Archive for December, 2014
Gardeners can be a challenge to buy for, but there’s always something out there for them. Gloves make great stocking stuffers along with hand pruners and maybe a few packs of seeds. Here are some great ideas for the gardener in your life.
The Gardener’s Garden retails for almost $80, but it’s worth every penny. This amazing coffee table book is filled with the greatest gardens in the world. I’ve spent hours carefully examining this wonderful book and have got lots of ideas for my own garden.
Atlas Garden Gloves are inexpensive and are a great choice for that stocking stuffer. They can be find locally at most good nurseries. I know for sure they have them at Hahn Nursery in Ross.
George Wiegel’s Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide (Cool Springs Press, $24.95) is not only great for beginners, the book is an essential resource for experienced gardeners too. It’s filled with great regional information about growing just about anything including flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and ground covers. Besides being an encyclopedia of plants, the author includes favorite varieties, many of which he’s grown himself over his long gardening career. It’s the perfect book to enjoy by the fireplace planning for next year’s garden. Get a copy here.
Winter is a tough time for anyone who loves to get their hands dirty. If you know an adventurous gardener who likes to cook, try growing mushrooms indoors. It’s fun and easy and the mushrooms are delicious. The Shiitake Mushroom Kit is $19.95 and comes with two small logs inoculated with mushroom spores. They will grow just about anywhere inside. If you can keep a houseplant alive, you can grow mushrooms. Treat your foodie the the freshest mushrooms, available from Gourmet Mushrooms.
Gardeners are always on the look out for tools, and good ones will last a lifetime or even longer. The stainless steel potting scoop from Joseph Bentley Tools is great for moving planting mix. The business end is made of polished stainless steel and the handle is quality contoured oak. I’ve got one in my potting shed used for starting seeds, potting up plants, filling up containers and other chores too. The tool is perfectly sized, filling a six inch pot with one scoop. At $15.99 it’s a bargain and is available at independent garden centers, Home Depot and through Amazon.
Dramm makes a wide variety of gardening accessories, many of them in cool colors. Their Touch ’N Flow Pro Rain Wand makes watering easy. A soft stream of water won’t overwhelm the plants and the tool has a lifetime warranty. The Rain Wand comes three lengths. There’s a version that’s 16 inches long and 30. If the garden is filled with hanging baskets, the 36 inch version will make watering safe and easy. The smallest retails for about $20 and go to $28 for the biggest. I also love their Colorpoint pruners. They are small, colorful and indestructible, what else do you need to know.
Dramm products are available at independent garden centers and hardware stores and through Amazon of here.
Radius Garden Tools are all built with wonderful ergonomic handles and are virtually indestructible. Their PRO Edger uses a large “O” handle, like many of their tools. The edger is an essential tool for any gardener. The tool makes all the difference in making a clean line between garden and lawn. The Pro Edger has a sharp semicircular stainless steel blade, is lightweight, balanced and offers an encased steel core shaft which is most probably unbreakable. For around $50, it’s a steal. Radius products are available locally at garden centers and online here.
My son gave me a Plant Nanny last Christmas and I love it. It’s a terra cotta watering stake which uses recycled wine bottles to water your plants. There’s also a version which uses plastic bottles.
The bottle is filled with water and just dropped into the Plant Nanny. It will slowly release the water into the pot. Great if you’re out of town and can’t get anyone to water you’re precious houseplants. The product also works for outdoor containers. (sans freezing temperatures). A set of four is under $20. You can find the product locally by typing a zip code into the dealer locator here.
Cole’s Wild Bird Feed offers some of the best seed and other products to keep the birds happy in the winter. Once they find the bird seed, and you keep the feeder full, they will use the area on their foraging routes this spring. Since birds eat lots of bugs too, we take care of them in the winter, they take care of us when things warm up. Hot Meats are seeds covered with a hot pepper concoction which the squirrels detest, but the birds can’t taste. I use it in areas where I can’t keep the squirrels of the feeders. The Blue Ribbon Blend is a real treat for the birds, filled with a mixture of their favorites. You can find their products locally by searching their web site.
I love to give plants as gifts during the holidays. My favorites are amaryllis, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, rosemary plants trimmed like trees and paperwhites.
There’s not much out there prettier than an amaryllis.
