Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fancy Leaf Caladiums

For a colorful, tropical appearance in your garden, plant caladiums.  Their flashy, heart- or lance-shaped leaves will brighten the darkest corner of the garden.  Masses of caladiums will compete with any flower bed for a vivid display.

Caladiums are aroids, members of the Araceae family along with anthurium, pothos, monstera, philodendron, calla and jack-in-the-pulpit.  The botanical name is Caladium bicolor or C. x hortulanem.  Common names include "Angel Wings", "Elephant Ears", and "Heart of Jesus."  Many aroids are native to the tropics.  Caladiums are native to South America, particularly the region in and around Brazil.  They are cold-hardy in the United States from USDA climate zone 9 through 11.  Those who live in cooler regions can grow them successfully as annuals in landscape beds and container gardens.  Most gardeners, however, lift and store the corms over winter.

These fancy plants are available in a wide range of color patterns, usually in shades of red, pink, green and white.  Those structures often referred to as flowers are not actually flowers at all, but are modified leaves called spathes.  The actual flowers are much smaller and are surrounded by the spathes.  The spathes, however, are relatively insignificant.
 
Caladiums are grown from corms.  A corm is a thick, bulb-shaped stem or stem base that grows just below the soil surface.  Roots grow from the bottom of the corm.  Shoots and leaves appear at the top.

They are often considered to be useful only in the shade garden.  Certainly, they are perfect for shady areas.  But many cultivars grow very well in full- to partial sun.  If planting in the garden, select a site with richly organic, moist but well-drained soil.  Soil pH should be between 5.6 to 6.5.  The best way to determine if the pH is within that range and contains the proper nutrients for caladiums is to have the soil tested.  Your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service can help you.  You can collect the soil sample yourself.  For a nominal fee, they will send your soil sample to a laboratory for analysis.  Be sure to call the Extension office for instructions.

Prior to receiving your corms, cultivate the soil to the depth of 8 inches and add plenty of well-rotted compost.  Remove weeds.  Soil test results may recommend other soil amendments.  Follow those instructions.  If you use synthetic fertilizer, allow at least a week before planting so it can be incorporated into the soil by rain or irrigation and not burn the corms.  The site should be ready for planting when your caladiums arrive.

Bear in mind that all parts of the plant are toxic if eaten and can cause skin irritations and/or allergic reactions in sensitive persons.  I've never experienced such a reaction to caladiums, nor do I know of anyone who has.  But, if you believe you might be susceptible, wear gloves when handling them.

Caladium corms can be planted in spring when soil has warmed to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  The question I am most often asked is "Which end is up?"  If your caladiums are not yet sprouting, look for small growing points.  These may be encircled by fine fiber:  the remains of last year's leaves.  The bottom may have coarser fibers arranged in no particular direction:  the remains of last year's roots.

Some caladiums, particularly the taller cultivars, may produce too few stems and foliage if planted in shade.  To produce more leaves, they may benefit from "de-eyeing."  To "de-eye" the corm, rub off visible buds or "eyes" with your finger.  This will cause the corm to produce more buds and result in a bushier plant.
Plant the corms 2 inches deep and space them approximately 6 to 8 inches apart.  After planting, water well.  If some of the soil washes away, replace it.  Then water sparingly until growth appears.  With warm soil, roots and shoots should begin to form soon.   A light layer of straw mulch will help to preserve moisture and suppress weeds.

During summer, you may fertilize occasionally.  Apply 2 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer per ten square feet of garden area every two weeks until leaves appear.  Do not allow synthetic fertilizers to come into contact with the plants.  Irrigate if rainfall is inadequate.  Soil should be kept slightly moist.  Weed when necessary, but be careful not to disturb the corms.  Occasional application of a recommended insecticide will keep leaf-eating insects away, though the extent of their damage is usually minimal and cosmetic.  Call your Cooperative Agricultural Extension Office for insecticide recommendations.  Always, follow label instructions.

Growing caladiums in containers is not much different than in the garden.  A 6" pot will accommodate 3 corms nicely.  Use the finest potting soil; cheap soil will give poor results.  The best potting soils will be light-weight, peat-based with added materials to enhance plant growth.  Select containers that will accommodate the corms and any other suitable companion plants.  All companion plants should have similar soil and moisture requirements.  Because container gardens can dry quickly, take steps to keep the pots properly watered.  Adding moisture retentive gel to the soil can be beneficial.  Larger containers are not as susceptible to drying.  Tipping over can also be a problem with small containers.  Caladiums can grow to 24" in height, though dwarf varieties have been developed.

