Don’t Toss the Tree

A shared Post from the NJSPCA Facebook Page today prompted me to share the idea here. The Lot is on a city street nice and cozy-close with the neighbors as city lots often are situated. After Christmas day, I often see many evergreens appear at the curbside for the city yard waste crews to pick up and take away. However, these trees can provide more services beyond being a mere organic ornament stand.

After December passes, the Other Half and I pack away the ornaments and put away the tree lights. Then we haul the tree through the house, showering needles everywhere and making a general mess. We place the evergreen in the backyard for January and February. Our Zone 6a winter is only half over and the tree provides shelter for birds and other small animals from any icy winds. The NJSPCA suggested adding suet balls and birdseed to the tree, which I think we’ll give a try this year. Unlike Mom G., we do not have to deal with the possibility of bears visiting.

When March arrives, we simply attach the bulk yard waste tag to the tree and the city will take it away. It is then ground up and redistributed during the summer as mulch through the city’s yard waste program. I know it isn’t much, but why not give a little extra shelter to our backyard residents? Then we can also enjoy the pretty evergreen just a bit longer.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – December 2014

Today is the 15th of the month, so it’s time for a Bloom Day post. Each month, garden bloggers who participate take snapshots of what is blooming in their gardens. Then we all dash over to May Dreams Gardens to take virtual strolls through gardens from around the world. You may want to head over there right now because the following Bloom Day post is not for the faint of heart.

The Lot is situated in Zone 6a, so blooms in the garden are rare at this time in the year. If we’re lucky, we have pretty snow standing in for long ago spent blooms. In our growing zone, the idea of “winter interest” in the garden is a feature we may or may not pull off during the winter depending on the weather.

Take the start of this winter for example. We had our first snowstorm in November, burying the city in a short amount of time and as a result causing a bit of a scramble. On the Lot, plants I leave standing in the garden to help with winter interest were flattened. By the end of the month, temperatures warmed enough to make the snow heavy and sloppy before finally melting. Temperatures plummeted again and we’re left to look at a frozen and gray mess. Here is this month’s Bloom (or lack thereof) post for December.

121514_helleboreHellebore with some broken stems. It does keep its color though because of being semi-evergreen.121514_smSedumThe little sedum out front usually have a cotton top of snow on the ends of their upright stems. No so much here.
121514_coneflowersThe coneflowers straggly stalks are usually surrounded by snow.
121514_AutumnJoyHere’s another sedum, Autumn Joy. This one was stronger than the plants out front on the South side of the house.
121514_falseIndigoUgh, this poor Baptisia… SPLAT.
121514_MaidenHairGrassAnd here is the maiden hair grass which I’ve had to tie together to even keep upright.

So, no blooms really to report, but weather events to log. This is a great time to catch up on the garden blog and maybe break out a knitting project or two.

Puzzled about Poinsettia Care

Several people have recently asked me how to care for Poinsettia plants. The Poinsettia (Euphobia pulcherrima) is a popular gift choice to give during the winter holiday season. When I started researching care for the plant I discovered December 12th is National Poinsettia Day. The University of Illinois Extension provides some history and fun facts about the plant on their Poinsettia Pages.

For example, “in Mexico the Poinsettia is a perennial shrub that will grow 10-15 feet tall.” It was introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and first United States Ambassador to Mexico.

Through my reading I also found the holiday plant, with its colorful bracts (modified leaves), is quite the diva. If you do not provide it with exactly everything it demands, it will throw a tantrum and drop those beautiful leaves. Take that! Only filtered water in its dressing room!

Not Too Cold, Not Too Warm

When selecting a place in your home to display the Poinsettia, be sure it does not sit in an area that is prone to cold drafts. The foliage should be kept away from cool window panes. Conversely, the plant should also not be set near appliances or on the television where it could receive too much heat.

An ideal temperature range to keep the Poinsettia blooming is between 65-70 degrees during the day. In the evening, the plant will benefit from a lower temperature of 60 degrees. However, temperatures below 60 could cause root rot.

Not Too Damp, Not Too Dry

Most Poinsettia pots are wrapped in colored foils when sold as gifts. Remove the pot from the foil so water does not sit at the bottom of the plant between the foil wrapper and pot. If you must, must, must have that festive foil, poke multiple holes in the bottom of the foil to allow water to drain.

Poinsettias can be watered when the soil surface is dry to the touch. But never let the plant’s soil completely dry out. It’s a good idea to check the soil daily. Soak the soil until water runs from the drainage holes. If you place a saucer beneath the pot, be sure excess water is dumped.

Bright Light, but Not Too Bright

The Poinsettia will be happiest where it will be exposed to bright, indirect, natural light but not sitting directly in sunlight. Areas near south facing windows are ideal. East or west will work too, but watch out for cool drafts near windows, especially at night. The combination of bright light and low humidity of winter may require the plant be watered more often.

Will the Poinsettia Rebloom?

Poinsettia

The pictured plant is Mom G’s Poinsettia from a past holiday. It is doing fairly well, but is leggy and she says a bit unpredictable in its blooming. Maintaining a commercial greenhouse vigor in a Zone 5b home environment is tricky.

A Poinsettia can rebloom the following holiday, but the care regime to ensure this is quite grueling. The New Mexico State University Extension, Ohio State University Extension, and Michigan State University Extension all have helpful pdfs for anyone willing to take on the yearlong challenge. Many people, myself included, will compost the plant after it has finished its holiday display.