but are limited in their effectiveness. Fencing is costly and unsightly. Repellents and urine wash away. Sprinklers or lighted areas can be easily avoided. So what can you do to keep deer away permanently?

Deer are creatures of habit and they are easily scared. Anything you can do to mix up their habits or make them think there is danger nearby might be enough to make them go elsewhere in search of food. But deer aren’t foolish and if they realize the danger isn’t real, they will return. Therefore, you must rotate any scare tactics you try and reapply repellents frequently. This can be a lot of work to keep your garden safe, but you can make your garden do the work for you.

Plants Deer Won’t Like

While deer in large herds with insufficient food will eat almost any garden vegetation, particularly in harsh winters, you can opt for plants that aren’t popular with deer to minimize deer damage. At the same time, avoid planting favorite deer plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, roses, Japanese maples, winged euonymous, hemlocks and arborvitae, as well as any edible garden produce.

So what can you plant in your landscape to discourage deer? There are many attractive plants deer will avoid, including…

Trees

  • Chinese Paper Birch
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Dragon Lady Holly
  • Douglas Fir
  • Japanese Cedar
  • San Jose Holly
  • Serviceberry
  • Scotch Pine

Shrubs & Climbers

  • Barberry
  • Bearberry
  • Blueberry Elder
  • Boxwood
  • Caryopteris
  • Common Buckhorn
  • Creeping Wintergreen
  • European Privet
  • Japanese Andromeda
  • Japanese Plum Yew
  • Leucothoe
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Russian Olive

Try using these less deer-friendly plants to create a dense border around your yard and garden area, and deer will be less inclined to work their way toward the tastier plants. When combined with other deterrent techniques, it is possible to have a stunning landscape without being stunned by deer damage.

 

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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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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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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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Christmas Fairy Gardens

Let the magic of miniature fairy gardens give you the Christmas you’ve always wanted. You can create the garden and entry of your dreams without breaking the bank, redoing your landscaping or remodeling your home!

Are you feeling nostalgic for a Victorian Christmas? Create your own Christmas outdoor scene. Start with a shallow container and choose a Victorian house. Then, from our exciting assortment of diminutive plants, miniature pots and small-but-realistic lawn ornaments, create your own holiday front yard, walkway, porch and entrance. Use tiny containers to flank the doors, a decorated dwarf conifer as an outdoor Christmas tree, ribbons over the windows and colored sand or mini-pavers along the pathway. You can even add a decorated doghouse, shed, or teensy wrought iron table under a gazebo.

Maybe a white picketed seashore cottage is your dream. Create it in miniature! Add a rustic mailbox, vine twig furniture and a tiny surfboard in the sandy surface and you can almost hear the ocean. Twinkling LED lights add a festive touch, or opt for a tiny palm tree strung with holiday ornaments.

Perhaps you’re an apartment dweller, dreaming of having your own veggie garden. Assemble a miniature garden with realistic tiny vegetables, tool shed and tools. Add a wishing well, a wheelbarrow and scarecrow. Put in a chicken coop with tiny chickens. Your friends will be looking for Peter Rabbit! For a winter touch, add a fun snowman to the scene.

Maybe you’re not looking for something for yourself. Are you seeking a unique hostess gift? Consider planting a tiny Japanese garden with a moon bridge arching over a pond stocked with koi. A simple miniature garden with a few personalized items your host will love such as a lawn swing, bicycle, or fairy hiding in a small bush is sure to bring a smile to their face.

Give the gift of time by constructing a miniature garden with a child or shut-in. A shared miniature garden is an ongoing fun project, and you can rearrange the garden and create new scenes with very visit or for every season. Create a wonderful opportunity to share stories and imaginative fun while fostering a love of gardening.

Stocked with a huge assortment of miniature and fairy garden accessories, our gift shop offers everything you need to make your Christmas miniature garden. If you need visual ideas, our bookshelves are stocked with beautifully illustrated books chock full of mini-decorating and gardening ideas. Come on in and get ideas, choose your items and make your Christmas dreams come true.

