- Author: Karen Metz
I may be the Queen of potted plants, but even I will eventually throw in the towel with pots. I'd had a Salvia mexicana 'Limelight' for several years in a pot. It just never did much. I think one year I actually had one blossom. Before I threw it away, I decided to plant it in one of my lavender beds figuring it would die. The plant took off growing and hasn't stopped. With the blossoms, it's over four feet tall.
They take full sun and average to low water. They are hardy to the mid twenties. Some plants just seem to do better in the ground. So before you throw anything out , give it one last chance and plunk it in the ground. It might surprise you.
- Author: Sally Livingston
Poinsettias, Euphorbia pulcherrima, are my favorite holiday plant. Every year, I buy four to six plants to decorate my home. I love the bright red flowers and they add such a festive touch! Plus they are now available in many colors – white, pink, burgundy, etc. Some even have glitter on them to add more sparkle to my home.
Poinsettias require bright light. If possible, place them near a sunny window where it will get the most available sunlight. A window that faces south, east, or west is better than one facing north. A temperature between 65º F and 70º F is ideal during daylight to keep the plant in bloom. Avoid exposing the plant to hot or cold drafts, such as furnace air outlets, which may cause premature leaf drop.
Keep plants well-watered but do not over water. Check the soil daily. When the surface is dry to the touch, water the soil until it runs freely out of drainage hole in the container. A wilted plant may drop its leaves prematurely. Enjoy your plants and happy holidays!
- Author: Sharon Leos
Annuals: one growing season; biennials: two growing seasons; perennials: many growing seasons. As gardeners, we know what to expect from our plants. Trees? Trees live forever, right? Nope. The fact that a tree may outlive a human is not disputed. There are dozens of ancient historical oak trees (Quercus spp.) that are several hundreds of years old, the “General Sherman” giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is nearly 3,000 years old, and “Methuselah” is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) aged at more then 4,800 years and according to Wikipedia, is the oldest living organism on the planet.
With all those ancients in mind, I understand why we are perplexed when a tree dies. Especially when it is a relatively young tree. My colleague Kathy Thomas-Rico wrote recently about the death of European white birch trees (Betula pendula) in Vacaville. (“Birch Issues,” Under the Solano Sun, 9-2-11). It hit home this summer, right in our front yard. Our birch began to look less leafy than normal and subsequently died. Our tree was one of many planted by the developer that built the homes on our street. Over the last sixteen years our tree grew to about thirty feet tall and except for nearly all the branches being on one side due to the prevailing Solano wind, it seemed healthy. I have since learned that the European white birch is not suited to our growing zone, which is too dry and too hot. It is even considered a weed by the U.S. Forest Service - one gardener’s shade is another’s invasive species!
Over the last few years we have watched the birches disappear one-by-one from the neighborhood. I am sad our pretty white birch has been reduced to little more than a perch for the wild birds, which is still a pleasant purpose, just not the intended one. But it serves as a reminder that trees have a lifespan.
- Author: Betty Victor
It's holiday time and the Master Gardeners have been hard at work preparing for our annual wreath workshop. December 3 is the day that the Buck Mansion Carriage House in Vacaville will be all a buzz with the people making their own holiday wreath.
Prior to the actual day, a lot of work goes into preparing for this workshop by the Master Gardeners. In late October and early November a message was sent to all the Master Gardeners, telling them when it’s time to prune any plants in their yards to remember the wreath workshop and to collect any that can be dried to use to decorate the wreaths. Twice in November, some Master Gardeners met and spray painted almost every color on some of the plants that had been collected and dried. Some of the hydrangeas that looked good were left in their natural state. Other hydrangeas, agapanthus, lavender, agastache, lions tail, sedum, and so much more were sprayed for the participants to add to their wreaths. There will bows of different colors that can also be added.
Late November it was time to cut the greens. We met at a local spot and with permission from the owner we filled a truck and trailer with redwood boughs, we were very careful and only took what was needed and did the look of the spot. We did such a good job; you could not tell we had been there. This trailer of redwood was then taken to a spot in Vacaville, to be soaked overnight and cut the next day to be cut into manageable pieces for the wreath makers to use. After being cut the pieces were boxed in banana size boxes along with other green that had been gathered and transported to the Buck Mansion.
So December 3rd we were ready for a fun start to the holidays, wreath making with all the bows and decorations you might want. Oh and of course food as well.
- Author: Karen Norton
How to protect your succulents from frost
Now that the weather is getting colder and now that I have added succulents to my garden containers, it is important to know how to protect them from frost. Usually perennials respond to winter cold by dying to the ground. In spring, their roots send out new growth. But many succulents from mild climates don't have this adaptation, and need special care when grown where temperatures drop below 32 degrees F.
Here are some tips from succulent photojournalist and author, Debra Lee Baldwin.
-- Don't peel away dry leaves attached to a succulent's trunk or stem. They protect it from temperature extremes (cold and hot).
-- Keep succulents on the dry side. Cells that are turgid are more likely to burst when the liquid within them freezes.
-- Move potted succulents beneath a deck, tree or eaves. (I try to tuck them next to the house in corners that are covered)
-- Place pots against walls, hardscape, boulders and/or shrubs that absorb and slowly release the day's heat. South- and west-facing exposures are best.
-- Drape succulents with frost cloth (sold at nurseries) or old bed sheets. Avoid plastic, which traps moisture, doesn't let plants breathe, and intensifies sunlight.
Should your succulents become frost-burned ~
-- Remove collapsed leaves only if it's likely they'll stay moist and decay. But if they'll protect the plant from future frost, leave on and prune in spring.
-- Preserve the geometry of slender-leaved succulents (such as agaves and aloes) by trimming tip-burned leaves to a point, rather than cutting straight across.
-- Chalk it up to experience. Now you know that particular plant is vulnerable and needs a protected location. (This is my gardening style that I am trying to improve by joining the Solano Master Gardener program).