Amaryllis offer some of the most beautiful flowers for the holiday season. For the first season the bulb has everything in it that the flower needs. The job of the gardener is to treat the plant right to get blooms next season. I’ve got about a 50/50 record for re-blooming. I never throw them away and they will bloom when they are happy. Sometimes that’s every year, sometimes it takes three.
After the plant is done blooming remove the flower stalk leaving the tall, floppy foliage. Grow it as a houseplant all winter and start fertilizing in March. Mid-May it goes outside in the shade. Sometimes transplanting to a pot one size bigger will help. Keep feeding the plant every couple weeks through the season.
In August stop all watering and fertilization and bring the amaryllis back inside. I put mine down in the basement for six to eight weeks until they go into dormancy. The leaves will turn brown, which feeds the bulb. Then bring the plant back to the windowsill add a little water and hope for buds to emerge.
I rarely get them to bloom at Christmas, but anytime they flower, it’s wonderful. Usually it’s about being too busy at the end of the season and not getting them into dormancy fast enough. Others never make it outside, are forgotten about and bloom after given a little water.
The Christmas cactus is a perennial favorite gift for gardeners. It’s indestructible, usually killed with kindness. It’s not really a cactus, so it’s watered like any other houseplant, but prefers dry over wet. I like to grow them in eight inch and bigger pots so they don’t need watered as often and they get nice and big.
They are triggered to bloom in the same way poinsettias are. That means when growing on the windowsill they are often turned into an Easter or Thanksgiving cactus.
I forgot about one out in my unheated greenhouse and it received the perfect light to be in full bloom on Christmas day.
For many gardeners a Christmas cactus becomes a family heirloom passed down for generations. I’ve done stories on plants that were 100 years old.
The rosemary tree is easy to find and a great gift for gardeners who cook. Give them a haircut here and there and use the trimming for cooking. The trick to keeping the alive over the winter is to make sure they stay moist, but do not over water.
Cyclamen needs constant moisture too, if they are allowed to dry out, they will die. They will bloom for months if given the right amount of water.
Not everyone loves the fragrance of paperwhites, but I do. They are white indoor daffodils which go to the compost after blooming since they are not hardy and tough to make rebloom.
Enjoy your holiday plants now and for years to come.
Santa Claus will appear at Hahn Nursery in Ross at Babcock and Three Degree Rd. on Saturday 12/13/14 from 1-3 p.m. Stop by to see the old guy and get some cookies too! Call 412-635-7475 for more information.
I love poinsettias, especially some of the “weirder” varieties. My favorite is a double called “Winter Rose.” But there’s certainly nothing wrong with the more traditional varieties. There’s a brand new one I saw at Janoski’s Farm and Greenhouse called EK LUP 3511. They are trying it out to see if this variety might be a winner.
Poinsettias can live for years both inside and outside.
Don’t throw your poinsettias away after the season. Not only will they keep their color for months, they are a cool garden plant too. By the way they are technically poison, but taste so awful, no child or animal would take more than a bite. They would have to eat a a plate full just to get a stomach ache.
I like all the weird ones, different colors and forms, but they all have similar growing requirements.
The first job is to remove the foil, place the plant on a saucer, you can use the plastic ones they sell at the garden center or old plates from the thrift store. This will allow water to go through the soil, flush out the bad stuff and the plant can drain properly. They like it a little on the dry side, just poke your finger into the soil. If it’s dry a couple inches down, add some water. Depending on the temperature of the house and the amount of light it gets, that might mean once a week.
Poinsettias need some light, and will only last a couple weeks if used as decorations up a dark staircase. Move them onto a table near a window.
There’s no reason to fertilize any indoor plants this time of the year, there isn’t enough light for them to process the nutrients. Wait until March to add some liquid organic fertilizer.
When there’s no chance of frost (around May 15 in our area), poinsettias can go outside and will make a handsome plant in the garden. Some folks will bring them in and out for years.
Getting them to bloom again is tough, requiring exactly 12 hours of light and the same time in the dark. That’s really hard to do unless you have a greenhouse. Back in the day gardeners would put the plant in the closet at night, then bring it back out into the daylight. What a pain, I wouldn’t bother. They will color up when they the light is right, but usually not as nicely as the plants from a good greenhouse.