In the time of year when night falls like a cartoon curtain at 4:30 PM, we need all the cheer we can get. For many this lifting-hearts-and-spirits optimism can be cultivated in the house. Something growing and colorful is just what we need when the days are short. Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus to the rescue!
Amaryllis bulbs can be potted up or purchased already in a pot and soil. Those bulbs you buy are already pre-chilled and are ready to sprout a bloom spike. Either put the bare bulb into a container of good potting soil or start watering your potted bulb.
Here are a couple of hints for success with Amaryllis:
- Pot them with the top 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb showing above the surface of the soil. This helps to prevent the bulb from being too wet.
- Water the plant well when the soil is drying, but don’t keep the soil constantly wet. Never let the pot sit in a saucer or foil covering holding water.
- Put your Amaryllis in a warm, sunny window as it grows. Once the plant starts to bloom you can move it to a location where the flower will be well displayed, but while it’s developing, and after it’s finished, keep the pot in some sunshine.
Paperwhite Narcissus are also great for quick, easy growth and cheerful flowers. These are bred to be one-shot plants, so don’t try to save them or plant them outdoors in cold areas. Grow them in a vase if you want them to be supported. See C.L. Fornari’s article about growing Paperwhites on her GardenLady website.
These indoor bulbs are fun to watch as they grow so they bring hope and beauty into our homes at the time of year we need it most. Growth and color to lift hearts? You Can Grow That!
A boxed Amaryllis or group of paperwhite Narcissus makes a great gift. Or you can also pot one up in a nice looking container.
Planting a living tree can be a great way to add to your landscape, extend the season, and add a fun family tradition to your Christmas holiday. As with anything growing and alive a little preparation is in order for a successful experience.
- It is best to think in advance of where your tree will go in your yard. Commonly sold living Christmas trees grow to be fairly large so plan accordingly!
- Pre-dig the hole before the ground freezes. If temperatures are expected to be below freezing during and after the holidays, pile the soil from the hole in a wheelbarrow or cart and store it in the garage or shed. You can plant a tree in a hole of frozen soil, but you’ll appreciate having the loose soil thawed when you go to plant.
- Water the tree really well before bringing it inside.
- Gradually introduce your tree to the indoors over 3-4 days by way of the garage or an enclosed porch. You don’t want the tree to break dormancy by bringing it directly into a 70 degree house.
- Spraying your tree with an anti desiccant will help keep the moisture in its needles. The product we use is Wilt-Pruf.
- When choosing a spot in the house try to place the tree in a cooler room. Avoid heating ducts, fireplaces and registers.
- Place the tree into a large galvanized bucket or rubber tub. You’ll need to keep the tree watered while in the house, so use a container that doesn’t leak. Although the root ball needs to be kept damp, it shouldn’t be sitting in standing water. Too much water will rot the roots.
- Adding mulch to a bucket around the root ball will help stabilize the tree and keep the moisture more constant.
- Your tree has been dormant so you shouldn’t plan to keep it in the house for more than 4 or 5 days. Plan to bring a live tree in just before Christmas and move it outside the day after whenever possible.
- After the holiday plant the tree in the prepared hole. Be sure to remove the burlap and wire basket and don’t plant the tree too deeply. You should see the “root flare” where the bottom of the trunk flares out slightly at ground level. After filling the soil around the root ball, water the area well and apply any mulch you have over the soil’s surface.
- Water your tree once a week as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Remember in the spring and summer that this is a newly installed tree that will need watering once a week if it hasn’t rained.
- In future years, decorate your planted living tree with seed ornaments for the birds!
- Merry Christmas!
When I decorate a living tree I transfer some of my favorite ornaments onto a bare branch for awhile so that I can enjoy them a bit longer before packing them away. Each ornament has a memory that goes along with it, and this is one of the nicest things about holiday decorating.
You can download a pdf file with this living tree information from our Informational Handouts page.
