Coastal and Tropical South

December, 2009
Regional Report

Limb Up Shrubs

Overgrown shrubs can block the view, harbor insects, and look like blobs in the garden. But before you saw them down, see if they can be limbed up. That means removing the lower limbs, but leaving the trunks and top growth to form little trees. This process takes advantage of the height you have grown and can often frame a view or reveal one through the newly bare trunks. Those trunks often have more interesting surfaces than you'd see any other way, and can add upright lines to the garden design. Try this with ligustrum and lorapetalum for particularly attractive results.

Plant Bulbs

Get the tulips out of the crisper, and find that bag of daffodils you threw in the shed. It's time to plant right now. There are other bulbs to put on your list, too. It doesn't seem like there are ever enough lilies in our gardens. We plant one or two, but don't think to collect them. If you dont want tall, go for the spider lilies (Lycoris comes in more than just salmon). Boggy sites and well-drained ones can support the white spider lily (Hymenocallis spp.) Don't overlook the beautiful blue Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanicus). Easy to grow, fairly fast to spread, and a dazzling shade of blue you'll enjoy in spring.

Rehab Lawn

Call your county agent's office for a soil test kit. The results will tell you whether or not to provide nutrients to the lawn (and if so, what to use) as well as whether lime is indicated. The test is cheap and provides important facts about your site, including pH. Do the necessary amending, including organic matter if drainage is an issue, then dig or till up the areas that need attention. Replant the bare areas with plugs or sod and keep the area free of weeds while it grows together. As the season progresses, mow regularly at the height recommended for your lawn type, and consider a mulching mower to return clippings to the turf as a consistent source of nitrogen.

Enjoy Brussels Sprouts

A great joy of the winter garden is Brussels sprouts. They can be woody, bitter, and nearly inedible when grown at other times of the year in our regions. A little frost, and yes, snow, only improves their taste. The sprouts form in the leaf axils all along the stem. If yours are not "sprouting" by now, back off on nitrogen fertilizer to promote their development.

Make a Centerpiece from the Backyard

For a quick centerpiece with seasonal flair, look no further than the plants in your own garden. Clip 10 pieces, each a foot long, of any evergreen. Cut three clusters of any berries with some leaves attached. Pick out a few fruits such as loquat, citrus, and pomegranate that are in season now. Start with a 4-inch square of damp floral foam and make a circle of the evergreens as a base. Save a few pieces and cut them in half. Settle the berried clusters on the green base in a triangle, then fill in between it with fruit. Stick the remaining evergreens into the foam as if they were leaves around some of the fruit. This arrangement will fit into a low vase or holiday tin, and can also incorporate nuts in their shells and candles or battery-operated lights.

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