Save Your Amaryllis
Keep these amazingly beautiful tropical plants cool (in the 60F range) through the holidays. Place in diffuse light. Water sparingly and don't wet the bulb portion above the soil. After the last flower dies, cut off the stalk above the bulb. To promote growth now and bloom for next holiday season, increase light, water, and fertilizer. Move to the sunniest spot possible. Feed monthly and don't allow the soil to dry out. After threat of frost in spring, move your amaryllis outside for summer sun. Come August, force the bulb into dormancy for at least six weeks in preparation for next December's flowering.
Give Holiday Horticulture
Consider giving the gift of memberships -- to the Hardy Plant Society, your local arboretum, favorite public/private gardens, horticultural society, rose or rhododendron or cactus or rock garden society. There's something, some place for everyone. It's fun to figure out which affiliation will enhance which friend's horticultural interests. It's especially fun if you enjoy the events together -- at least the first one.
Visit Nature Centers and Wildlife Refuges
Consult your area nature centers and wildlife refuges about your region's wildlife. Their staffs likely know which seeds and types of feeders appeal to which birds, and what types of plants attract other wildlife.
Regift for Fun with Care
Watching your budget needn't keep you, friends and family from holiday fun. Regifting -- wrapping and giving presents you've been given but can't/won't use or don't want -- can be a surprisingly good time. Add the twist of a Chinese auction (wine's a plus) and enjoy the fun. In a Chinese auction, all wrapped gifts are placed in a pile and every guest is given a number. In numerical order, each guest gets to select a wrapped gift, which they unwrap in front of everyone. That person can choose to keep that gift OR "trade" that gift with someone who already has a gift. A gift can only be traded three times. Two years ago, I unwrapped friend Marbie's daughter's most delicious homemade fudge. And sat down quite happy. The next book groupie opened fresh blueberry jam -- but wanted the homemade fudge instead. I love blueberries ... so was still happy with the trade. Not for long. Next person unwrapped a cheery pair of Christmas socks but wanted MY blueberry jam. I still have the socks. One caveat: remember who gave you what. Little is more embarrassing than bringing the unwanted vase your mother-in-law gave you last year -- only to have her choose that wrapped gift from this year's pile. Well... maybe you have to be there. This IS fun.
Recycle Pine Branches Over Bulb Areas
Winter temperatures are already fluctuating up and down 30 degrees within a week's time. Confusing? Yes... for us and for plants. Prematurely sprouting spring bulbs are especially susceptible to cold damage. To help keep your daffies and tulips from losing their buds in a January/February/March winter freeze-thaw cycle, cover their planting area with several layers of evergreen boughs left from the holidays. This "green" blanket will protect them overall by keeping the soil temperature somewhat stable. Bulb tips that push through the soil will benefit from protective tents of needles and branches.