Thursday, January 8, 2009

This Saturday: RI Wild Plant Society

Saturday, January 10, 2009
Location: North Kingston Public Library
Wickford, RI
Guest Speaker: Leslie Duthie
Propagation Techniques for Native Plants

The first meeting of 2009 and do bring a friend as it is open to the public. In the event of questionable weather, a message will be left on the office phone.

Learn the ins and outs of propagating native plants from ferns to wildflowers to native trees and shrubs. The lecture will cover seed and spore collection, storage, time and temperature for germination, and hardwood and softwood cuttings. Native plants are generally easy to grow and some basic techniques are sufficient for propagating many different kinds of plants. Bring your questions on those plants you find "difficult to grow."

1:00 - 1:30 pm Business Meeting*
1:30 - 2:00 pm Refreshments & Fellowship
2:00 - 3:30 pm Program
Free and open to the public-Bring a friend
If your last name begins with the letters A-M,
please bring refreshments to share.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ways to give your previously “live” Christmas tree new life

With great care, shortly after Thanksgiving, a fresh, fragrant pine tree was brought into your home. It was lovingly adorned with festive lights, garland, and ornaments. For many of us this stirred (hopefully) fond memories of Christmases past, family, and friends. This tree was the centerpiece for exchanging brightly wrapped packages in all sizes and shapes. Now it is time to safely stow away the ornaments, garland, lights and tinsel. This year, rather than putting your tree out with the trash, you can create more fond memories of your tree by giving it a new purpose, such as:

  • A resting and nesting place for birds, rabbits and other small creatures. Just lay your old tree in a remote corner of your yard. You may not see activity there, but you can watch for tracks after the next snowfall.

  • Mulch, if you have the equipment, or if your municipality collects them for that purpose.

  • Contact your town hall or county Extension office to see if they need your tree for a project. Some communities will collect spent Christmas trees to make their own mulch.

  • A birdseed buffet: Just decorate your Christmas tree for your feathered friends. It provides shelter from birds of prey. First, be sure to place it in a spot where you can enjoy the birds from inside your home. To secure it, either plant it temporarily or tie it to a fence or another tree. Decorate it with easy-to-make bird treats: just hang stale cookies, donuts, slices of bread, pretzels, apples or oranges by string or leftover Christmas ribbon. All of these can be coated in peanut butter and pressed in birdseed (just like pine cones when we were little). Click here for more ideas. Remember to refresh and replenish your decorative treats until the winter weather breaks.

  • Also, your lovely Christmas wreaths and roping (minus the decorations) can be simply hung on a nail on a tree outside. It makes a nice perch for birds to dine on bird treats (like pincones in peanut butter and birdseed).

  • Once ponds are safely frozen (definitely not yet around here), your tree can be dragged out onto the ice. When the ice melts, the tree will sink to the bottom and become a new habitat for the fish.

How to care for your Christmas Poinsettias

First, I was surprised to learn while researching this topic that many people don't yet know that Poinsettias are not poisonous. Although they are an ornamental plant, and not edible for people or pets, they don't pose a health threat. According to the American Society of Florists poinsettias have been tested more for toxicity more than any other plant. Because they are not edible, the leaves (known as “bracts”) could cause a little belly ache. Some people may have an allergic reaction when handling Poinsettia bracts, especially if they rub their eyes causing redness and irritation. Now, caring for those previously perky poinsettias, let's start with the easiest steps:
  • Prolong your poinsettias' blooms by giving it around six hours of daylight. If that's not possible, just give it as much bright light as you can.

  • Keep it away from drafts or excess heat.

  • Every day check the soil. Give it water as soon as it feels dry to the touch.

  • If you want to keep the decorative foil or plastic covering over its pot, just cut some holes in the bottom, and sit it on a pie plate to catch excess water. Just don't let it sit in extra water.

  • After it's done blooming (once it loses the yellow part of the flower), give it a dose of a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer.

  • As soon as you can, transplant your Poinsettias into a pretty ceramic pot (not larger than 4” bigger) that will help it retain moisture and give it room to grow.

  • In late March or early April, cut your poinsettia down to 8” tall, continue watering and fertilizing every few weeks. By the end of May, you should see lots of new growth. Prune it until September to keep it bushy.

  • To ensure blooms for next Christmas, beginning October 1, keep your Poinsettias in complete darkness for 14 hours each night. If you don't feel like moving them in and out of a very dark closet each day, cover them at night with a large box. Also, from October to December they need 6-8 hours of bright sun each day.

Interestingly, Poinsettias are very efficient houseplants for removing indoor pollutants. So, it may be worth the extra effort to keep them alive for next year. The bonus is that you might just get lovely, colorful blooms in December and January.
"Of winter's lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer's secret
Deep down within its heart."
~Charles G. Stater
"I prefer winter and fall,
when you feel the bone structure of the landscape
- the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."'
~Andrew Wyeth
Winter is the time of promise
there is so little to do
- or -
you can now and then
permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.
~Stanley Crawford
"'Really, this is the very worst time of year to be making plans. Winter in these climes keeps a person trapped inside for so long that by the time February comes around one is positively delusional with grandiose plans for the coming year."
Posted by Rundy under 'Wishlist' 2/14/04 Cold Climate Gardening

Winter work for gardeners weeds, just lots of opportunities for Spring Planning.

Garden tasks in January are few. Luckily, the weeds stop growing when it's this cold. One great way to fill the long, dark hours (and prime our creative juices) is to reflect on last years' garden while planning and expanding our gardening repertoires.

Some great gardeners I know keep a gardening journal to record their successes (and any unlikely “learning experiences”). It's a handy place to keep notes, articles, press leaves or flowers, etc. If you don't already have a place to keep this information, January is a perfect time to start a simple notebook, or even just a file. Add clipped newspaper and magazine articles, seed packets, bulb and plant varieties, and jot ideas for your garden. You'll be creating a great reference book that you can review next winter.

Plan for spring
Now that you have some form of gardening journal, put pen to paper. Jot down thoughts you've had as you gaze out over your snow covered garden. Make sketches (most of us aren't artists, don't worry, it's not going in a gallery). I find it helpful to have a mostly-to-scale sketch of my yard and rougher sketches of different parts of the garden. It helps me remember what is where and which varieties I'm planning to plant. Having this gardening record to refer to will elevate your spring planning.

The next step...

Spend some time this winter doing a little research. Whether you will be adding a few plants, incorporating native plants, or are planning an overhaul, talk with other gardeners, call us, visit the library or go online. Once you decide on the plants you would like, call us to find out if it is one we can order for you.

Winter is a great time to expand your gardening horizons. whether you are drawing a new garden plan, incorporating more native species, learning about soil, planning a raingarden, learning about your climate zone or planning . Please call or email us if you'd like some design assistance or plant recommendations.