You may use caladium leaves as you would fresh cut flowers. Cut the leaves at least 3 hours before arranging them. After cutting near the bottom of the stem, immediately set stems in water. They will wilt at first, but will freshen up after a bit.  Arrangements should last for 2 to 3 weeks.

When the growing season is nearing its end, let the foliage remain to build reserves in the corms for the next growing season.  You may remove the foliage when it has turned yellow.

If you live in a climate zone where caladiums are not cold hardy, you may dig and store them until the next growing season.  Do so when temperatures drop to about 65 degrees F.  After digging them, remove foliage, wash the corms and let them dry in the shade.  Pack in peat moss and store in boxes or bags with some ventilation.  Plastic bags with ventilation holes like potatoes come in will do nicely.  Store in a dark place where the temperature can be maintained between 55 and 60 degrees F.  Moisture should not collect in the storage container.  Neither should the corms be allowed to become bone-dry.

Return to Caladiums at goGardenNow.com.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Behind A Garden Wall: The 75th Annual Savannah Tour Of Homes And Gardens



As a native Savannahian, I'm writing this because I love my hometown and I want to share it with you.

Since 1935, The Savannah Tour Of Homes and Gardens has presented visitors very special opportunities to appreciate some of Savannah's finest private residences.  Treasures rarely seen by others than family and friends are displayed to the public for a few days in March.  Guests from around the world enjoy some of the finest hospitality in the Deep South.

Savannah, GA was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and designed around a well-ordered grid plan featuring homes, businesses and churches built around public squares at regular intervals along broad avenues and peaceful streets.  The design allowed neighborhoods, known as wards, to develop for the benefit of all.  Originally, the squares provided for important public gatherings.  Today, they afford scenic places for relaxation and reflection enjoyed by guests and residents alike.

Savannah is home to the largest urban landmark historic district in this country.  Within the 2.5 square mile area, you'll find a well-preserved graceful city with some of the most beautiful homes and gardens anywhere.  Thanks to over fifty years of careful preservation, most of the squares and architectural treasures still exist.

This year, the 75th Annual Tour is scheduled from March 25 - 28.  Though the peak of the azalea bloom is usually difficult to predict, you can be sure that the squares, parks and gardens will be breathtaking.  Each day, a different historic District of the city is featured.  On Thursday, the Northeast District is featured.  Some of the earliest homes are there, dating back to 1789.  On Friday, tours are arranged for homes in the Southeast District, featuring sites adorned with wrought iron and other beautiful architectural details.  Tours of other wonderful districts are scheduled for the remaining days.  In addition, educational seminars and workshops, featured restaurants and events are thoughtfully arranged.

The Savannah Tour of Homes is co-sponsored by the Women of Christ Church and The Historic Savannah Foundation.  Christ Church, the Mother Church of Georgia, was founded in 1733 by General Oglethorpe.  Worship services have been held at Christ Church on the same site overlooking Johnson Square for over 275 years.  In 1976, The Historic Savannah Foundation joined with the church to promote the unique architecture of the city.

"The Tour" is reason enough to visit Savannah, but the Savannah Music Festival, scheduled for March 18 through April 3, 2010, presents even more delights.  You can fill your days and nights with the sights, sounds and tastes of Savannah during those two and a half weeks for the most memorable days of your year.

Savannah offers very comfortable accommodations.  Savannah Tour of Homes suggests several fine hotels and B&Bs that are located in or near the Historic District.

I can not begin to give you an adequate description of all that awaits you.  To learn more, please follow the links highlighted.  These are very special opportunities that fill quickly, so you should reserve early.  I hope you will join us.



Return to goGardenNow.com.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Passion For Horseradish

Horseradish is one of those herbs you can love or hate.  The hot, pungent flavor stirs passions one way or another.  The ease with which it can be grown is an attraction for some, but others despise it because it can spread aggressively.  If you love lots of it, or just enjoy growing lots of anything, this herb is for you.

