DECEMBER IS WHEN WE PUT THE GARDEN OUTDOORS TO BED, and then focus — joyously — on hearth and home. Consequently the month’s chores are mostly enjoyable ones you can accomplish indoors — like decorating the mantel with fresh greens and fruit:
Christmas Tree. To get the biggest bang from your Christmas tree buck, select early the freshest possible specimen, and treat it with an anti-transpirant — such as WiltPruf — in order to reduce moisture loss. Keep the tree well watered, too, and as cool as possible, by turning off nearby radiators.
Evergreen Decorations. Spray with anti-transpirant all of your evergreen wreaths, garlands, and mantel swags. This will keep them fresh-looking for the entire month. And speaking of mantels, why not adorn yours with boughs of greenery and clusters of fresh fruit? I did just that for the mantel in my dining room, pictured above.
Holly, Boxwood, Yew. Prune older shrubs freely for decoration; drastic side pruning results in thicker central growth later.
Cold Protection. After the first hard freeze (not just a touch of frost), mulch perennials that require it. The goal is to keep them cold and unstimulated by occasional midwinter warmth.
Window Garden. Make your window garden a dominant portrait. First polish the glass and wash the shelves and give the plants a good showering before you get too holiday-crazed. Then place candles there for evening burning. To you and all who pass, your window will give great joy.
Florist’s Plants. The florist has a bevy of beautiful blooming subjects this month. Add a few seasonal plants to enhance your own colorful houseplant scheme…a pink poinsettia with your white wax begonias, or a red one for your rosy impatiens, a pink kalanchoe to compliment your purple African violets or a Christmas Cherry among the green ferns or vines. As with all florist’s plants, remove foil wrappings immmediately — they are death traps.
Bulbs in Cold Storage. Don’t forget the potted 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.
A Random Thought. Don’t forget to polish the silver…nothing beats the gleam of silver serving-pieces and candlesticks during the holidays.
Another Random Thought. If you have propagated your houseplants — African violets, scented geraniums, vines, etc., why not give your extras away as host or hostess gifts, or Christmas presents? Plant in an attractive pot, and include a hand-written tag that describes the plant, its uses, and culture. Attach tag to plant with a colorful ribbon.
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