Monthly Archives

December 2016

A Living Gift for the Holidays

By | Blog Post | No Comments

I know a gardener’s real wish for the holidays is for planting time to hurry up and get here. Instead of trying to rush the season, let’s shake off the doldrums by giving (or getting) a dwarf citrus tree for the holidays. It’s like adding a little sunshine to every chilly day.

An orange, lemon, grapefruit or kumquat tree may be more at home in California landscapes, but as container plants they do just fine in Colorado. Potted citrus trees are a novel holiday gift because they provide many seasons of enjoyment, especially those with fragrant, sweet-scented flowers.

For the best present, select a healthy potted tree, that’s several feet tall. Make sure it’s in a container with good drainage, and be sure to include a saucer large enough to catch any excess water. A thoughtful addition to the gift is a rolling plant stand to make it easier to move.

In fact, moving a citrus tree is part of the fun of growing one. These trees like to spend time outside during warm weather, but need to be moved indoors when the temperatures start to drop in fall. A slow transition from outside to inside and back again helps trees become acclimated to each temporary living space.

Now that winter is near, dwarf citrus trees become extra-special houseplants as they spend the cold months indoors. Trees can do just fine in a cool indoor setting, but they will do best in a sunny, south-facing window.

No sunny spot? No problem. There are plenty of simple supplemental lighting options to ensure the tree gets enough light through winter.

Light is certainly important, however, watering is the most critical aspect of caring for trees – as in don’t overwater! Indoor trees need soil that’s on the drier side to prevent roots from rotting.

Too much water is the number one reason for an indoor container tree’s decline. Because the tree doesn’t use as much water as it would during a hot summer, it simply needs less. The soil has to dry between waterings.

Before watering, wait for signs of wilting, like droopy leaves. Another gardener’s test is to use a short ruler to poke into the soil and measure whether it’s dry to at least 2 inches before giving it a drink.

In addition to root rot, consistently wet soil can encourage other problems, like attracting insect pests.

When gardening indoors with container citrus trees, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of insect activity. A weekly inspection for small white insects, webbing on branches or brown lumpy areas on leaves is all it takes to spot a potential problem.

Similar to treating some insect pest issues on outdoor plants, a good spray of water may dispatch pests quickly. Some gardeners also add a small amount of alcohol to the water spray and wipe leaves with a soft cloth.

When the nighttime temperatures are consistently warm in spring, move your container tree outside to a sheltered area, like a covered porch or patio, and protect leaves from sunburn.

Spring is also a good time to fertilize with a citrus tree formula or a well-balanced, slow-release plant food.

After the tree flowers, it may take six months or longer for fruits to mature and ripen. Be patient, and you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fresh oranges or lemons to enjoy no matter what the season.

How To Create Winter Container Gardens

By | Blog Post | No Comments

As beautiful as the winter landscape is, sometimes Mother Nature can use a helping hand. When I look out my windows as the days get shorter, I need to see something that lifts my spirits.

The best way I’ve found to add a touch of color and some good cheer to my empty garden is a few well-placed containers brimming with hardy plants, fresh evergreen boughs, pine cones and other natural materials. If there’s an electrical outlet nearby, a length of twinkly lights chases the gloom away.

It’s easy to change out pots filled with fall foliage to create a winter container garden. First, choose the pots that can stand up to cold temperatures, like fiberglass, iron, wood or heavy plastic. Store away the terra cotta clay containers because they can crack or flake from cold winter weather.

The next step is gathering the plants and other materials to design the winter container. Select one or more hardy plants that are rated for Zones 3 or 4—the colder the better. Small evergreen trees or a hardy holly plant will give some upright structure and seasonal color to the container.

To help your live plants make it through the winter, water prior to planting and place the container where it’s protected from drying winds and drying soil. It’s also a good idea to keep watering the plants, at least monthly, until soil freezes.

Ornamental grasses, meant for a single season, can be at the center of the container, too. Another idea is to substitute tall branches that add height as the container’s focal point.

The best-looking winter containers are those that mix living and dried materials, all tightly packed together. Fresh-cut boughs of spruce, fir, cedar and juniper give containers color and layers of texture. A few gold-tipped evergreen branches add an unexpected spark of color to the greenery.

When arranging the boughs, think in layers and place a few almost upright and let others drape over the edge of the container. Use smaller seasonal plants, like winterberry, to fill in along the container’s front border. Beautiful fruits and berries will typically hold their color through the season, especially stems with rose hips at their tips.

Several redtwig dogwood branches, curly willow spikes or other unusual branches add the finishing touch to the container’s overall design. Sprinkle them randomly through the greenery by poking one end into the soil deep enough so they’ll stay upright.

If the soil is too dense, pour a bucket of warm water into the container to make it more pliable.

Place other natural elements, like assorted sizes of pinecones, seed heads, and dried grass plumes, throughout the container, too. If needed, use wire to attach these trimmings to branches or tie wired florist’s picks to decorations and place them where you need them as filler.

If you don’t have access to natural decorative embellishments, or simply want a more seasonal container, you can add stems of artificial holly berries, silk poinsettia flowers, sprays of life-like boxwood picks, and suspend some fake mistletoe at the top.

Every container is sure to be a welcome sight during the quietest season in the garden.