Horseradish may be grown from USDA climate zones 3 through 9.  That covers a large area from International Falls, MN to Fort Pierce, FL, and from East to West coasts.

Choose a planting site in full sun to light shade that you'd like to devote to growing it.  Average, slightly moist, well-drained soil between pH 5.5 and 7.5 is good enough.  To determine your soil pH, you need a soil analysis.  If you don't have a pH test kit, you should contact your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service for help.  For a nominal fee, you can deliver a soil sample to their office for testing.  Call them for instructions.  While you're at it, specify horseradish as the crop to be grown.  They should be able to provide more specific recommendations particular to your region.  As a rule, horseradish should be fertilized with garden fertilizers low in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potash.

Cultivate the soil deeply and amend it according to soil test recommendations.  Long, straight roots require soft, fertile soil without obstructions.  If you have a few roots to plant, you only need to prepare that many planting holes.  If you want to produce large crops of roots, you'll need to prepare a larger area.

For each root, dig a big hole in the cultivated soil about twelve inches in diameter and eight inches deep.  Lay the root at a 45 degree angle against the side.  The top of the root should be about one inch below the soil surface.  Fill the hole with compost.  Water deeply.  As the soil and compost sinks, add more compost on top to compensate.

Two or three applications of fertilizer during the summer may be necessary.  Horseradish is moderately drought tolerant, but large roots will require regular moderate irrigation if rainfall is insufficient.

Flavor is best when harvested in the fall after frost when the foliage has yellowed or fallen.  Youngest roots that are one year old are the most pungent.  The roots over-winter in the soil quite well, so gardeners in the south may harvest them according to need.  Gardeners in the frozen north may want to harvest enough to supply them until spring.

Horseradish can be stored in the same manner as any other root crop.  If stored in plastic bags and refrigerated, roots will stay fresh for several weeks.  Root cellars are ideal.  Grated horseradish can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

For horseradish recipes, a brief internet search will turn up several.  Horseradish is reputed to possess some therapeutic value.  It is supposed to be high in Vitamin C.  Ancient civilizations considered it to be an effective aphrodisiac.  Freshly peeled horseradish in olive oil has been used to produce a massage oil to treat muscle soreness and chest congestion.  As with any medical claims, view them with some skepticism and always consult a physician.

Perhaps you've seen horseradish in stores, but never gave it much thought.  It's time you tried some.  Plant horseradish in your garden, and explore your passions.

Return to Horseradish at goGardenNow.com.

Never Enough Onions

My father and uncles used to say, quoting Hippocrates, "Let your food be your medicine," and onions certainly fit the saying.  They have been highly regarded for medicinal and culinary purposes for millenia.  As medicine, they've been used to treat many complaints such as balding, asthma, burns, insect bites, and to promote longevity.  As food they've been used in everything from soup to dessert.  Because they are so versatile and easy to grow, you should have some in your garden.  In my opinion, you can never have enough onions.

Onions can be started from seed, seedlings or sets.  Seeds should be started indoors at least two months before last frost.  Seedlings and sets can be obtained from local nurseries or by mail order.  Seedlings are onions that have not begun to set bulbs.  Sets are small onion bulbs.  Planting sets is the easiest and fastest way to a crop.

Onions prefer full sun or at least six hours per day.  Soil should be well drained, moderately fertile and moist, with pH between 6.5 and 8.0.  The pH can be determined with a simple soil test.

Planting time depends upon your climate zone.  Onions are a warm season crop, but are best if grown quickly in relatively cool weather.  Hot temperatures and dry soil often induce the plant to go to seed.  The thick and tough seed stalk emerging from the bulb diminishes the quality of the bulb.  Growers in the Deep South often begin planting as early as December in order to harvest in May.  Farther north, gardeners begin planting in March or April in order to harvest in late summer.  Sort periods of freezing temperature and frost will not damage onions unless the temperature drops below 25 degrees F.  Contact your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service for recommendations for your area and to help you with testing your soil.

Cultivate the soil and add compost or fertilizer according to soil test results and recommendations.  If you add synthetic fertilizer, do so about two weeks before planting.  Remove weeds and debris.

Onions can be planted in double rows or raised beds.  They can also be planted throughout the garden as companion plants for other vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants.  If planting in double rows, plant the sets about four inches apart.  The double rows should be six to ten inches apart.

