December is a busy month: family and friend's holiday gatherings, office parties and shopping lists that never seem to end. But remember to take care of those outdoor and indoor plants during the month and share some alternative gift ideas for all those special people during the holidays.
Now is a good time to prune evergreen shrubbery. Bring the cuttings indoors and use them for decorations.
Juniper, holly and magnolia foliage is a beautiful accent to any home holiday decorations! Use nandina and holly berries for wonderful tabletop centerpieces.
Take fresh greenery branches from fresh cut Christmas trees and, with a a wire wreath frame, florists wire, pruners, hot glue gun and other trimmings, make a beautiful homemade wreath.
These are all great economical ways to bring the outdoors into your home and a wonderful way to bring the aroma of fresh pine into your home as well.
Now is the time to fertilize your pansies, snapdragons and ornamental kale and cabbage with a fertilizer high in nitrogen. This will help them grow and bloom in the cold soil.
If we have a dry month, make sure you water newly planted trees and shrubs. Evergreens, in particular, need about 1 gallon of water per foot of height.
Prune short or dead limbs from trees now that the leaves are gone and mulch around the bases about 6 inches from the trunk. Mulch areas where new bulbs have been planted. This will keep bulb foliage from emerging on if we have some consistent warm days.
Consider the houseplants in your home. Move them to well-lit areas and water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Houseplants do not need fertilizers now. Just make sure they are in cool areas where warm, drafty vents do not blow air on them.
Take the foil bottom off of poinsettias where the water will not collect and cause root rot. Set them in a decorative planting pot instead.
Everyone loves a real plant. Instead of buying gloves or socks, purchase a plant that will remind them of you.
Purchase some woody vines for the gardener in your life like cross vine and Carolina jessamine. Plant them near a sturdy arbor, wall or fence and delight the receiver with loads of spring flowers next year. Maybe purchase a tree or plant in someone's memory and plant it as a gift to someone special.
One of my favorite shrubs is the winterberry holly. The warmth of its bright red berries seems to usher in the season's holiday cheer. The winterberry is an excellent attention grabber in the landscape.
Purchase both a male and female variety where you will have these berry laden plants every year around this time. If you have a bird lover in your life, this shrub has the ability to attract songbirds and also serves as an emergency food source for birds.
A great holiday party gift idea is to buy a house plant such as poinsettias, ornamental pepper, Christmas cactus and Amaryllis as a hostess gift. They will be appreciated for years to come.
Purchase pots of paperwhite narcissus, African violets and gloxinia as a gift or use them in your own home and office to add color and a touch of fragrance during this festive season.
Bringing the outdoors into your home with all of its sights, smells and beauty and also share it with others as a wonderful way to celebrate this joyous time of year. Happy gardening holidays!
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.