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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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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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Holiday Pairings: Poinsettias & Chrysanthemums

Poinsettias and chrysanthemums go together like, well, holidays and happiness! If you’ve been plunking down your poinsettias all by themselves, it’s time to jazz up your arrangements and give them some decorating companionship. White mums provide a crisp background making poinsettias truly pop and bringing instant distinction to the duo.

Popular Pairing Arrangements

There are many ways you can add mums and poinsettias together for fast, easy arrangements. Great options for holiday pizzazz include… 

  • Snuggling two white mums and a poinsettia into a basket or container, and wrap it together with a coordinating bow for a finished look.
  • Alternating white mums and red poinsettias in a small wreath around a large pillar candle or series of pillars for an elegant centerpiece.
  • Whimsical arrangements that bring mums and poinsettias together in a star or Christmas tree shape, especially if you tier the plants for vertical interest.
  • Creating stripes of plants that mimic the tasty colors of candy canes or peppermints, especially along a hearth or as a table runner.
  • Using both flowers in a bold, tall vase to serve as a show-stopping centerpiece or elegant hearth or hallway decoration.

Even with just two colors, it’s amazing how many holiday arrangements you can create!

More Color Options

You can also use white mums with other colors of poinsettias. Pink poinsettias with white mums cast a soft and romantic glow, perfect for a holiday wedding or anniversary. Pairing golden poinsettias with white mums evokes instant chic and elegance for a more formal affair. Orange-red poinsettias may be ideal for a fall celebration and can pair not only with white mums, but other autumn colors as well. Bright pink poinsettias look funky and fresh paired with bright white mums, or try variegated or marbled poinsettias that are set off by solid-colored red or white mums.

Amazing Accents

While just these flowers make quite an impact when arranged together, there are fantastic, easy accents you can add to make the most of both types of blooms. For the best centerpiece, arrangement or floral décor of the season, consider tucking a few of these easy accents in with the blooms. 

  • Tall pillar or taper candles
  • Glittering twigs painted in metallic hues
  • Evergreens, ferns or other greenery
  • Plaid, patterned or solid colored ribbons
  • Holly or mistletoe sprigs
  • Glass ornaments or baubles
  • Faux snowflakes or other trinkets
  • Pine cones or other natural items

With just a little arranging, you can easily pair poinsettias and mums to take your holiday flowers to new heights in elegance, beauty and festivity.

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Holiday “Cactus” (Schlumbergera varieties)

Have you noticed the odd-looking plants with neon bright flowers blooming since Halloween? You may know them as Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus or Crab Cactus. Whatever you call them, they’re certainly bright and cheerful, and bring a bold bloom of color indoors during the winter months.

These plants don’t resemble their cactus cousins. Native to forests and jungles rather than desert regions, these plants are generally epiphytic, growing on trees or rocks. Distinctly flattened claw-like joints approximately 1″ long form the arched and hanging stems. The 2 ½ – 3″ tubular blossoms emerge from the stem tips.

In case you’re wondering, the Easter cactus is a close relative but a different genus. However, in addition to blooming in the spring, another difference is the blossoms also form at the stem joints. Hybrids now bloom at different times of the year and new introductions create a wider variety of colors including pink, reddish, white, orange, purple and even multicolored blooms on the same plant. You can actually create a blooming rainbow effect over the entire year, with proper care and diligent upkeep.

The Christmas cactus usually begins flowering when night temperatures are around 55° Fahrenheit. After the buds are set, night temperatures of 60-70° Fahrenheit and slightly higher during the day are ideal. Many people summer their plants outdoors in a shady location and bring them indoors after bud set to enjoy during the holidays.
Caring for Holiday Cacti

Holiday cacti are as easy to grow as most houseplants. These easy instructions can help your Christmas cactus become part of your holiday traditions for years to come.

  1. Use general all-purpose container potting soil and a pot with sufficient drainage to protect the roots.
  2. Keep the soil moist while the cactus is blooming and allow it to become mostly dry while resting before watering again.
  3. Fertilize “weakly, weekly” while flowering. Otherwise, water every other month without fertilization.
  4. Place the cactus where it will receive bright indirect light for 6-8 hours a day. Avoid direct sunlight that can burn the plant.
  5. Transplant the cactus to a larger container when roots are very tight and blooming is less vigorous.