If planting in raised beds, plant the sets about 4 inches apart in beds no wider than three feet.  Beds wider than three feet are more difficult to reach into and maintain.

Onions can be planted throughout the garden as companion plants, partnering especially well with members of the cabbage family like broccoli and cauliflower, strawberries, tomatoes, beets, lettuce and roses.  Onions don't grow well together with beans and peas.

Cover the onion set with soil but do not cover any green foliage that may emerge.  Sometimes a late frost can cause the bulbs to rise in the soil.  Rain or irrigation can erode soil away from the bulbs.  If this happens, use a garden hoe to bring a bit of soil over the bulbs taking care not to damage them.  If the tops of the bulbs are exposed, they can be damaged by the sun.

Onions need about one inch of water per week.  Irrigate if rainfall is inadequate.  Over-watering can result in soggy soil causing root rot.

Weed as necessary.

Onions can be harvested at various times.  Green onions with immature bulbs can be pulled when the leaves are about seven inches tall.  If some of your onions are crowding because of being planted to closely, thinning them will provide you with some green onions.  You may harvest them anytime they look big enough to you.  You may be able to allow some to grow to full maturity, when the leaves begin to yellow and drop over.  In any case, it is advisable to harvest onions if they are beginning to show signs of going to seed, thereby salvaging them before they become practically unusable.

Onions have few insect pests.  Root maggots and thrips can cause problems.  Root maggots can be prevented by companion planting the onions as described above.  This prevents the maggots from travelling from bulb to bulb.  If planted in rows or raised beds, consider covering the onions with light and permeable row covers manufactured specifically for crop protection.  Row covers can also prevent birds from damaging the bulbs.  Thrips can be controlled with insecticidal soap or insecticides labeled for onions.

Mature onion bulbs can be stored for future use by cutting off the yellowed foliage and laying the bulbs on sheets of newspaper for about three weeks in a warm, dry place.  This allows the papery covering of the bulbs, called tunics, to dry.  When the tunics are dry, the bulbs can be kept in net bags for several weeks.

Return to Onions at goGardenNow.com.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Serving Up Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a favorite for many folks, but to others it's practically unknown.  Garrison Keillor, creator of A Prairie Home Companion radio show, sings his famous lines, "Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb, Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie", and makes us feel nostalgic for it even if we've never eaten it.

Rhubarb has an interesting history.  Native to Asia, it has been used as medicine there for a very long time.  The plants grew wild along the Volga River.  It is said that some early Americans consumed the leaves, but paid for it with their lives because they didn't know that the leaves and roots of rhubarb were toxic to humans.  How they came by it is unclear.  Only the leaf stem or petiole is edible.  Not surprisingly the use of rhubarb for culinary purposes was apparently abandoned until someone discovered many years later that they had eaten the wrong part of the plant.  On the other hand, historians tell us that rhubarb was so highly regarded as medicine by Chinese that they considered it too valuable to share with the common rabble in Europe.

Rhubarb is a versatile and beautiful perennial plant that does well in ornamental and vegetable gardens from USDA climate zone 8 and upward.  The large leaves are bold in appearance, and the colorful petioles (red, pink or light green) are very attractive.  Even if not eaten, it would be worth growing in the landscape or containers for beauty alone.

Choose a site in full sun with rich, well-drained soil where the plants can be left to grow for decades.  In the south, rhubarb can suffer from the sun's heat, so planting in partial shade is helpful.  Soil pH should range between 5.8 and 6.8.  I recommend taking a soil sample to your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service for testing.  Call them first for instructions and fees.

When the soil has warmed and danger of frost is past, cultivate the soil deeply and well.  Add lots of composted organic matter and any other soil amendments that the soil test result indicates.  Once planted, you won't have an opportunity to cultivate the soil so well again.  Do it right the first time.

Though the roots you purchase commercially may seem small (usually no more than one and a half inches long), they will grow large if well-maintained.  Plant them about three feet apart.  Dig a hole large enough in the soft soil to accommodate the roots without crowding.  You may make a cone-shaped mound in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots over it.  The buds, or "eyes", should be two to four inches below the soil surface.  Gently press the soil over the plant and water well, taking care not to wash the soil away from the crown.

