Monday, December 28, 2015

Creating a Winter Container Garden

You may think that winter is a time to put away your containers and forget about gardening.  That's not true.  Even though the weather might be cold outside, you can still create some eye-catching container gardens.

First, start with a container that won't crack in the cold weather.  Fiberglass, metal, concrete, or even hollow logs work well.  Don't use ceramics, terracota, or thin plastic. (The containers in the picture would not work for really cold temperatures, but in Georgia, where I live, they're fine.)

Choose plants and flowers that work well in colder weather.  Some ideas for flowers include winter pansies, violas, hellebores, and my favorites, cabbage and flowering kale.  The neat thing about the cabbage and kale is that the color intesifies, the colder it gets.  If you look at the purple cabbage above, you see what I mean.

For greenery, use annual grasses, new zealand flax, variegated yucca, dwarf deciduous hollies, and trailing ivy. You can also use evergreens.  Then, for a pretty effect, decorate with pinecones.

Water your container garden only when the soil is dry. 

I'd like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Cactus

 Last post, I talked about a popular winter plant called the Amaryllis. This week, the featured plant is another popular Christmas gift:  The Christmas cactus.

The Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera, is native to the mountains of south-eastern Brazil.  It likes shade and high humidity.  It can be recognized by its leaf-like pads and pink flowers which flower only around Thanksgiving or Christmas (hence the name).

Here are some tips for caring for your Christmas cactus:

1.  Keep away from direct sunlight, drafts, heat vents, or fireplaces.

2.  Provide a source of humidity.  You can put a tray of water next to the plant, so that the water evaporates and provides humidity.

3.  Do not  overwater.  Once a week should be enough.  And if you can, don't water from the top.  It is best to put the plant in a tray of water and allow water to seep through holes in the bottom of the container.

4.  Prune your cactus one month after blooming.  
I won't post here again, before Christmas, so I'd like to wish all of you who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Growing and Caring for Your Amaryllis

Amaryllis are those beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers you see around Christmas.  They can be found at your local grocery store or florist.  Red is the most popular color, but they can be pink, white, salmon, apricot, or rose.

When growing an amarylllis, select the largest bulb possible, because the amount of stalks and blooms relates directly to the bulb size.  Make sure your container is deep enough for good root development, and make sure it has good drainage.  The container doesn't have to be that big.  The diameter should be one inch larger than the bulb. Position the bulb so that at least one third of it is above the soil.  Press the soil around the bulb so that it is firm.  Then put in a warm sunny spot.  Do not fertilize until it begins to grow.

When buds appear, move the plant out of direct sunlight..  This will help prolong the blooms.  After the flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation.  Do not remove the stalk until it has turned yellow.  The amaryllis needs a lot of sunlight after blooming, so be sure to put it in the brightest possible location inside.  Water when the top two inches of the soil seems dry.  Continue to fertilize.  When the danger of frost has passed, you can take your amaryllis outside, but start by placing it in the shade or indirect light.  Gradually, you can move it to an area where it can receive six hours of full sun each day.  Just be sure to bring it back inside before the danger of the first frost.

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that my book, Ten Zany Birds, is party of SCBWI's inaugural book launch party. You can like the page, comment in the guest book, and try to win one of two copies of the book (US residents only). Visit the link for details.