Did you know that we custom decorate Cape Cod Wreaths?
At this time of year many of our customers decide to plant an evergreen in their urns, whiskey barrels, and larger outdoor containers. “What evergreen will live through the winter outside?” they ask. Here’s the general guideline, and a couple of shrub suggestions that are particularly good on Cape Cod.
- No matter where you live, the general rule of thumb is that for a plant to live in a container over the winter it should be hardier two zones colder than where you live. So here on Cape Cod, where most of us are in a warm zone 6 bordering on a cold zone 7, all zone 4 shrubs will be fine and many zone 5 plants will live as well. This USDA hardiness zone guideline works because the soil in containers usually gets about 20 degrees colder than ground temperatures.
- Dwarf Alberta Spruce are the favorite evergreen for containers. They are slow growing, extremely hardy, and grow well in part shade to full sun.
- Dwarf white pine shrubs also do well in containers. ‘Minuta,’ ‘Soft Touch,’ and ‘Blue Jay’ are three common varieties that are rounded in shape. Grow these in part-shade to full sun.
- Hinoki false cypress are very attractive and hardy evergreens. These shrubs come in a variety of foliage textures and colors, and are often more asymmetrical than other evergreens so they appeal to people who like a more natural, wind-swept look. Hinoki false cypress are extremely wind tolerant.
- Here on the Cape blue hollies such as ‘Blue Princess’ and ‘Blue Maid’ do well in large containers. These are larger growing plants over time, however, so you might plan on placing the holly in the landscape after a year or two. In the coldest of winters blue holly can suffer from wind burn as well, so plan on using these lovely plants in more sheltered locations.
We often get in evergreens in festive red pots at this time of year but you're advised to repot these into larger containers. One of the pleasures of growing evergreens in pots all winter is enjoying how beautiful they look when dusted with snow.
It’s a cold, wet New England day and snowflakes are mixing with the rain drops…a sign of the winter ahead. Such weather, combined with the shorter days, can make our spirits sink. Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution: colorful houseplants, for the beginning of that time of year when we need cheering the most. Here are just a few ways that plants will help you to feel better as we move from fall into winter.
- Stress Reduction Studies show that looking at plants lowers most people’s blood pressure. They help calm us and contribute to a sense of well being. Did you know that hospital patients who have a view of a garden recover faster than those who are facing the wall? Bring such a healing garden into your home!
- Cleaner Air Houseplants help remove indoor air pollutants. They not only filter contaminants from the environment, but they put more oxygen into your rooms as well. This helps you to be more alert during the day and sleep better at night! Peace lilies, spider plants and snakeplant are particularly good for cleaning the air. To see a list of more plants that are effective for removing pollutants click here.
- Natural Humidifiers Plants can raise the humidity in a room, and this is particularly valuable in the winter when our indoor heating drys the air.
- Colorful Flowers Boost Moods We know that bringing bright flowers into the home makes us feel happier. Changing plants around so that our indoor environment is fresh and new can also make us feel more cheerful.
- Quick Creative Projects Looking for a way to be creative this weekend? Make a window garden combining a variety of flowering and foliage plants. Place some of them in decorative containers…you don’t necessarily have to completely repot them. Just be sure if the container you use doesn’t have a drainage hole that you be sure to empty out any water that collects there immediately. Use a variety of plants that will thrive in the amount of light you have – make a note of which direction your window faces and come into the store so we can help you find the right selections.
For a creative and colorful selection of plants, choose some that have pretty foliage and others that are in flower. Not all flowering houseplants will last for years and years, but most will be in bloom much longer than cut flowers providing a long-lasting mood lifter! This photo was taken as the first snowflakes are flying in Hyannis - I don't know about you, but looking at these colorful plants make us feel better every time we walk through the greenhouse. Green therapy!
