The month of December brings the holiday season and warm thoughts of family, friends and community. I would like to say “Thank You” and wish you and yours a “Blessed Holiday Season” with all the best in the New Year!
Fall will turn into winter this month. It may not always be the most comfortable time to be planting anything in your landscape, but it is a great time for the plants. Trees and shrubs are completely dormant now, so the concept of transplant shock does not apply.
Trimming or pruning of some of your trees and shrubs can be done now. Basically, it breaks down like this — if the tree or shrub flowers before the first of June, don’t touch it now. If it flowers after the first of June, you can safely cut it now.
Resist the urge to cut back everything. Most perennials benefit from adding a layer of mulch or dead leaves. If you had any fungus or disease problems in an area, go ahead and cut back the plants in that area and rake up the debris. Keep your ornamental grasses up until mid-March.
Roses: a winter “haircut” can be given, but don’t cut them back all the way. Some winters can be so cold that the roses could get winter die-back which would need to be removed in the spring anyway, so plan on your heaviest rose trimming in spring in early April.
Apply a thick layer (10-12 inches) of mulch at the base of your roses now.
Plants get “chapped lips” too. Cold, dry winter winds and bright winter sun make our skin chapped and unhealthy. Those winds have a devastatingly similar effect on your plants, which are out in the winds all winter. No wonder your evergreens don’t look so great come spring.
This drying effect is called desiccation. To fight desiccation, choose the right plants for windy, dry areas. Make sure to water your evergreens well through early December, before the ground freezes. Mulch your plants for winter to retain soil moisture as well as soil temperature.
Use an anti-desiccant like Wilt Stop by Bonide. These products coat leaves and needles to slow down the loss of moisture.
Here are a few tips on winter houseplant care.
When the heat goes on and the daylight becomes shorter, it may be necessary to move the plants to a different place in the home and to give them different treatment from that given during the summer.
Flowering plants need at least half a day of direct sunlight. Cacti and many succulents require a sunny location, and crotons need direct sun to maintain the decorative color.
The ideal temperatures for foliage plants are 68-70 degrees during the day and slightly lower at night. Remember, windowsill locations are much colder during the winter, and plants may need to be moved to prevent them from getting chilled.
The amount of water the houseplants need declines during winter, so increase the amount of time between watering. Reduce fertilizing as well.
Some of the plants in your landscape can help you decorate for the Christmas season as you prune them for next year. Holly and boxwood can be trimmed now with some of the cuttings used to accent wreaths or live indoor plants.
Some of the growth of evergreens such as white pine, Norway spruce, and even some of the seed heads of ornamental grasses can be used to make a harvest wreath or basket for your front door or porch. Talk about recycling! After Christmas, you can take them to your compost bin for future fertilizer!
Along with these holiday tips, here are a few other ideas for the month:
Use caution when spreading salt or calcium on ice or snow packed walks or driveways. Salt can damage lawns and plantings, calcium is much safer to use. Be sure to designate areas for piling snow from plowing in advance to prevent damage to trees, shrubs and lawns.
Continue to feed our fine feathered friends and place heated birdbaths with fresh water out for them.
Again, I wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas season. Let’s get to work on planning that beautiful garden scene for next year!
See you in the garden.
This monthly column is written by Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington.