I'm already seeing signs of low humidity stress in my houseplants. I'm not surprised. Winter is a challenging season for indoor plants, with low light, temperature swings and almost no humidity. If only someone would invent a moisturizing lotion for leaves. Until then, here are some tips for keeping your indoor plants healthy through the cold months ahead.
And while you're caring for them, snap a few pictures and get them in for our Houseplant Photo Challenge, before it ends!
Here's another reminder to view the finalists for our Fall Color Photo Challenge. Time is running out to vote and so far Winding Road is running away with it.
Take a good look at each submission in the photo gallery, then come back here and place your vote. You can only vote once, so be certain before you click. The poll will remain open through December 15th and we'll announce the winners on Monday, the 16th. Enjoy!
I guess a lot of you have started shopping for seeds already because I'm getting questions about the difference between open pollinated (OP) and heirloom. The difference is getting muddied, as heirloom seed catalogs start branching out in their offereings. There is no absolute definition of what an heirloom is, but many sources require it to be at least 50 years old, have some sort of story or history associated with it and it absolutely has to be open pollinated. So all heirlooms are OP, but not all OP plants have stood the test of time, to become heirlooms.
The difference between hybrid and genetically modified organism (GMO) is more pronounced. Both processes are meant to produce a "better" plant, but a hybrid plant is just a plant that results from crossing 2 different plant parents. This happens quite often in nature and it can also be done intentionally by breeders. Seed from hybrid plants do not retain their hybridization and will not grow true. The process of genetically modifying changes an organism on a molecular level. This is explained far better than I could by biotech expert Theresa Phillips, in the link below.
At this point in time, it's unlikely that a backyard gardener would be purchasing GMO seeds or plants. These products have been developed for commercially grown crops and the farmers who grow them are required to sign agreements with the companies that hold the patents. The small gardener isn't a targeted market. Of course, that could change. To assure yourself that you have not unintentionally purchased GMO seeds, check your package label for some form of "not genetically modified" phrasing or, even easier, "certified organic". Buying plants can be a bit trickier, so always buy from a grower or nursery you trust and ask them how the plants were grown.
The Christmas Rose is actually a buttercup. Helleborus niger, known as the Christmas Rose, also has the frustrating tendency of not blooming until Easter - making it all the more confusing to tell it apart from the Lenten Rose, Helleborus orientalis.
Most of the Hellebores on the market now are hybrids. Whatever type you choose to grow, they all share an undemanding ease of growing and a deceptively delicate beauty. They can be a little pricy to buy, but once they're established, they set these plump seed pods and spread themselves about. They can also be easily be divided and make a nice carpet for a shady spot. They're even deer resistant. Try growing a few different hellebores in your garden and see which does best. Then please let me know.
Remember when we played on metal slides that sat in the hot sun all day and ended in a slab of concrete? Today's kids will never know that thrill. Rod Brouhard, About.com's Guide to First Aid, can help protect your kids (and your pets) from a few less thrilling threats around the holidays - namely poisonous holiday plants. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is relatively safe to have on display. In fact, as Rod's list of poisonous holiday plants points out, most of the plants and shrubs we use for decoration will cause only minor stomach irritation or rashes - unless you make a holiday feast of them. Still, it's better to be forewarned; those holly berries can be pretty tempting.
Rod has more on the hazards of Christmas in The Grinch's Christmas Decorating Tips
Photo: hotblack (morgueFile)
Most gardeners who grow herbs do so because they love to cook. This holiday season, why not share a few of your seasoning secrets with your friends. You can mix up some special blends, package them in a nice container and add a recipe card or two. Here are 3 of the popular herb blends to try and some ideas for mixing herbal teas. You probably grow all these herbs in your garden. Mix up a batch and share it.
I know that just about the last thing on anyone's mind in December is gardening, no matter where you live. But just in case you need to get outdoors to clear your head of all those lists and too much eggnog, here are a few garden chores that can be done now, without taking too much time from your festivities. And if you're lucky enough to have plenty of evergreens and berries in your yard, now is a good time to prune and have them do double duty as decorations. Happy December Gardening!
Fine Gardening Magazine always does a great job of curating new plants and coming up with a list of the really good ones. They've also been paying special attention to finding varieties that won't take over your garden. I really appreciate that.
A recent article, 9 New and Unusual Grasses, profiled a handful of new ornamental grasses (speaking of plants that take over). As usual, I found myself with zonal envy, but there were a few that could manage in my yard. In particular, I'm intrigued by Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa). They say it can handle difficult sites and soils and even grow under trees. Sounds like a good substitute for ribbon grass run amok. It's a good read.
Are the kids tired of shopping and antsy about being stuck indoors, already? Here's a quick and kid-messy craft that should keep them entertained for awhile. I'd recommend eating a few bagels first. The stale ones work best for the birds. Once they kids are done making their masterpieces, they can run outside to hang them and then spend some time spying on the birds and squirrels who will come to tearing them apart. Good fun.
Thank you all for sharing your time, your thoughts and your gardens with me. I look forward to gardening with you for many years to come.