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Caring for your poinsettia

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Caring for your poinsettia plant

Happy National Poinsettia Day [December 12th] to you!  Pronunciation is however you’re used to it!


The Poinsettia is a native of Mexico, where it grows like a weed and can reach 10 feet tall.  Mexican legend holds that the leaves, shaped like the star of Bethlehem, first bloomed red for a poor girl who wanted to bring a gift to the manger scene at the local church but had no money.  Her cousin, who walked to the church with her, said “even the most humble gift, if given in love, would be acceptable to Jesus”.  So the girl picked the weed and when she laid it at the altar it turned a beautiful bright red.  And so the red flowers were called ‘flowers of the Holy Night”. Technically they’re not flowers but what’s called bracts or modified leaves.  

Poinsettia trees in Mexico

How to select and care for your poinsettia – First up – choose a good looking specimen!  That means nice dark green leaves throughout, no yellowing or wilting leaves.  Turn the plant around to see that it’s full all the way around.  Once you make your choice, make sure it’s wrapped well before taking it outside.  Poinsettias don’t like real cold temps, after all, they’re a native of Mexico.

Once home, unwrap your Poinsettia and make sure there are drain holes in the foil it’s in.  It’s important not to let water sit at the plants roots, they’ll rot.  Place your poinsettia on a tray of some sort.

Poinsettia ‘Ice Punch’

Place your poinsettia in indirect light.  (They need about 6 hours worth).  Out of cold or warm drafts.  Water when the top is dry to your second knuckle and water till it drains out of the bottom, then empty the saucer/tray.

‘Jingle Bell Rock’

Sunbelt Greenhouses has a cool collection of novelty poinsettias.



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Striking houseplant choices

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Striking houseplant choices

How about a rattlesnake in your house?  Houseplant that is!  Since we’re mostly indoors now, our houseplants serve as our “nature respite” in the warmth of our homes!

Rattlesnake Plant

How about adding a little bite, with the striking foliage of the Rattlesnake Plant also known as Calathea lancifolia. It’s leaves are various shades of green with wavy edges and a reddish-purple underside.  The leaves alone can grow to 30 inches!   As a native of Brazil, this plant like it warm and moist.  That means no cold drafts and keep it watered, not soaked.  In fact, Rattlesnake prefers slight sandy soil that allows for drainage. When you place this plant in your home, don’t put it in direct sunlight, because it will start to lose those beautiful green spots. Bright, indirect light!

Kangaroo paw fern

Another cool plant is the Kangaroo Paw Fern also known as my-kroh-SOR-um diversifolium.  It’s a big thumbs up for this easy to grow plant from Australia and New Zealand.  Kangaroo Fern is a leathery-fronded creeping and climbing evergreen.  It grows from rhizomes that can creep out of the pot.  The leaves are green, shiny, firm, and vary in shape and size. Place this beauty in bright indirect light, water it went the top HALF is dry!  It only grows about a foot tall but it’s spread is about 3 feet.

Zee zee plant on top of cabinet – spider plant hanging

And another fantastic plant is the zee zee plant.  It’s pretty much indestructible.  I have a gorgeous specimen we got 5 years ago and I throw in a couple of ice cubes in the pot once a week and it’s grown and thriving.  It’s also in a corner that gets no direct light at all, simply room lighting.



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Oh deer!

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Oh deer!

Are those beautiful bambis browsing your perennials, trees and shrubs?

Deer in Lakeville

This little darling and his/her friend eventually headed to my Serviceberry and then the hosta and then the clethra and then….


Liquid Fence and Plantskydd get the most kudos for keeping the deer at bay.   Liquid Fence is easy to find but you’ll most likely have to buy Plantskydd online.  The granular form is less odoriferous.

If you believe you have a surefire way to keep the deer from munching, send me an email and I’ll share it.

deer wanted

Does it work?  Jury’s still out…



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Gardener gifts 2.0

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show;  Gardener gifts 2.0

It’s not too late!  To tell your loved ones what the gardener in their life wants for Christmas!

Tools, an essential part of gardening!  This is the gift to spend the extra dollars for quality.  You won’t regret it.  One of the top tools is the Hori Hori Japanese gardening knife.  Hori means “digging” in Japanese.  This knife has been called the MacGuyver of gardening tools.  A brand that comes highly recommended at a reasonable price is Nisaku for about $22 bucks.

Hori Hori knife by Nisaku

For those who are tired of trying to pull weeds from pavers, comes the patio knife.   It’s eco friendly since no chemicals are involved!   Use the hook side for joints, and the knife side for beveled edges. Constructed of tempered boron steel, with ash hardwood handle.

Patio knife

I happen to love my Burpee tomato cages.  The pro series offers sturdy, stable 4-sided cages that work well for flowers too. The non-rusting, long-lasting galvanized wire cages fold flat for easy storage.  I can’t tell you the number of cheap cages I’ve fought with and finally tossed!

