Upper South

December, 2011
Regional Report

Give Evergreens the Brush Off

Did your fall cleanup include brushing fallen leaves out of evergreen shrubs, particularly small ones? Allowing these to remain among the branches will not only weigh them down when snows come, but will also cause the needles to deteriorate over time. It's also important to clear chunks of snow from evergreen branches, either brushing off with a broom or gently shaking the limbs. Ice storms are another matter, when trees and shrubs must be left alone.

Brighten Dark Days with Houseplants

As Christmas decorations are put away for another year, the house can feel a bit gloomy. Brighten it and your spirits by adding to your houseplant collection. African violets are easy to grow and readily bloom. Phalaenopsis orchids are at their blooming peak during the winter months. But don't overlook houseplants grown for their foliage, including ferns, succulents, cacti, scheffleras, dieffenbachias, and others.

Inventory Seeds and Supplies

Although winter may have officially just begun, the gardener's season is just around the corner. Before sending off your seed orders, take the time to inventory seed-starting supplies as well as leftover seed and check their viability. Lay a few seeds on a lightly dampened paper towel, cover with another dampened towel, and put in a plastic bag. Set in a warm place and check in a few days to see if at least half have sprouted.

Read About New Plants

Gardening magazines and websites usually feature new plants at this time of year. Many of these often feature better pest resistance, improved flowers, or higher production. Although there is nothing wrong with continuing to utilize the tried-and-true, adding at least a few of the new varieties is an opportunity to grow as a gardener. Keep a file of ones that catch your interest or make notes so that you'll be prepared as your order plants and seeds now and as you shop locally later this year.

Plan and Prepare for Major Projects

Perhaps this is the year that you want to make major changes in your yard, such as adding a fence, gazebo, or terrace. It's never too soon to start researching. Get ideas from books, magazines, and websites. Make a scrapbook, to say nothing of a budget. If a contractor will be needed, begin interviewing. Don't wait until warm weather when schedules may already be filled. Such elements in a garden can make it very special and shouldn't be a snap decision.

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