University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Holiday News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont. and
Charlie Nardozzi, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Vermont Botanical Garden

Most of us give gifts this month for one holiday or other.  If the recipient enjoys gardening, or even if a non-gardener, there are so many gifts you can have fun buying and giving.  In fact, if you canít make up your mind and decide what the person would like, how about just a gift certificate?

For the gardener, each year there are many new gardening tools.  Small tools might include special trowels and digging implements, specialty pruners, and even new styles of garden gloves. Every good gardener has a hand pruner, but how many have a pruning holster that straps onto your belt?

Larger tools might include a special perennial spade or fork, tools with interchangeable implements for a single handle, or even power equipment such as hedge shears (great for cutting back perennials too).  Many tools now are being designed to be more ergonomic and easier on your hands, arms, and body in general.

Most will enjoy and learn from the daily tips and monthly topics of the North Country Garden Calendar.  Published by the northern New England Extension Services, with tips from Master Gardeners, this affordable calendar ($6 postpaid) is available from the Vermont Master Gardener Program ( or 802-656-5431).

For the non-gardeners, consider potted tender bulbs for indoors, such as paperwhites and amaryllis.  If they like birds, what about a spotting scope for bird watching, or new bird feeder?  If a cook, what about an apple peeler, juice extractor, or food dehydrator?  If they like to spend time outside, consider wind chimes or an engraved garden bench.  Many like the weather, and might appreciate one of the many new weather gadgets.  Personally I like my wireless digital recording rain gauge!

Other outdoor gardening activities for December include putting away any garden tools, accessories like statues and large pots, and hoses if you havenít done so already.  Make sure birds stay fed, with a source of water (such as from a heated birdbath).  And keep adding vegetable scraps to your compost.

Most of your gardening activity will of course be indoors this month, and includes regular checking of houseplants for water and pests.  Remember the rule, if in doubt, donít water.  It is better to err on the side of too dry rather than too wet.

African violets make great houseplants and will flower in winter if given supplemental light. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder,  and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand.

Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.
If you have greens indoors, they may benefit from an antitranspirant spray to keep the foliage from drying out as rapidly.  You can buy these at many garden outlets.  Check water levels daily on holiday trees and donít let them dry out.  You will be rewarded with a longer lived, and safer tree.

The traditional holiday gift plant is the poinsettia. This year break out of the mold and give some unusual holiday potted plants such as moth orchid, cyclamen, or even a flowering bonsai tree. These plants not only will be colorful during the winter, but they're easier to grow as a permanent part of your houseplant collection.

For gardening events and craft seminars, check your local garden centers.  The Friends of the Horticulture Farm (802-864-3073) have a talk on ďTrees and Shrubs with Winter InterestĒ by Dr. Norman Pellett, Professor Emeritus and horticulturist.  This will take place Saturday, December 6, 10 a.m. at the Horticulture Research Center in South Burlington.

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