Mid-Atlantic

December, 2007
Regional Report

Look for Creative Opportunities

While the garden's quiet, take advantage of this time. Tap your creative juices; spread your wings; try something new. For example, Tyler Arboretum in Media, Pennsylvania, is looking for builders, architects, designers, and artists to create "Totally Terrific Treehouses!" Each designer will create and build a structure or exhibit that inspires our appreciation of trees in our world. Submissions are open to anyone and must arrive at Tyler between May 15, 2007 and February 7, 2008. The treehouse exhibits will be in place from May 31 through September 28, 2008. Call (610) 566-9134 for details or go to: http://www.tylerarboretum.org/TreeHouseProposal-Guidelines.pdf.

Pamper Your Poinsettia

Pennsylvania native Col. Robert Carr introduced the poinsettia to commercial trade in 1829 at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. A most popular potted plant, the poinsettia will flower for several weeks if properly cared for. Place your poinsettia in indirect sunlight in a south, east, or west window where it will receive 6 hours of light daily. The ideal daytime temperature is 65 to 70 degrees F; at night 60 degrees F. Water when soil is dry, so check daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Discard excess water. Exposure to hot or cold drafts and insufficient or overwatering can cause premature leaf drop.

Repot Holiday Herbs, Ivy, Topiaries

I'm noticing that many holiday sale plants look great at the store but dry up way too quickly at home. They're rootbound! Their roots are so dense and intertwined, water doesn't penetrate. The top of the soil may feel moist but water hasn't touched roots in the middle or at the bottom. The plant should be gently root pruned, then replanted in a larger pot. Lift the intact rootball from its small pot. Take a sharp knife and cut away 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil and roots from the edge, like you're peeling off an orange rind. That will loosen the roots. Carefully tease remaining roots apart with your fingers. Repot in quality soilless planting mix in a larger container. Water well.

Dig Hole for Live Christmas Tree

Are you buying a live spruce, pine, or other evergreen to decorate indoors for the holidays, then plant outdoors. If so, dig the hole now before the soil freezes hard. The hole shouldn't be deeper than the height of the tree's rootball. It should be three times wider than the rootball to give roots room to spread easily. Store several buckets of dug soil where it won't freeze. You'll appreciate the ease of pouring loose (unfrozen) soil over the roots when you're planting the tree.

Celebrate the Light of Winter Solstice

As gardeners, we're at least somewhat attuned to nature's rhythms. Ancient peoples' survival depended on their understanding of, respecting, and planning for nature's cycles. Summer and fall bounty quickly gave way to winter cold and darkness. Many celebrated the winter solstice -- December 21 -- the shortest day or longest night of the year. They kept a yule log burning throughout the long night. Religious and cultural celebrations worldwide -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, Celtic Midwinter, Feast of St. Lucia, Wren Day, Saturnalia -- revolve around winter solstice as a promise of rebirth and festival of light. Beginning this Dec. 21, daylight increases every day!

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