Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2004
Regional Report

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Winter chill brightens the colors of succulents.

Live Holiday Color Indoors

If you plan to decorate a live holiday tree indoors and then move it or plant it outdoors afterwards, choose a small tree because it will adapt better than a more mature one. After you bring the tree home, water it well, and store it in an unheated garage or outbuilding for two or three days until you move it indoors, keeping the rootball moist and the boughs misted.

Caring for a Live Tree Indoors
Once the tree is in place indoors away from heating vents or fireplaces, either water it directly or by scattering ice cubes around the soil surface to slowly seep down into the entire root ball. Limit its time indoors to a maximum of seven days; fewer if the house is very warm.

Move the tree outside again to the garage, shed, or protected spot for at least two weeks before moving or planting it in the open. The longer you enjoy the tree in the warm house, the longer it will need to readapt to outdoor conditions.

Norfold Island Pine Trees
Norfolk island pines make ideal mini Christmas trees, with their own tiny lights and ornaments. Provide each room in the house with its own individually decorated tree; hang cookie cutters and red ribbon bows on the kitchen tree, for example.

Colorful Plants
Other living plants for indoor color include African violets, azaleas, begonias, Christmas cacti, Christmas (Jerusalem) cherries, cyclamen, and kalanchoe, as well as the ever-dependable chrysanthemums and poinsettias. Be sure to give these plants bright indirect light, keep them cool and out of drafts, and water them just enough to keep the potting mix barely moist. Cacti and succulents also are good choices, but they need direct sunlight and very little water.

Using Natural Materials for Decorations
The garden is a treasure trove of possibilities for holiday decorations. Pyracantha berries alternated with popcorn make attractive garlands. Oranges, lemons, or apples sprinkled with cinnamon or cardamom and stuck with whole cloves make delightfully fragrant pomander balls. Rose hips add bright red and orange colors to green wreaths. Vines from grapes, honeysuckle, wisteria, willow, or ivy will bend into many usable shapes. Eucalyptus pods, pinecones, acorns, and magnolia leaf clusters provide many shades of brown. Bufford's holly, which grows better here than the traditional variety, gives us red berries. And, of course, there's mistletoe.

Herbs, too, can trim yule logs, flavor jelly, give fragrance to clusters of twigs or wreaths, and perfume the air in stove-top potpourris.

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