DECEMBER is a big month for decorating, both within and without the house. But it’s also the time to reflect upon the year’s past achievements. Let’s pause each day to enjoy the winter views from our windows, the silhouettes of trees, the colorful birds. And let’s keep most of the work indoors:
Christmas Tree. To get the biggest bang from your Christmas tree buck, select early the freshest possible specimen. I selected a 9-foot Frasier fir for my parlor. Before bringing the tree indoors, treat it with anti-transpirant — I use “WiltPruf” — in order to reduce moisture loss. Indoors, keep the tree well watered, and as cool as possible, by turning off nearby radiators.
Tip: Want to light up your evergreens? Tuck African violets among the boughs. How I keep these houseplants in continuous bloom.
Holly, Boxwood, Yew. Prune mature shrubs freely for decoration; drastic side pruning results in thicker central growth later.
Florist’s Plants. The florist will have beautiful blooming subjects this month. Why not add a few seasonal plants to enhance your window garden? A rose poinsettia goes well with pink and white wax begonias; a pink or red kalanchoe will compliment your purple African violets, while the brilliant Christmas cherry will provide much-needed contrast to a collection of green ferns and vines. As with all florist’s plants, remove foil wrappings immediately — they are death traps.
Paper-White Narcissi. Plant these early in the month for Christmas and New Year’s bloom. Flowering for me just now is the softly-scented, yellow-and-white Narcissus ‘Winter Sun,’ pictured above.
Bulbs in Cold Storage. Don’t forget the potted Dutch bulbs or the vased hyacinths in your refrigerator, cold cellar, or slightly-heated garage. These must not be allowed to dry out if you wish to enjoy — as I do — a private, indoor spring that begins on New Year’s Day.
Mulching. After the first hard freeze (not just a touch of frost), mulch roses and other perennials that require it. The goal is to keep them cold and unstimulated by occasional midwinter warmth. I use shredded leaves for all of my mulching jobs.
Raised Beds. If you haven’t already prepared these for winter, better get hopping.
Winter-Sowing. Plant your seeds outdoors in containers now (or in January), as I do, and in spring you’ll be rewarded with a forest of perennials, annuals, herbs and even vegetables.
Enjoy these monthly tips? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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