Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. Hybridizers have expanded the range of colors from the familiar red to pastel yellow and vibrant bi-colors. One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”. While this can be done, it’s a very fussy, exacting process and since the plants are not that expensive, you might just choose to start fresh next year. For those of you who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to rebloom begins with the care you give it the first season.
When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home
Light – Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.
Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.
Water – Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.
Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.
Prepare snow-blower for winter use. Consider a tune-up and servicing.
Apply winter fertilizer on lawn after the last mowing. This can be done around the same time as your lime application.
Consolidate all your garden notes for the year-favorite varieties, successful new plants.
For The Holidays & After
This is a great time to make gifts from your garden. Wreaths, herb bouquets, herbal vinegars, pressed flowers are just a few ideas.
Keep that bird feeder well stocked for the winter. Your birds depend on you.
Have a happy holiday season!
For Your Flower Bed
Shred and compost freshly collected leaves. Alternate layers with the last of the grass clippings from your lawn.
Apply a final mulch to foundation beds, perennials and roses. Make sure ground is frozen. This additional mulch layer prevents heaving during periodic thaws in January and February.
Apply boughs from spent Christmas trees and wreaths as a mulch layer for perennial beds. Wait until ground freezes.
For Your Trees and Shrubs
Apply WiltPruf, an anti-dessicant, to protect broad-leaf evergreens as well as your holiday greens, wreaths, even your fresh cut Christmas tree. See our staff, or visit the WiltPruf website, for details and further instruction. Now is the time to apply it to your evergreens, including hollies. It acts as a “chap-stick” for your plants, protecting them from moisture loss due to drying winter winds.
Pre-dig hole if you’re planning on purchasing a live Christmas tree.
Sleigh bells jingling; children caroling; the warm, sweet scent of treats fresh from the oven: The winter holidays are a magical time filled with goodwill and the good company of family and friends. Such a special time of year deserves to be celebrated with special decorations. So this season, why not move beyond the old balsam wreath with the large red bow and create some holiday sparkle all your own? Just look around your yard and home and you’re sure to find the markings for the very merriest of wreaths.
Instead of selecting traditional greens such as balsam or white pine for the base of your wreath, consider something a little more exotic…perhaps incense cedar, with its flat, green leaves and mustard yellow fruits, or broadleaf evergreens, such as inkberry, holly, boxwood, even rhododendron. Seeded eucalyptus, which displays blush pink or silver gray berries above its faded green leaves, and magnolia, with its glossy green leaves that dry to a matte finish, are other unexpected choices.
If you are using evergreens such as cedar or vines such as ivy, attach these to a wire wreath frame using floral wire. For a wreath of cuttings, first attach the greens to florist’s picks, then insert them into a Styrofoam form. In either case, be sure the wreath frame you select is considerably smaller than the desired finish size of your wreath, as the wreath will expand in size as you add plant materials.
To form the base of the wreath, layer the greens on top of each other, facing them in one direction and attaching them as you go, until the frame is completely covered. Then begin adding your decorations by wiring them, attaching them with floral picks, or hot-gluing them to the greens. Gather sprigs of blue-leaved juniper with its blue berries and lay them atop an evergreen base for subtle contrast. Or scavenge your yard and garden for interesting vines, twigs, and seedpods. The dried brown cones of Echinacea, arranged in groups of three or five, add interesting shapes and textures to a wreath, and the colors of red rose hips or bittersweet, with is split orange capsule and red seeds, look striking set against a dark green background. Clusters of almonds, pecans, and walnuts will lend a woodsy note, while the airy flower heads of plumed or bottlebrush grasses will offer a spectacular contrast of forms. For a sizzling finish, try hot peppers in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and don’t forget to raid the herb garden for bluish green rosemary and silvery lavender.
As you contemplate next year’s garden, consider adding plants that can be harvested for next season’s wreaths. Include grasses, flowering shrubs, and broadleaf and other evergreens in your planting scheme, as well as plants that dry well or that offer architectural interest after the flowers have passed. This way you’ll enjoy your gardens while they are in blooms, as well as appreciate their beauty in wreaths after the flowers have faded. This holiday start a brand-new tradition and decorate your home with the bounty of your gardens.