At this time of year we often have clear sunny days when it’s a pleasure to be out in the yard and garden. Getting out and enjoying the late-fall weather can also save you time and effort next spring. Here are three ways of reaping rewards now and next season:
- After cutting down your perennials the fall is the perfect time to fertilize and amend soils for next season. Apply an organic fertilizer such as Flower-tone and follow this with an application of composted manure or compost. An inch of Moo Doo, Quoddy, or Penobscot Blend Compost on the surface of the soil around perennials will improve the garden from the top down.
- Is it time to refresh the soil in your window boxes and pots? Empty them now and refill with fresh potting soil now so that it’s done for next season. You’ll get four for one by refreshing your containers now. In addition to filling the boxes with new soil you can plant small evergreens in these containers for the winter. Next, tuck in some spring-flowering bulbs around the small shrubs or trees. Now you’ll have attractive containers to look at all winter, spring bulbs for early color, and evergreens to plant elsewhere in your garden next season.
- Keep your spring bulbs vital. This is a great time to fertilize around the spring-flowering daffodils, tulips and other bulbs that are already in place. It’s particularly important if you garden in sandy soils. Apply Bulb-tone or Plant-tone now on the areas where your bulbs are growing. These fertilizers will be available to your plants when they need the nutrients next spring.
And speaking of Rewards…for the month of November Hyannis Country Garden is giving double rewards points on all purchases. Our rewards program is free and easy; come into the store to sign up and start earning 5% in store credit for every dollar you spend!
Since we haven’t had a frost yet it’s still possible to take some cuttings of your favorite annuals and perennials. For easy propagation you’ll need some rooting cubes (see photo), rooting hormone, plastic trays to hold your cubes and cuttings, and a sharp knife.
1. Cut pieces of the plants you wish to propagate that are around 3 or 4 inches tall. Most people are tempted to take cuttings that are over 6 inches and this isn’t wise because there is usually too much stem and too many leaves to keep alive before the roots form. You’ll have greater success with smaller pieces.
2. Get your rooting cubes damp according to directions. If you’re using the Dyna-Grow K-L-N mix that into the soaking water according to the directions on the bottle. Place wet cubes into a clean, plastic seed tray.
3. Remove the lower leaves on your cuttings leaving only a couple of small leaves on the top. If there are fewer leaves to lose moisture, they are more likely to live and root quickly.
4. Make a clean cut with the sharp knife just below the lowest leaf node. This is the place where the leaves attached to the stem, and for most plants that’s where the first roots will grow. Dip the bottom inch of the cutting in rooting hormone and stick it in the cube.
5. Loosely cover the tray of cuttings with clear plastic and place it in a location that is brightly lit but not in direct sun. Check moisture level frequently – don’t let the cubes sit in standing water but don’t let them dry out either. When the plants are rooted you’ll either see the roots or notice that the cuttings have “perked up” and are starting to grow. At this point plant them into small pots with good potting soil and place them in a sunny window.
These are just some of the supplies we carry for propagating plants. Come into the store and we'll help you find just what you need.
If you grew Dahlias this summer you probably want to save the tubers for next year. That’s one of the joys of this annual flower…you can not only save them from year to year and add new colors to your collection, but you’ll have tubers to share with your friends. Here’s how to proceed.
1. Wait until the plants get wilted by a hard frost. If you want to know which plants are particular colors, write out a plastic label before the frost hits and place it by the stem of each plant. Once frost hits, cut the stems off and dig up the tubers, keeping the label with the tubers.
2. Lay the tubers on a tarp or newspapers in a garage or shed for a couple of weeks so that they dry out. Once the soil starts to dry, brush the excess off the tubers with a gloved hand or soft brush.
3. After the tubers are clean and dry, pack them up for storage. You can do this in a number of ways. Method one: put about four inches dry peat moss or potting soil in a paper bag, lay the tubers on top of that layer and then fill the bag with more peat or potting soil. Close the bag and put all the bags into a large cardboard box. Method two: wrap the tubers in sheets of newspapers and place each bundle in a paper bag. Put the bags into a box for storage.
4. Store the boxes in a place that’s cool but doesn’t go below freezing in the winter. Most unheated but attached garages are suitable on Cape Cod. In the spring after frost danger has passed unwrap the clumps of tubers and cut individual tubers off, making sure to include a piece of the area where the tuber joins the stem since that’s where most shoots originate. You will see new shoots on many of the tubers in the spring, so work carefully so you don’t break those off. Share the extras!
Dahlias are one of the "must have" flowers for cutting. Get a new color every year and you'll soon have a beautiful cutting garden.
Here are some dahlia tubers that are drying. Once they are dry the dirt will be brushed off and the tubers put into winter storage. Don't store them in plastic - the tubers are likely to mold or rot if stored without air circulation.
Celebrate the glorious fall with an easy to make harvest decoration. Build a pumpkin totem! At this time of year the garden center is well stocked with all colors of pumpkins, squash and gourds for fall decorating, and stacking some up couldn’t be easier. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Get several pumpkins in assorted colors and sizes. The wide, flat types are particularly well suited for placing them on the bottom of the pile. You can use a pumpkin totem as a focal point and group fall plants such as kale and mums around it. To make the totem even higher, put it on a hay bale.
A stack of pumpkins like this needs a heavy rod through the pile to keep it all from falling over. Use a heavy wooden dowel or length of rebar, and plant the end in a heavy pot of dirt or directly into the ground to keep the totem upright.
A pile of flat pumpkins usually doesn't need a supporting bar. Place them on a heavy metal urn by your front porch, or put the totem in the backyard where you'll see it every time you look out your kitchen window.
This short stack was put on two flower pots, one turned upside down and the other placed on the top to form a pedestal. The top pot was filled with dirt and a group of small Heuchera plants were planted around the edge so that they soften the meeting of pot and pumpkin. Small kale are good plants for this use as well. This stack of pumpkins and squash does double duty: it is a seasonal celebration and it hides the spot where a peony was recently cut to the ground in advance of winter. If you're having a party or event in your landscape this fall, consider totems as a way to dress up the bare spots in the garden!
“I have spots on my hydrangea leaves,” the customer said. “I’ll send you a picture by email because I’m afraid it’s dying. Maybe it came from a bad batch.” We suspected that the “batch” of hydrangeas was just fine, and that the plant would recover very nicely, and once the photo arrived this hunch was confirmed. The hydrangea just has a leaf spot fungus, something that this type of plant is prone to in certain situations.
Hydrangeas get leaf spot when their foliage is frequently hit with water. Sometimes it begins in cool, wet spring weather. (Typical for May and even June on Cape Cod!) Other times irrigation systems are to blame; although hydrangeas like soil that is well-drained but moist, a sprinkler that hits the leaves every other day, or even every three days, will produce leaf spot.
People will commonly see leaf spot on newly planted hydrangeas. This is because most garden centers that stock these plants have no choice but to use over-head irrigation that comes on every morning before the nursery opens. After a few weeks of this the plant will already have leaf spot brewing and this often shows up when the plant has already been placed in a customer’s garden.
Here’s the good news: the leaf spot on Hydrangeas is usually a cosmetic problem only. It doesn’t kill the plants. Once the watering methods have changed the plant will no longer get new spots on the foliage. If there are some leaves that are particularly ugly those can be clipped off to improve the appearance of the plant. As long as the Hydrangea isn’t getting hit frequently with overhead watering in the future the problem won’t reoccur…unless, of course, the weather is especially unfavorable.
Although treatment for this leaf spot isn’t usually needed, if you want to apply an organic fungicide to protect unmarked foliage in the future, Actinovate, Serenade, or similar products are a good choice.
If you have no choice but to water with over-head irrigation, be sure to water deeply less often. You're less likely to get leaf spot if you water every four or five days for a longer period of time instead of every other day for twenty minutes.