When new growth appears, begin adding composted mulch or straw around the plants.  This will help to conserve moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.  Weeds compete for nutrients and moisture.   Even without weed competition rhubarb needs watering, so provide at least one inch of water per week during the growing season if rainfall is not adequate.  Remove seed stalks when they appear for the maturing seeds diminish the vitality of the plants.

When the plants die back in the fall, gardeners in the north may add composted mulch.  Southern gardeners, however, should remove mulch because rhubarb benefits from cold winter temperatures.  Composted mulch should be replaced in the spring.  Repeat the process every year.

Resist the temptation to sample your rhubarb the first year.  The plants need to become well-established.  They are prevented from doing so if the leaves and stalks are removed.  You may harvest a few petioles the second year if you must.  Take more the next year and thereafter.  Petioles are ready for harvesting when they are about three fourths of an inch to one inch wide.  The amount you may harvest depends upon the vigor of the plants.  If the plants are not vigorous, removing too many leaves will weaken the plants further.  So it's very important to maintain healthy plants.

Rhubarb is not seriously bothered by insects and diseases, though aphids, borers and beetles may appear.  Insecticidal soap is effective enough against aphids.  Beetles may be removed by hand.  Little can be done about borers, but they are rare.  As with many species, selected companion plants can repel insects.  Rhubarb does well when grown near garlic and onions.  They also respond well when grown near roses and columbine.

Leaf spot may occasionally appear, but it can be controlled by gathering and destroying dead foliage in the fall.  If the planting site is not well-drained, crown and root rot may cause a problem.  But this can be prevented by choosing a proper site in the beginning.

Rhubarb has a pleasingly tart taste, especially when sweetened.  It should be noted that rhubarb became more popular in North America when sugar became readily available and cheap.

Its called "pie plant" for good reason as it ends up in pies more often than not.  But rhubarb can also be used in breads and other baked goods, drinks, and as vegetable entrees or side dishes along with various meats.  Rhubarb can be canned or frozen for later use.  Remember:  only the leaf petiole is edible; the leaves and roots contain oxalic acid, so are toxic to humans.

Give rhubarb a try.  You'll enjoy its beauty, flavor, and the pleasure of growing a bit of history in your own backyard.

Return to Rhubarb at goGardenNow.com.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bedazzling Begonias

For bedazzling, eye-popping hues in container gardens and color beds, go with tuberous begonias.  Tuberous begonias are perennials that grow from swollen stems.  Roots emerge from the bottom; shoots and leaves appear along the top and sides.  Their parentage can be traced to species found in South America and hybridized during the late 19th century.

The botanical name is Begonia x tuberhybrida.  The genus is named for Michel Begon (1638-1710), naturalist and governor of New France (French Canada).  Tuberhybrida means "hybrid tuber."  No surprise there, eh?

Tuberous begonias produce beautiful, succulent foliage, typical of the genus.  They are worth growing for the foliage alone.  Impressive flowers appear from mid-summer until cold weather stops them.  Colors are available throughout almost the entire color spectrum.  Common flower forms include double or camellia-types, fimbriata or carnation-types, and pendulous.  Their appearance is very lush.  Plant height is around 12".  They lend themselves to all kinds of uses from container gardening in small spaces to mass plantings in flower beds.  Use them in tropical gardens or wherever you want a tropical appearance. They're wonderful for hanging baskets, especially the pendulous forms.

Tuberous begonias can be grown almost anywhere in the United States, but they are reliably hardy only in USDA climate zones 10 and 11.  Some gardeners lift and store over winter in cooler zones, but they are rather inexpensive so are often treated as annuals.

Begonias prefer partial to full shade.  Rich soil, moist but well-drained, is best with mildly acidic pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.5.  The best way to determine if the pH is within range and contains the proper nutrients is to have the soil tested.  Your local Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service can help you.  You can collect the soil sample yourself.  For a nominal fee, they will send your soil sample to a laboratory for analysis.  Be sure to call the Extension office for instructions.

If you use potting soil, choose the finest grade available.  Cheap soil will give poor results.  The best potting soils will be light-weight, peat-based with added materials to enhance plant growth.  Select containers that will allow you to include companion plants, if desired.  Larger containers will require less frequent watering.  The addition of water retentive gel can be beneficial.
 
