November 24, 2012 7:38:12 PM
Thanksgiving has passed and the holiday season is upon us. You may have noticed this by the tightening of your waistline. As we say in our home, there is no such thing as too much dessert. Anyway, now it is time to begin with our holiday decorations.
Cooler temperatures have arrived, and most landscapes have begun to go dormant. Only a few summer and fall-blooming ornamentals are still showing their true colors. Roses, camellias and shade trees are a few. With this in mind, many nurseries and garden centers will carry plants during the holiday season that can be given as gifts and even used for decoration.
A few of these are camellia, holly, magnolia, boxwood, yew and spruce. Two camellias that bloom during the holiday season are Camellia sasanqua Yuletide' and Mine-No-Yuki. I have one of each of these in my landscape. Yuletide has small, dark-green foliage with beautiful 2-inch wide dark red flowers with yellow centers. This plant will grow to make an outstanding upright, compact shrub. Mini-No-Yuki has pure white blooms that are 4 inches across with dark green leaves as a backdrop. It has a tendency to grow wider than tall.
Many hollies are also used for decoration because of their dark green foliage and beautiful red or orange berries. Nellie R. Stevens Holly is my first choice, due to its long stems with many berries. Dwarf Burford, Yaupon and Mary Nell hollies also may be used, just watch out for the spiny leaf edges. They are perfect for indoor arrangements.
Boxwood, yew and hemlock are generally used to make wreaths, while pine, spruce and fir may be used as indoor Christmas trees. Speaking of Christmas trees, leave that old man-made tree in the attic. Go to your local tree grower and select a beautiful, high-quality fresh cut tree. You can most likely choose from pine, spruce, hemlock and cypress.
There are also many wonderful houseplants that may be used for holiday decorations. A few of the most popular are Poinsettia, Cactus and Norfolk Island Pine. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) come in numerous colors ranging from red to pink to white to marble. These plants may last well into springtime if given proper care. Be sure to lightly fertilize and keep them watered regularly during the holidays. You can even plant these in your landscape after the last frost has passed. They will grow to nearly 4 feet tall before next year's frost gets them.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) blooms from Christmas through March, with colors usually being red or white. They are a beautiful plant that has character throughout the entire year. Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) are sold as small living Christmas trees and help provide greenery during the holiday season.
A few other holiday houseplant options are Jerusalem Cherry, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe and Rosemary. These smaller plants make wonderful table-top decorations. Buy one to use at your next dinner party.
Most indoor plants die from being over-watered, so water only enough to keep the soil moist. If the plant is moist down to the second knuckle of your finger, it does not need water. A good-quality soil-moisture meter also works. A light soil with adequate drainage will work best.
A few other gardening gift ideas are pruners, shovels, rakes, gloves, books, or even a nice gardening hat. A true gardener will appreciate any of these thoughtful gifts.
Hopefully these tips will help you to have a successful and enjoyable holiday season. If you have any questions, contact the county Extension office at 662-328-2111 or visit our msucares.com.