A holiday cactus can be a fine addition to any winter decorations, or by itself it will brighten any room for weeks with its bold, colorful blooms. With proper care, you’ll enjoy your cactus for many holiday seasons.

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Pruners for the Lefties

Have you wondered why left-handed gardeners have difficulty using “regular” pruners? It’s because of the way the thumb and index finger have to push together to make the cut. It’s hard to control it for detailed work plus incorrect pruners often cause bruises and painful calluses to form.

Fortunately, there is a solution – pruners specially designed for left-handed use. The correct pruners, with the left blade on top, allow the leftie to see what they’re cutting and enjoy pruning. Come on in to check out which of these wonder-tools fits the best.

FELCO

Felco hand tools originated more than 70 years ago when Felix Flisch patented his first hand pruner, the Felco 1. The company’s three core values, ergonomics, interchangeability and durability, haven’t changed and even today, all their products incorporate these values. We carry two left-handed styles of Felco pruners.

  • Felco 9: This is the left-handed version of Felco 8, one of the most popular hand pruners ever. Recommended for up to 1″ cutting capacity, these bypass pruners have forged aluminum handles and hardened steel blades with a screw-mounted anvil blade. They include a lifetime guarantee. The efficient design includes a blade with a wire-cutting notch and a sap groove. The blades have removable dowel pins to allow easy maintenance and replacement. The micrometric adjustment system, using the included adjustment key, promises precision cuts and maximized user comfort.
  • Felco 10: This bypass pruner is the top of the line left-handed version of the Felco 7. Designed for the professional gardener (but enjoyed by all), this pruner requires 30 percent less effort, thereby reducing hand fatigue, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome with its unique rotating handle. The narrow, pointed blade design facilitates close-in pruning. Like the Felco 9, an adjustment key is also included. Also recommended for 1″ diameter cuts.

Replacement parts are available for both styles along with holsters and blade sharpeners.

Bahco

This company, established in 1862, produces very fine gardening tools in addition to their industrial lineup. Although they look a little different, the workmanship and ergonomic design make them among the favorite of garden tools. This company uses the term “Secateurs” as hand pruners and designates the levels as professional or expert.

  • PX-M2-L: This is a left-handed version of the popular PX-M2 bypass model. The composite materials in the handle with an upper section of soft rubber act as a shock absorber. The ergonomic styling and vertical and lateral inclinations of the cutting head allow the wrist to remain straight when cutting. This reduces fatigue and increases comfort and performance. All parts are replaceable.
  • PXR-M2-L: This pruner is the left-handed version of the heavier bypass PXR model designed for frequent professional use. Home gardeners also love them! A rotating handle increases performance and comfort. All parts are replaceable.
  • PG-03-L: This tool is the left-handed version of the home gardener (expert) hand pruner. This model is available in two hand sizes, small and large, and in two pruning widths for 1/2″ or 3/4″ cuts. Fiberglass reinforces the plastic handles and Xylan® coats the blades to reduce friction and protect from rust. As a convenience, it has a one-hand locking mechanism.

Holsters and blade sharpeners are also available.

Corona and The Gardener’s Friend

The Corona BP6340 has aluminum handles and hook with replaceable blades and springs. The steel blades of high carbon steel and the ergonomically angled head result in close, clean and healthier cuts. With less stress to the wrist, it easily cuts up to 1″ branches.

The Gardener’s Friend Ratchet Hand Pruners are designed for gardeners with small hands, or hands weakened by arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. The unique ratcheting action easily cuts branches to 1″ thick with less hand strain.

Of course, we have an excellent selection of other specialized hand pruners in our tool department. Whether you are buying for a child, a delicate hand or a large-handed gardener, we have the proper sized tools to reduce strain and make gardening easier and more enjoyable for all. 