Cultivate the soil, if necessary, and remove weeds.  If you use synthetic fertilizer, allow at least a week before planting so it can be incorporated into the soil by rain or irrigation and not burn the tubers.  Time-release fertilizers for annual plants are excellent.

Plant your begonias in spring after the danger of frost has passed.  Planting holes or trenchs should be about 3" deep.  Space the rhizomes about 8 to 12 inches apart.  Lay them flat in the bottom of the hole or trench.  Don't worry about which side is up.  Cover with about two inches of soil.  Water deeply.  If some of the soil washes away, add more.

Fertilize occasionally throughout the growing season.  Keep soil moist, but not soggy.  Weed, if necessary.

When I plant color, I tend to do it in a big way.  No dabs here and there for me.  I like lots of it; bold statements.  Try it.  I think you will like it, too.  Plant a box of tuberous begonias in your garden.  They are sure to please.  You'll be surprised how many ways you can use them.

Return to Tuberous Begonias at goGardenNow.com.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stopping Short For Moneywort

I'm not ashamed to pick up pennies wherever I find them.  As a gardener, plantsman and writer, I can use the extra income.  Anything that even looks like money gets my attention: bottle caps, small metal plugs and such.  So when I first spied Moneywort, I stopped short and said, "Oooo, oooo!  What's that?"

Its botanical name is Lysimachia nummularia (pronounced "ly-si-MAK-ee-uh noo-mew-LAH-ree-ah").  The genus is named for Lysimachus (360-281BC), the successor to Alexander The Great, king of Macedonia and Thrace, who is said to have fed the plant to his oxen to calm them.   "Nummularia" means "coin-shaped."  It also goes by other common names including "Creeping Jenny", "Herb Twopence" and "Two-penny grass".

Moneywort is native to Europe, but is used in North America as an ornamental ground cover.  So successful is it that some consider it invasive.  But, dear friends, you can't blame a ground cover for doing what ground covers do best; they cover ground.

Plant height ranges from 1" to 3".  Foliage is evergreen.  My favorite is L. nummularia 'Aurea', which sports bright chartreuse or yellow leaves.  'Aurea' is a little less aggressive than the species.  Yellow flowers are produced throughout the growing season.  Moneywort spreads by sending out runners, adding richness and color to the garden.

Moneywort thrives in full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3 through 10 in moist soil.  Because it needs consistent moisture, partial shade is recommended in the hottest climates, though heat itself is not the issue.  Recommended soil pH ranges from 5.6 to 7.5.

This ground cover is most effective between taller perennials and shrubs, in container and bog gardens, and cascading over stone walls.  It's fine around stepping-stones, tolerating some foot traffic.

If soil is compacted, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 10" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  If the soil is high in organic matter and friable, it may not require cultivation.  Compost may be incorporated into the soil, if necessary.  Incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Plant Moneywort with other plants having similar cultural requirements.  Space the plants 24" to 36" apart, depending upon plant size. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the root balls. Do not cover entirely the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 1" deep.  Fertilize sparingly and irrigate when necessary.

Moneywort grows so well throughout so many climate zones, it could lend richness and color to your garden, too.  Your garden visitors will stop in their tracks, and say, "Oooo, oooo!  What is that?"

See how nicely Moneywort cascades over the rims of pots in this water garden?

Return to Lysimachia at goGardenNow.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Recycle Your Christmas Tree To Keep On Giving

According to the Christian liturgical calendar, Christmas only begins on December 25, lasting through January 5.  There are twelve entire days to celebrate.  Then the Feast of Epiphany is celebrated immediately, remembering the Wise Men.  What a great way to banish the after-Christmas blues!

With Christmas officially ended, you might be wondering what to do with your Christmas tree.  Rather than pile it in a sad curbside heap destined for the landfill, recycle it for the happy benefit of others.  Here are a few ideas.  Your options may vary depending on your locality and circumstances.

1.  Have a bonfire and invite friends to gather around and sing.  But you'll need more than a dried Christmas tree to keep it going.  Unless you add some material with longer burn times, you won't make it through the first verse of We Three Kings.  Some will argue that burning your tree is not environmentally responsible, but judging from the weather forecast for the next couple of weeks, we could use a little warming.