“Bonsai is not a race, nor is it a destination. It is a never-ending journey.”
Don’t let the fact that ‘bon-sai’ is an art studied and refined for many centuries scare you off, because you are perfectly capable to learn how to grow Bonsai trees without green thumbs. Make sure to pick the right tree species for your surroundings and stick to the basic care guidelines.
Basics of Bonsai Aesthetics
Several aesthetic principles have been passed down through the ages, suggesting what’s attractive and what’s not. The most general principles focus on:
Form: The general shape or silhouette of the plant; usually an asymmetrical triangle with the leaves pointing upward.
Balance: Location of branches and foliage and location of the plant in its pot, avoiding perfectly symmetrical proportions in favor of natural proportions inspired by the golden ratio.
Proportion: Relationship of the elements to each other.
Line: How the apex (the tip) relates to the trunk.
Details: We’ve added this one ourselves in order to group several of the smaller things that make a nice bonsai. These elements include the size of the leaves, exposed roots or nebari, and how the base of the plant has been decorated.
Step 1 – Pick a Plant
Fall is the perfect time to shop the garden center and nursery for great starter plants for bonsai. While there are plenty of plants to choose from, (including many houseplant varieties), you might want to stick to evergreens such as:
Look for plants in two gallon pots or smaller as these will be the easiest to handle. You might also check out our greenhouse for:
Step 2 – Shaping and Styling Techniques
Let’s begin with the single most important technique to Bonsai; pruning. Pruning is crucial in keeping trees miniaturized as well as to shape them. The goal is to create a Bonsai that resembles nature as close as possible. The spring and summer are the seasons to proceed with significant pruning; though this will depend on the type of tree you have. Make sure to buy a good concave cutter when pruning thick branches. The hollow wounds these cutters leave behind heal much better than normal cutters would.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s not a bad idea to study from the masters. Most styling is going to occur through selective pruning and trimming as well as wiring techniques. Here are some of the more traditional forms:
Formal Upright or Chokkan: A perfectly straight, upright trunk.
Informal Upright or Moyogi: The trunk may have a curve or slight slant.
Slanting or Shakan: A more severe curve, with the apex extending outside of pot.
Windswept or Fukinagashi: Similar to slanted but all branches and leaves look like they’re being blown to one side by the wind.
Cascade or Kengai: The trunk grows upward with an abrupt turn downward, sometimes extending far below the pot.
Semi-Cascade or Han-kengai: A trunk that grows upward then cascades slightly lower than the top surface of the pot.
Step 3 – Care & Maintenance
A crucial part of information about how to grow a Bonsai tree is its maintenance and care.
How often Bonsai trees need to be watered depends on a wide range of factors, including species of tree, pot-size, soil and climate. Over-watering can result in root-rot, one of the most common causes of death. However, as Bonsai are planted in such small pots they also tend to dry up very easily. Choosing the right soil mixture and re-potting regularly (on average every two years, to make sure the trees don’t become pot-bound, making it hard to soak up and store water) is crucial to keep your tree healthy. An important rule for watering is to check frequently on your tree (instead of simply watering it once per day), and when watering to do this thoroughly (to make sure the soil absorbs the water properly).
Besides watering and repotting, fertilization is another important thing to keep in mind. Since the trees are put in small pots, with few space and nutrients available, fertilizing regularly in the tree’s growth season is key to keep it healthy. Again, it depends on the tree species when, how much and how often it needs to be fertilized. The brand or type of fertilizer (fluid or solid) doesn’t matter all that much, as long as you make sure to apply smaller quantities than normal plants would require.
Step 4 – Placement
Finally, placing an outdoor tree inside (or vice versa) is a sure way to kill it. Before buying (or cultivating) a Bonsai, think where you like to place it! Sub-tropical trees generally need much light and relatively high temperatures and can only live outside if you live in a warm enough climate; these trees will do perfectly fine indoors though. In case you prefer an outdoor tree, a safe bet is to choose a tree that is indigenous to your environment. In case winters get very cold some additional protection from frost is required, since a Bonsai is put in a small pot.