If you want to spend a few bucks for unique containers, I would offer up the faux log planters.  I have planted in real logs and it’s definitely fun but they do rot, they also seemed to attract more bugs!  And not necessarily the good ones.  The faux log planters are long-lasting and work outdoors or indoors. They’re made of lightweight polyurethane and are weather and UV resistant.

As always send me your comments, questions and/or suggestions for future Garden Bites!  What’s on YOUR mind?   My email has changed to


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Climate controlled gardening – aka greenhouses

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Climate controlled gardening – aka greenhouses

As I talked about yesterday, the trends for 2018 include climate controlled gardening.  Outdoors that means planting more resilient plants, but there’s also indoor gardening.  From humble to humongous, there are LOTS of choices.  Glasshouses maximize free solar energy, use land efficiently, conserve water and reduce pest and disease exposure.

Uh, nice but won’t work at my house!

There are hobby greenhouses, portable greenhouses, mini greenhouses and the mcmansions of greenhouses!  If you’re looking to just extend the season, think cold frames.  Here are links to numerous options.  My favorite greenhouses to gaze at and dream of having, are the hobby greenhouses.

Super cute and “only” $3400!

About $950

Another way of differentiating the types of greenhouses is by temperature level – hot, warm and cool.  A “hot house” has a stable temperature in the range of 65 – 70 degrees, or higher. This temperature range is used to grow exotic and tropical plants. Heaters and grow lights are usually needed to maintain this level of heat.

hot house

A Warm greenhouse – has a stable temperature in the range of 50 – 55 degrees. In this temperature range, you can grow plants which you would grow in your outdoor flower or vegetable garden. You may need to use grow lights or heat lights to meet the heating needs during the winter night months.

And then there’s a Cool greenhouse – or ‘frost-free’ greenhouse, has a stable temperature in the range of 40 – 45 degrees. This is an ideal temperature range for a ‘nursery’ greenhouse, where you will be germinating seeds and raising your own starter plants and vegetables for the summer months. You generally don’t use grow lights or heat lights in this environment.

this is what I have – very portable

This link to Earth Easy has a LOT more information on HOW to buy a greenhouse based on what you want to use it for.  This is really worth taking a look at, the information includes everything you need to know if you’re serious about adding it to your home.  I would love to but don’t have the room for it on my property.  ENJOY!

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2018 garden trends – resilient plants

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  2018 garden trends – resilient plants

As we head toward a new year, all the “experts” come out with new trends.  We’ll take a look at some of them.  The first is climate controlled gardening.  Because our weather is changing more rapidly than ever before, experts say we can’t rely on historical data.  It’s not just heat but storms that bring flooding and hail too.  That means adjusting our plantings to more resilient plants.

High winds have been happening all over the country.  High winds can uproot plants, spread disease and increase water loss.  Some suggested plants include thin-stemmed plants with flexibility! And small narrow leaves, like native grasses, yarrow,  evergreen trees and the like.



They also suggest planting large trees and shrubs as windblocks.  Be sure to plant them correctly or that large tree is going to be a problem!

Check out this video with tree expert Leif Knecht:

Another suggestion is retaining walls and mulch.

For those of us in colder climates, freezing can be a problem. It can cause breaking branches and limit water to roots.  Freeze proof gardens include Douglas firs, spruce, birch and maples as well as sedge grasses, hellebores aka lenten rose and hostas.  As we talked about yesterday, add a blanket of mulch, compost and leaves to protect the roots and gently shake snowladen plants.  Avoid salt near plants too.

fir tree

And then there’s flooding which saturates soil, suffocates roots and attracts pests.  To address that, raingardens rock!  Include water resistant natives like Joe Pye weed, black chokeberry, meadowsweet and winterberry.  Other ways to help combat flooding is by creating pervious surfaces such as sand and stone for paths and low lying areas.

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Time to mulch

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Time to mulch

Wow, record warmth in November turned Polar vortex in December.  And just like that, it’s winter!  Once your soil is frozen down a couple of inches, it’s time to add mulch.

It’s important to let the ground freeze first, then place your mulch.  We are looking to stabilize the soil temperature for our plants so that when we get wild fluctuations in temperatures our plants won’t heave out of the ground.   In other words, it’s not necessarily arctic temperatures but rather the extremes that can force a plant out of the soil, especially newly (2 year old) planted plants.

  • Shredded leaves make great mulch that decomposes too!  You MIGHT consider adding some nitrogen next Spring but get a soil test first.
  • Straw is a great insulator but you may find some weeds in the spring. (Straw is a collection of the stems of field crops such as wheat and oats. It is popular as a mulch because it rarely contains weed seeds and is readily available. It makes a particularly good winter mulch because the hollow stems hold air and act as insulation for the plants below.)
  •  Marsh hay (Salt hay, or salt marsh hay, consists of grasses harvested from salt marshes. Their wiry stems do not mat down or rot as quickly as straw, and any seeds that are present will not germinate because they require wet, saline soil. Where it is available, salt hay is the best choice for mulching.) is a good mulch with generally no weed seeds.  It’s also a little harder to find.
  • Shredded bark, not chips, makes a good mulch too.
  • Pine needles, lucky you, they’re wonderful insulators and you can use
  • Grass clippings too, as long as you’ve skipped the lawn chemicals.

