University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Winter News Article
VISITING GREENHOUSES AND OTHER DECEMBER
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Visiting local greenhouses and transporting holiday plants home safely,
cleaning and storing hand tools, and removing snow from shrubs are some of
the garden-related activities for this month.
Try to visit a local greenhouse, as the sight of so many plants all in bloom
is sure to lift the spirits on a cloudy and cold day. If you’re buying
holiday plants anywhere, make sure to protect them on the way home with a
paper “sleeve” or bag, especially poinsettias which are quite sensitive to
cold. Once home, keep plants away from drafts and heat sources, and
don’t overwater. Make sure if foil is around the pot that there is a
hole for water to drain, and that the pot is in a saucer if on furniture.
In addition to the popular poinsettias, other holiday plants you might look
for are cyclamen, azaleas, and kalanchoe (best said as “cal-AN-cho).
None of these plants, including poinsettias, like to be too wet.
Cyclamen and azaleas last better slightly cooler, while kalanchoe and
poinsettias prefer slightly warmer (65 to 70 degrees F). Amaryllis is
a bulb you can buy potted, in bloom, or just as a bulb or bulb kit to give
as a gift. They are easy to grow, and should bloom within a couple
months from planting, depending on variety.
Wipe hand tools clean after use and before storing them for winter. Any
moist soil left on the blades can encourage rust, and dirt can dull pruner
blades. Also wipe wooden handles with linseed oil to keep them from
splitting due to dryness. Before putting tools away or forgetting them for
winter, sharpen the blades. You can find files for this online and in
Don't walk on frozen grass, especially if you don't have snow cover on your
lawn. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken,
causing dieback in your lawn that will show up next spring. Similarly,
try not to drive or park on lawns, otherwise you’ll be looking at the tire
tracks long into next season.
Snowfalls can be tough on trees and shrubs by weighing down the branches, as
many in northern areas find each year with heavy snowfalls. Gently brush off
most of the snow with a broom or by hand. Don't use a shovel, which can
injure the branches. If there is ice buildup, it's best to let it melt
because it's easy to break off the brittle branches if you try to remove
it. If plants are under roof eaves, protect them from falling ice and
snow with tee-pee shelters.
If you have friends or family that like to garden, think of gardening gifts
for holiday presents. Books, gloves, hand tools, weather instruments,
and fancy pots are some ideas to consider. This year, instead of
giving baskets with local and homemade food items, we’ll be giving
decorative colorful pots filled with these. If you can’t decide, how
about a coupon for so many hours of help in the garden, or even a gift
certificate to a local garden or book store?
Other garden-related activities for this month include visiting a local farm
to cut a Christmas tree or to buy greens for decorating, checking holiday
indoor trees daily for water needs to keep them long-lasting and safe,
mulching tender perennials (if you haven’t already) once the ground is
frozen, keeping bird feeders filled and heated birdbaths cleaned regularly,
and checking houseplants weekly for pests. Making holiday decorations from
natural materials can be as simple as adding your favorite decorations from
craft stores to undecorated wreaths, roping, kissing balls, or door
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial