Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Upper South

December, 2003
Regional Report

Caring for a Live Christmas Tree

Having a live, balled-and-burlapped or container-grown Christmas tree is a wonderful family tradition and a nice way to add to your landscape. A live tree can be kept indoors for no longer than a week. Set the rootball in a large tub and cover with a towel. Add a quart of water each day. If severe weather is expected, pre-dig the hole and fill with leaves. Set the tree at the same depth as it was previously growing and fill in around it with enriched soil. Water and mulch well.

Add Winterberry to Your Wish List

If you notice a shrub covered with bright red berries in someone's yard, then you've probably spotted a deciduous holly commonly known as winterberry, or Ilex verticillata. Put it on your list to add to your garden next year. This holly is a native plant, with a number of cultivars developed for their large, bright, long-lasting berries. Two of the best are 'Sparkleberry' and 'Winter Red'. A male winterberry within 500 feet is needed for pollination.

Caring for Holiday Plants

To keep holiday plants, such as poinsettias and azaleas, looking their best for the longest possible time, set them where they won't be exposed to cold drafts or heat vents. Provide bright but not direct sunlight. Don't let them dry out, but don't overwater either; try to keep the soil evenly moist. If the pot is covered in foil, cut an opening in it and set the pot on a saucer. Cool nighttime temperatures prolong the blooming, too.

Protect Shrubs

Shrubs planted under your roof line can be damaged from snow slides. Make simple wooden A-frames and place them over the plants for the winter. Young, marginally hardy shrubs should be protected with pine boughs or one of the commercially available covers made out of Tyvek. After several years, they may become adapted enough to need only minimal protection.

Do Your Mulching

Now that the ground is starting to freeze, apply loose mulch to perennials, roses, and bulbs. Before mulching, trim perennials back to within 3 to 4 inches of the ground, if desired, or wait until spring to trim. Use pine boughs or loosely packed leaves, such as oak or hard maple. Don't use a heavy hand with the mulch; you're mainly trying to keep the soil from freezing and thawing.


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