December Garden Column
Whoo whoo, goes the train whistle. Christmas, next stop! The holidays are magical to me, have been since I was a child, the beautiful decorations, the Christmas music, the delicious foods and of course, the celebration of our Lord’s birth. Christmas is the time of year that we return to our “roots”. Deep, southern fried, green roots, which are anchored upon Holiday cooking, gardening, gift giving, and the peace and contentment of having a beautiful home that is ready to receive family and friends for the holidays.
As we decorate, we add beautiful poinsettias, Christmas cactus, orchids, African violets, forced bloom bulbs and fresh foliage, throughout our homes. To keep these beautiful blooms at their best the following tips will be of help.
These beautiful, sun- loving tropical’s are the epitome of Christmas flowers. They require
very bright filtered light, at least 5 hours a day to look their best. Poinsettias should not be placed in heavy draft areas, or outdoors when temperatures are below 50 degrees. They are water guzzlers, but ensure the water drains away and is not held in the bottom of a decorative foil, or the leaves will begin to turn black. Choose poinsettias with closed eyes, for a much longer blooming period. There is a poinsettia for every shade of the rainbow due to hybridization, so find the color and shape you love the most.
these wonderful plants do not exist in the wild but are actually a hybridization of two cacti (schlumbergera russeliana) and are native epiphytes from northeast Brazil.
They love high filtered light, high humidity and good drainage. Temperatures in the 50’s help these plants to set blooms, as well as longer nights. Bud drop is common in overwatered plants, but the plants can easily be force bloomed for Christmas. Like a poinsettia, ensure the plants drainage is not being collected in a foil cover too reabsorb…..this is the most common reason for fatality.
These elegant plants, are my personal favorite. The orchid family covers such a wide range of plants but the most common is the Phalaenopsis. Phale’s (as we call them) are super simple: very high bright filtered light – 6 hours plus per day, water every 10-14 days thoroughly and drain well. Keep in temperatures above 60 degrees and no direct sunlight. Bloom drop is a sign of too much water as is ridged foliage. Orchids bloom late fall through early summer and each bloom set last 8-12 weeks if conditions are favorable. A definite statement piece when mixed with miniature poinsettias.
African Violets -
These are tough little plants, that bloom beautifully when kept fertilized, watered consistently and have good drainage. As a rule of thumb, it is better to keep plants on the “drier” side than on a “wetter” side. Too much water always causes root rot, black foliage and bloom drop……in all plants. Like the above “friends”, African violets love very bright light, high humidity, warmer temperatures, and like all of the above, these are tropical plants. Fertilize on every third watering and you will keep these little guys blooming.
Force bloomed Narcissi and Amaryllis –
Now is the time to get started if you are force blooming bulbs for holiday blooms. It takes 3-4 weeks for blooms to be in full color. This is my favorite decorating tip!
Take a few pieces of crystal in varying sizes and heights and place in a grouping. The containers need to be placed in an area with temperatures above 60 degrees and high filtered sunlight. Fill the container with clear marbles, white marble or white limestone ½”…..or basically any rock medium. Recess the amaryllis or narcissi ¼” into the rock and fill the container with water to ¼” below the bottom of the bulb. The bulb should not touch the water. In the next few days, roots will shoot out of the bulb to form tendrils that ancho themselves to the loose gravel. The clear crystal or glass container, makes it easy to keep the water level correct. Wait and watch, basically all there is to it. The giant crystal punch bowl you have had for years, will look spectacular with 3 red amaryllis and 19, white narcissi bulbs planted and ready for Christmas blooms. The fragrance from narcissi is heavenly and will perfume the whole house. No fertilizer is necessary.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.