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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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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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Bulbs: Increasing Your Yield

When you visit our garden center, you’ll find an incredible variety of autumn “bulbs.” Although they may look strange at this time of year, these “ugly ducklings” will become beautiful swans in your spring garden. It’s hard to imagine how these odd lumps can grow underground and become so gorgeous, but if you plant them now you will enjoy an incredible floral display next spring and summer.

How Bulbs Grow and Multiply

Did you know many bulbs will increase in quantity over time? Most gardeners simply divide their bulbs after a few years and move them to other parts of the garden or give extras away to friends. Dividing your yield is easy when you identify what type of bulb you are dealing with.

There are five distinct types of “bulbs” and although not all of these are available in the fall and some are not winter hardy, it is important to mention them to be able to understand their differences.

BULB TYPE

EXAMPLES

DESCRIPTION

HOW TO DIVIDE (after digging up)

Rhizome

Begonia, Calla, Canna, Ginger, Iris, Lily of the Valley, Tuberose

 

 

Grows horizontally from the pointed ends. As this bulb matures, it branches and develops other pointed growing ends. Roots grow from the bottom. Cut the rhizome into sections and ensure each piece has at least one pointed growing tip.
Tuber Anemone, Caladium, Cyclamen, Potato, Tuberous Begonia Buds and roots form anywhere on the surface. Tuber continues to enlarge with more eyes and roots. No basal plate or growing point. Cut the tuber into sections with at least one growing bud and root on each section
Tuberous Roots

Clivia, Dahlia, Daylily, Liatris, Sweet Potato

 

 

Actually a swollen root, new tuberous roots grow in a cluster from the base of the plant’s old stem or central crown. Divide the root cluster so each division includes roots and one or more growth buds from the stem base.
True Bulb Allium, Hyacinth, Lily, Daffodils, Snowdrops, Tulips Roundish shape with a pointed tip, covered with scales, and has flattened base plate where roots form. May have a papery outer skin. Forms little bulbs, “offsets” at base. Separate small offsets and plant individually.
Corm

Crocosmia, Crocus, Freesia, Gladiolus

 

Similar in shape to true bulb however there are no scales. Covered by a “tunic” of fibers. A corm decomposes each year; a new corm develops on top with smaller corms (cormels) on the sides or along the base plate. Separate new corms from smaller corms and plant individually.

Using Your Divided Bulbs

Once you’ve successfully divided your bulbs and bulb-like flowers, what do you do with your extra bulbs? There are many great options…

  • Transplant them into different parts of your yard to create a uniform, coordinated landscape with similar plants.
  • Give them away to neighbors, family members, friends, coworkers or anyone who would like to add new flowers to their yard.
  • Donate them to churches, schools, parks, senior centers or other places where extra flowers for landscaping will be appreciated.

As your bulbs continue to multiply, you will enjoy having more and more to choose from to create your ideal colorful, fantastic floral landscape.

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Versatile Euonymus

What are your garden’s trouble spots? Do you need an evergreen hedge? A tall anchor plant at the back of a deep garden bed? How about an interesting groundcover? Perhaps your garden needs a medium-sized transition plant. Try a euonymus! This versatile plant does it all, and whatever your landscape needs, this family of plants probably includes your solution. Some are deciduous while others are evergreen, but all are easy to grow and adapt well to a variety of environments.

About Euonymus

With more than 175 varieties of Euonymus available, there is sure to be one to meet your landscaping needs and climate conditions. Evergreen types tend to prefer somewhat sheltered locations, while deciduous euonymus will thrive in full or part sun. Watering should be regular, with more frequent watering (1-2 times per week) in very dry conditions. Well-drained soil is best to prevent root-rot and while richer soil is ideal, euonymus can adapt to nearly any soil type. Pruning can help keep these shrubs compact and neat, and if left unchecked they may outgrow spaces and variegated leaves could revert to plain colors.

Euonymus Varieties in Autumn

In the fall, the burning bright colors of a deciduous euonymus are unmistakable and add rich autumn foliage to the landscape. The strawberry bush (E. americanus) burns bright yellow with scarlet red fruits with orange seeds. The spindle tree, (E. europaeus) has more red in its fall color and the berries are pink or red with white seeds. Probably one of the best known is the Winged Euonymus (E. alatus), often used as a deciduous screen, with unique “winged” twigs and bright red fall color. Choose from a number of different varieties with unique colors and varying mature heights.