2.  Many municipalities and businesses establish collection points where they accept your tree.  Some have machines set up, process your tree on the spot, and return it to you as a bag of mulch for your garden or compost bin.  Others take the trees to a permanent facility for chipping and use the finished material in parks and playgrounds.

3.  Provide shelter for wildlife by toting your tree to the back of your property and leaving it there.  Birds and small mammals will appreciate the cover it provides.  For good measure, you may hang fruit and bird feeders from the boughs to attract your avian friends.  Remember, this is a time for feasting.

4.  Cut branches off the trunk and use them in your perennial garden to help support taller plants such as delphiniums.  Position them so they form arches.  Your perennials will grow through the branches.

5.  Boughs can also be used to protect tender plants from cold weather.  Positioning them so that they form arches, straw and dried leaves can be laid on top until spring thaw.

6.   If your circumstances do not permit you try options 3 through 6 above, check with a community garden project to see if they could use your tree for those purposes

7. Submerge it in your pond or lake.  The sunken tree will provide shelter and attract food for many species.  Some municipalities collect trees and sink hundreds of them into public lakes to create fish habitat.

8.  If you live near the sea, check with your local beach authorities to see if they use old Christmas trees for erosion control.  Many do.
 
9.  Similarly, recycled Christmas trees may be used along lakes and rivers to prevent shoreline and river bank erosion.

I'm sure there are more ways to recycle Christmas trees than these, but I hope this presents you with some options you hadn't thought about before.

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Results of Garden Poll Ending 2 January, 2010

Our garden poll at www.goGardenNow.com which ended on 2 January, 2010 asked the question, "Are you putting up a Christmas tree this year?"

25% of respondents said, "No, I'm not in the mood."
25% of respondents said, "No, I'd rather spend the money on something else."
50% of respondents said, "Yes, it wouldn't seem like Christmas without one."

Perhaps this explains why the Christmas tree vendor down the street abandoned his remaining trees on 23 December.  He usually sells out.

It seems a shame.  But I confess we didn't have a Christmas tree this year.  I preferred to spend the money on something else, and family members were traveling so it seemed there was really no point.

Other possible answers (to which no one responded) were:
"No, I don't celebrate Christmas."
"No, I can't afford one."
"Yes, celebrating is always a good idea."
"Yes, we can't afford one but will have one anyway."
"Yes, we'll have two or more in my house."

Perhaps we will feel merrier next year.

To participate in our current garden poll, go to goGardenNow.com.  You'll find the poll in the right-hand column.  Hope to hear from you soon!

Return to goGardenNow.com.

New Year Snapshots of Charleston Gardens


"Pedestrian" has been given an unfortunate meaning:  lacking in vitality, commonplace, dull.  But after two mind- and butt-numbing round-trip drives from Georgia to DC on the I-95 corridor in as many months, I can assure you that "pedestrian" is anything but.

My New Year's Day trip started like the others, in rain.  The driving rhythm and competition to "get ahead" was compelling.  But not long after exiting the interstate onto US 17N, I was forced by the posted speed limit to slow to an unwelcomed crawl.  Highway stretches lined with moss-draped oaks, and marshes exuding sulfury miasma intoxicated me enough.  By the time I crossed the Ashley River into Charleston, I longed to mosey.  It being a holiday, I easily found a parking spot on Meeting Street near White Point Gardens.  Rainfall ended; a few rays of sunshine sliced through the clouds.  I grabbed my camera.  From there, I strolled south and east to the Battery, back west on Murray Boulevard to Lenwood Boulevard, northward to Tradd Street, and eastward to complete the circuit.

Gardens entice me.  Walled ones seduce me to point at doorways and windows, to lean over fences, to poke my lens through grates and gates, to stroll brazenly where others may fear to tread.  If anyone challenges me, I'll say, "It's okay.  I'm a perfessional."  Though no one has, I'm ready; I've rehearsed it a thousand times.

The accompanying photographs amount to a confession of sorts.  Follow me now to enjoy the vitality and imagination of a few of Charleston's gardeners that pedestrians may enjoy.

If you find these scenes appealing, you might also be interested in motifs of Charleston captured in the art of Shelia Thompson.  Her metal creations capture the essence of the Lowcountry for you to enjoy in your own home and garden.