Pine needle mulch, this can be tucked up tighter to your trunk or stems

Remember to mulch like a DONUT not a volcano!  Snow is a different thing.  Pile that stuff right up and on trees.  Wood mulch becomes a home for certain little critters, that’s why we suggest the donut as the little critters could basically lay in “bed” and eat the bark of your trees/stems at the same time!  ?

MOST of the time, when spring comes, we will remove this mulch to allow for water, oxygen and nutrients to get to our plants roots.    You can mulch to a depth of 6 inches if you’d like, especially if you have zone 5 plants, but then remove all of that in Spring.  Yes, I know I said it twice!

Some fun plant facts to ponder – a pineapple is actually a berry, a peanut is from the bean family, a banana is an herb and, although onions may make you cry, they also contain a mild antibiotic that fights infections, soothes burns, tames bee stings and relieves the itch of athletes foot.


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Festive containers

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Festive Containers

What a run of weather!  Record highs, some light snow up north…

I really love having outdoor containers in the winter.  I get excited to swing by my local nursery and purchase spruce tops, cedar branches, winterberry holly, pinecones or any number of fabulous finds.  I also use interesting twisty branches that I’ve found in my yard, spray paint them and poke them into the process.  I spray paint dried sedum, it’s just so easy.

But don’t limit yourself to sedum, hydrangeas would be great or frankly, any number of interesting natural elements.  Ornamental grasses, seed pods, even the winged branches of burning bush,  anything that catches your eye can be used either naturally or spraypainted.  There are SO many wonderful colors now too.  I tend to go with reds and golds, but that’s me.

I trimmed the bottom twigs off the spruce to place them more firmly into the soil and then the fun really begins!


Spruce top leftovers for filling in

Creating your own containers means you can pick and choose, put it together, take it apart, change it up, add lights, (I like the led lights) ribbons, bird nests, whatever!

I’ve added all kinds of other types of evergreens, winterberry, some fake stuff, pine cones and whatever else I may fancy!  It’s YOUR container, have fun with it and if something doesn’t look right, then take it out and try something else!


2017 back porch

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Christmas cactus or not

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Christmas cactus or not

Christmas cactus or not?  Did you know there’s a Thanksgiving Cactus?  I didn’t until a few years ago!  I had a cactus from my mom for YEARS and always thought it was a Christmas cactus with extreme flowering capability!   Finding out there’s a difference and it has to do with the lobes, was, well, somewhat embarrassing.  My powers of observation were not apparently keen!

You can clearly see the difference in LOBES!  The Christmas cactus (rounded lobes) blooms about 5 to 6 weeks later than Thanksgiving cactus (pointy lobes).

The anthers, the pollen-bearing parts of flowers, are purplish-brown for the Christmas cactus while the Thanksgiving cactus anthers are yellow.  Also, the ovaries in the flower of Christmas cacti are ribbed while Thanksgiving cacti have a smoother appearance.

These succulents should be allowed to dry out half way, then water thoroughly, allowing the water to run out the bottom of the pot, then empty the saucer.  They both like it cool, so don’t worry about drafts.  Keep in bright, indirect light.  While they’re flowering, fertilize them with a weak all-purpose fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks.

Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus


Christmas cactus - Torrey Pines

Christmas cactus – anthers

Thanksgiving cactus - notice the white anthers

Thanksgiving cactus – notice the white anthers


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Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Amaryllis

What are the holidays without Amaryllis?  Not quite as lovely!  And what a spectacular hostess gift!!

Amaryllis ‘Red Peacock’

  • Choose large, firm bulbs – grapefruit size will give you the most blooms for your buck
  • Before bloom, keep your Amaryllis in a sunny window away from cold drafts.
  • when the flower buds start to show color, move your plant OUT of direct sunlight to a bright, indirect sunlit area
  • water well, letting the water drain out the bottom, then let it dry out before watering again.
  • cooler temps in lower light levels will prolong the blooms
  • Once the bloom is gone, you can treat it like a sun-loving houseplant.
  • cut the blooms off so they don’t form seeds
  • leave the foliage till it’s yellowed
  • when it warms up in Spring, you can plant your amaryllis, pot and all, in a sunny spot
  • bring back into the house before the first frost
  • store in a dark closet with no water for 8 to 12 weeks, letting the bulbs rest
  • When new growth starts, repeat above process!

Some new cultivars for 2017

Tres Chic


Grand diva

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