The many members of E. japonicus provide solutions for evergreen hedges, edging plants and intermediate-sized shrubs. They range from 1-12′ tall. Some are green, while others have variegated yellow or silver leaf edges. Popular ‘Green Spire’ grows to 7′ tall but at only 1-2′ wide, it creates a narrow and easily maintained taller hedge ideal for screens and privacy. ‘Silver Princess’ grows only 3′ high and wide creates a beautiful silver-tinged border or is a great option for terraces or small bed areas.

For groundcovers, check out the prostrate varieties of E. fortunei such as ‘Coloratus’ (Purple-Leaf Winter Creeper) which turns dark purple in the fall or ‘Wolong Ghost’ with dark green leaves with white veins. There is even a dwarf groundcover, E. fortunei ‘Minimus’ which grows less than 6″ high!

Remember, many of these euonymus varieties add autumn beauty to your garden, so this is an excellent time to see them at their peak and choose which of these unique and stunning plants should be part of your landscape.

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Redbud Revelry

Gardeners love the Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). Native to North America, these hardy, slow-growing, small trees richly deserve their places front and center in the landscape. They flower very early in the spring (as early as April), provide beautiful fall color, remain reasonably small, are low maintenance and create quite a display when planted in groupings or as a single specimen. They even grow well in parking lots, sidewalk strips and in containers, making them ultimately versatile for all types of landscaping plans. What else could you ask for?

New and Exciting Redbud Varieties

As if the classic eastern redbud wasn’t beautiful enough, there are always new varieties that give these stunning trees even more charm and character. Which one will be the centerpiece of your landscape?

Recent introductions include ‘Lavender Twist’, which grows in an elegant weeping form, and the compact ‘Ace of Hearts’, which excels in a small garden or container as a blooming, dome-shaped, focal point. ‘Alba’ flowers in pure white and ‘Appalachian Red’ blooms with deep burgundy pink flowers. The leaves of ‘Hearts of Gold’ open red in the spring and slowly change to gold.

‘Rising Sun’ redbud, another new introduction, stops most people in their tracks. In spring, before leaves appear, lavender-pink pea-like flowers cover the trunk and branches. The show really starts when the leaves open and the heart-shaped, deep-apricot colored leaves transition through orange, yellow and gold to lime-green with all colors showing at the same time. In fall, the tree shimmers in shades of gold. Amazing!

Growing Your Redbud

No matter which type of redbud you choose, you’ll want to take good care of it to be sure it reaches its full beauty. First, be sure to plant your redbud in an area where it can stretch to its full size and show off the unique branching growth habit. You will also want to choose a position where the redbud won’t be crowded or overshadowed by other plants. These trees prefer at least four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day, so full or partial sun positioning is best. These are hardy trees and grow well in most soil types, but adding organic material to the soil and mulching around the tree is always a wise idea to protect and nurture it.

Whether planted as a specimen, en masse, or in a container, we’re sure you’ll agree these little trees deserve consideration for a special place in your garden.

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Entrance Way Evergreens

Cool and classic or chic and contemporary, no matter what your style, you’ll always be proud of an entrance flanked with beautiful containers highlighting just-right evergreens. In this case, “evergreen” doesn’t necessarily mean a conifer, either – many other shrubs remain green in the winter and can be beautiful showpieces welcoming guests to your home.

Planting Your Container

Entrance way evergreens are generally planted in containers and frame a doorway, walkway or arch. If you truly want your evergreens to take center stage, opt for more understated, neutral containers, but select shapes that match the architecture of your home. You can opt for a boldly colored container, but take care that the container’s decorations won’t overwhelm your evergreens.

You will want to use high quality potting soil for the container to provide adequate nutrition for your evergreens to thrive. Also pay careful attention to the moisture levels, watering the plants appropriately – containers often need more frequent watering than plants in your landscape. You can rotate the containers regularly to help the plants get even sun exposure, and regular fertilizing will help keep them healthy.

