Visiting Greenhouses and other December Gardening Tips
Visiting local greenhouses and transporting holiday plants home safely, cleaning and storing hand tools, and removing snow from shrubs are some of the garden-related activities for this month.
Try to visit a local greenhouse, as the sight of so many plants all in bloom is sure to lift the spirits on a cloudy and cold day. If you’re buying holiday plants anywhere, make sure to protect them on the way home with a paper “sleeve” or bag, especially poinsettias which are quite sensitive to cold. Once home, keep plants away from drafts and heat sources, and don’t overwater. Make sure if foil is around the pot that there is a hole for water to drain and that the pot is in a saucer if on furniture.
In addition to the popular poinsettias, other holiday plants you might look for are cyclamen, azaleas, and kalanchoe (best said as “cal-AN-cho). None of these plants, including poinsettias, like to be too wet. Cyclamen and azaleas last better slightly cooler, while kalanchoe and poinsettias prefer slightly warmer (65 to 70 degrees F). Amaryllis is a bulb you can buy potted, in bloom, or just as a bulb or bulb kit to give as a gift. They are easy to grow and should bloom within a couple months from planting, depending on variety.
Wipe hand tools clean after use and before storing them for winter. Any moist soil left on the blades can encourage rust, and dirt can dull pruner blades. Also wipe wooden handles with linseed oil to keep them from splitting due to dryness. Before putting tools away or forgetting them for winter, sharpen the blades. You can find files for this online and in garden stores.
Don’t walk on frozen grass, especially if you don’t have snow cover on your lawn. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken, causing dieback in your lawn that will show up next spring. Similarly, try not to drive or park on lawns, otherwise you’ll be looking at the tire tracks long into next season.
Snowfalls can be tough on trees and shrubs by weighing down the branches, as many in northern areas find each year with heavy snowfalls. Gently brush off most of the snow with a broom or by hand. Don’t use a shovel, which can injure the branches. If there is ice buildup, it’s best to let it melt because it’s easy to break off the brittle branches if you try to remove it. If plants are under roof eaves, protect them from falling ice and snow with tee-pee shelters.
If you have friends or family that like to garden, think of gardening gifts for holiday presents. Books, gloves, hand tools, weather instruments, and fancy pots are some ideas to consider. This year, instead of giving baskets with local and homemade food items, we’ll be giving decorative colorful pots filled with these. If you can’t decide, how about a coupon for so many hours of help in the garden, or even a gift certificate to a local garden or book store?
Other garden-related activities for this month include visiting a local farm to cut a Christmas tree or to buy greens for decorating, checking holiday indoor trees daily for water needs to keep them long-lasting and safe, mulching tender perennials (if you haven’t already) once the ground is frozen, keeping bird feeders filled and heated birdbaths cleaned regularly, and checking houseplants weekly for pests. Making holiday decorations from natural materials can be as simple as adding your favorite decorations from craft stores to undecorated wreaths, roping, kissing balls, or door swags.
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (CharlieNardozzi.com). Distribution of this release is made possible by University of Vermont and Green Works—the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association.