Favorite or New Plant
'Okame' cherry (Prunus) is one of the best small trees for the home garden, as well as one of the earliest bloomers, with electric pink flowers appearing in late winter or early spring. In my part of the Middle South, this prized ornamental usually unfurls its flowers just in time for Valentine's Day.
At maturity, the tree has an upright, oval habit and stands 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Fine-textured foliage is deep green in summer and offers good yellow-orange to orange-red color in autumn.
Like other flowering cherries, 'Okame' grows best in full sun and fast-draining soil. Be sure to site it in full view of the passerby, where it can garner the acclaim it deserves.
Clever Gardening Technique
Pot a Pumpkin
Instead of displaying store-bought decorations to mark the season this year, create holiday spirit with a potted pumpkin. The project is both simple and fun, and ideal for sharing with children.
First, choose a thick-skinned pumpkin without bruises or soft spots. The larger the better, as a bigger fruit will hold more potting soil and plants. Then, select a variety of seasonal ornamentals such as mums, snap dragons, cabbages and kales, Johnny-jump-ups, tri-colored sage, and trailing rosemary.
When ready to pot the pumpkin, remove the top quarter of the pumpkin to create a wide opening. Then, use a drill or slender paring knife to make a couple of drainage holes in the bottom of the fruit. Fill the pumpkin more than half full with a premium potting mix, add the plants and more soil as needed, and finish with a topping of decorative mulch.
Because the pumpkin is perishable, the decoration will begin to deteriorate in a week or ten days. Extend the longevity of the arrangement by limiting heat and sunlight. Then, when the pumpkin does begin to soften, plant it (flowers and all) in the garden. The fruit will quickly decay into compost, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
For a more long-lasting decoration, pot up a dried gourd or a seasonal item such as an apple crate.