If you’re not sure how to plant a container, try this simple formula: “Use a thriller, filler and spiller.” Thriller refers to the tallest or showiest plant, the one that immediately catches the eye. The fillers are the plants surrounding the thriller that add more structure and bulk to the arrangement, filling in empty spaces. The spillers are plants to grow over, and soften, the edge of the container, giving it a more natural, organic look.

Here’s a listing of “thriller” plants to consider for your door decor. We can make recommendations of dwarf cultivars of many of these plants. Dwarfs will take longer to out-grow their container. Happy potting!

  • Shade
  • Azalea*
  • Boxwood
  • Camellia*
  • Evergreen Viburnum*
  • Japanese Andromeda*
  • Heavenly Bamboo*
  • Mountain Laurel*
  • Sun
  • Arborvitae
  • False Cypress
  • Juniper
  • Heavenly Bamboo*
  • Holly
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Yews
  • Yucca*


* These plants flower!

Accents for Your Entrance Evergreens

In addition to welcoming your visitors with a beautiful entrance, it’s easy to entertain them and show your style when you accessorize your evergreens. Festively dress your plants to coordinate with seasons or holidays. Fun and creative options include…

  • Spring: Small bunnies, silk spring blooms such as daffodils, pastel Easter eggs
  • Summer: Patriotic flags or ribbons for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July
  • Fall: Scarecrows, pumpkins, Indian corn, Halloween decorations
  • Winter: Holly sprigs, tiny twinkling lights, beaded garlands, snowflake ornaments

You can also personalize your entrance evergreens for birthdays, anniversaries or to showcase your favorite teams, colleges, hobbies and more. All are easy to do, fun, and affordable, and make your entrance truly eye-catching.

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Choosing a Japanese Maple

We’re certain you’ve heard it numerous times: fall is the best time to buy your Japanese maple. Have you come into the garden center to pick one? Did the varieties overwhelm you? Let us make it easier for you by explaining Japanese maple differences. Then, when you come in, you’ll know exactly what you want.

The species Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, moderately grows to a 20′ by 20′ multi-trunked tree. The leaves have 5-9 finely cut lobes giving them a more delicate look than other maples. Red spring leaves turn to green in the summer and blaze with yellow, orange and red in the fall. All do best with protection from drying winds and hot overhead afternoon sun. During their centuries of use in gardens around the world, gardeners have discovered and propagated those selections with unusual growth habits and bark patterns, as well as leaf color and shape. With hundreds of Japanese maple varieties available at garden centers, we feel a little simplification is in order.

  • Leaf Shape
    The variation Dissectum or Laceleaf Japanese Maple has leaves are deeply cut and finely lobed giving a lace cutout look. These varieties generally grow best in shady locations as the leaves easily burn or scorch. The leaves of non-Dissectum varieties are much less lacy. They resemble the leaves of native maples but are smaller and more deeply cut.
  • Leaf Color
    The leaf color of different Japanese maples also varies. Many have red spring growth changing to green in the summer. However, some retain the red through the growing season. Some varieties have variegated leaves with white, cream, gold or pink. Variegated leaves burn easily in the sun but can revert to all green in too much shade. Green leaves tolerate more sun than red. Autumn is when Japanese maples really put on a show with a riot of blazing colors.
  • Tree Form
    Non-Dissectum varieties grow more quickly into upright forms. Some varieties remain less than 10′ tall but others can grow to 25′ tall by 20′ wide. Laceleaf maples slowly develop a weeping form approximately 8-10′ tall and 8-12′ wide. However, ‘Seiryu’ is an exception, growing into an upright form.

Laceleaf (Dissectum)

Non-Dissectum

Location

More shade

Less shade

Size

Smaller

10-25′ tall depending upon variety

Tree Form

Weeping

Upright

Leaf Shape

Lacy, fine cut

Lobed

Leaf Color

Red, green

Red, green, variegated

Now that you have identified a suitable planting location and the type of Japanese maple you prefer, come see us and let our friendly staff show you the varieties that meet your requirements. Autumn colors are blazing now so this is a great time to make your selection.

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