Upper South

December, 2005
Regional Report

Choose Gardening Gifts

Holiday gifts that relate to gardening are definitely appreciated by the garden enthusiasts in your life. Consider some long-lasting, well-made garden gloves, a specialty trowel or pruner, wireless weather gadgets, ventilated rubber garden clogs, heat mat and indoor light unit for seed starting, or a garden bench. Even non-gardeners can enjoy holiday plants or easy-to-grow amaryllis bulbs. Who knows, you might inspire someone!

Propagate African Violets

The exuberant flowering nature of African violets makes them a joy to grow. It's easy to propagate new plants for sharing with friends. Remove a leaf, cutting the stem as long as possible. Dip the stem end in rooting hormone powder, and insert the cutting into a pot filled with moistened vermiculite. Cut a few slits in a clear plastic bag and place it over the pot, making sure that the pot doesn't touch the leaves. Keep the soil moist and in a few weeks, you'll have a new plant.

Decorate a Christmas Tree for the Birds

Besides keeping the bird feeders filled, it's fun to create a holiday tree outdoors expressly for the birds. No matter whether an evergreen or a deciduous tree, decorate the branches with strands of cranberries, popcorn, and peanuts in the shells. Add "ornaments" of pinecones filled with a mixture of peanut butter, suet, cornmeal, wild bird seed, and raisins; hang from the tree with string or ribbon. Stale bagels spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with wild bird seed are easy to hang from the tree, too.

Consider a Live Tree

A live evergreen tree, still in its pot or balled and burlapped, can be brought indoors for 3 to 5 days, decorated, then planted outdoors in your yard. Often families make this a holiday tradition, with the trees providing treasured memories for years to come. Dig the hole before the ground freezes, then fill it with leaves and cover the removed soil with a tarp. After the holidays, plant the tree, water deeply, and spray the needles with an antidessicant.

Caring for Holiday Plants

Poinsettias, azaleas, and other plants associated with the holidays appear earlier and earlier in garden centers and other outlets. When choosing a plant, look for full, dense foliage and buds that have not yet opened. On poinsettias, these are the small greenish flowers in the center. To keep them looking their best for the longest period, provide bright, indirect light for most of the day, place away from both hot and cold drafts, and keep temperatures below 70 degrees F. Water thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry.

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