Upper South

December, 2009
Regional Report

Follow the Poinsettia Routine

Since poinsettias are now available before Thanksgiving, it's more important than ever to take the necessary steps to keep them looking great as long as possible. Poinsettias tolerate a wide range of light conditions, just don't put them in a dark corner and expect miracles. Six hours a day of bright light is ideal. Choose a spot with temperatures around 70 degrees F. Avoid placing them in areas that get cold drafts, such as by an outside door. Conversely, don't put them near a heat register, as those conditions are deleterious as well. Water thoroughly when the top of the soil is dry to the touch and don't let them stand in water. With this simple care, your poinsettias will bloom through the darkest days of winter.

Give Amaryllis and Paperwhites Some Support

No, you don't have to co-sign a mortgage for these wonderful winter flowers or watch their soccer games, but they do need the kind of support that prevents the flower stalks from falling over. For amaryllis, use a bamboo stake (preferably stained green), carefully plunged into the soil so that the bulb is not stabbed. Use a simple tie of green gardener's twine or jazz it up with some spectacular ribbon. For paperwhite narcissus, I prefer to place them at the base of a crystal vase on a bed of gravel so that the vase holds them up. Alternatively, place a stake in the middle of the container and loosely tie the narcissus foliage together around it.

Use Pine Cones and Holly for Last Minute Decorations

Most people have had all their decorations up for weeks now, but, if you happen to see a spot that could do with a bit of the spirit, simply dash out into the garden and clip some holly and grab a few pine (or other evergreen) cones. Laying some down the center of a dining table creates an instant centerpiece. Intersperse some candles to make it look planned. Have some extra glitter or spray paint? Use them on the cones. Add some ribbon loops, and you have ornaments. After the holidays, dip the cones in some melted candle wax (a great use for leftover candles) and use them for firestarters.

Check On Houseplants

Your indoor plants are adjusting to the low light and dry atmosphere in your home. Give them a thorough check to see if they need to be moved to a location with brighter light or if you should invest in a fluorescent light fixture for them. If the edges of the leaves are turning brown and curling under, low humidity might be the problem. Group plants together and set on pebble-filled trays. And be sure to check the undersides of leaves and stems for scale, aphids, white flies, and spider mites, then treat with an organic spray, such as neem or insecticidal soap, following manufacturer's directions.

Don't Look Now, But...

Weeds are still growing, especially chickweed, henbit, and wild onions. If the whirl of Christmas gets to be too much, bundle up and head outdoors. Take out your frustrations on the weeds. Most of the ones that were going to sprout this fall have already done so, therefore what you accomplish now is a headstart on next spring's work. The chickweed can even be added to salads, plus it's very nutritious. Utilize the quiet time in the garden to reflect on the season and be grateful.

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