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Edition 11.43 J&L Garden Center's News November, 2011
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Featured Quote:

"Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter."
~ Carol Bishop Hipps


Keeping Houseplants Healthy in Winter

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Keeping your houseplants healthy during winter months may seem difficult. Light from windows is reduced, days are shorter and humidity may be lower due to heating. But by making a few changes, you can help keep your houseplants healthy.

Keeping things light

In winter, your plants receive sunlight for less time and in less intensity. Houseplants native to rainforests that are used to lower light will be fine with that, but most plants need more light. Try to move your plants near a brighter window (S/SW exposure) to get them more sunlight.

If you have no brighter windows (due to shade trees or apartment living), you might want to consider the purchase of plant lamps that are designed to provide the full spectrum light your plants need. They can be mounted under shelves over plants or on specially-designed plant stands. Leave them on about eight hours a day, and they'll give your plants the light they need.

You can also use cool fluorescent bulbs as close as 6 inches from the top of plants.

Temperature

Most plants do not do well when subjected to rapid fluctuations in temperature. Keep them away from hot air sources and cold drafts alike. Run ceiling fans on low if the house is closed up. Fans break up stagnant air; that's healthier for both you and your plants.

Humidity

Some symptoms of low humidity are brown leaf tips and wilting. Low humidity makes your plants work harder to get moisture from the air and soil, as well as keep what they have inside.

One way to give your plants some extra humidity is to mist them two or three times a day. The water will evaporate off the leaves and provide a cloud of higher humidity around the plant. For a less labor-intensive method, put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a tray and fill the tray with just enough water to cover the bottom of the tray (below the top of the pebbles). Place potted plants in the tray.

Other

Fertilizing should be done less often for most plants in winter.

Give your plants a good washing. Dirt, dust, grease, and other particles can settle on leaves. Dirty leaves can't absorb as much sunlight as clean ones. Gently wipe clean the leaves with a soft sponge or cloth dipped in plain water. Sturdier plants can even be given a quick shower in the bathroom with tepid water.

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You don't need to be a botanist to coax flowers into bloom for the holidays.

It's simple, especially when they're Hippeastrum bulbs. Although marketed in the winter as amaryllis, most belong to the genus Hippeastrum from South America.

For the largest number of flower clusters, select the largest bulb. Plant it in a well-draining pot, 6-8 weeks before you want the trumpet-shaped flowers to appear. Make sure the upper third of the bulb is peeking above the soil and water sparingly.

Then stake the flower stalk for support, put a bow on it, and voilà! Don't you wish all your holiday preparations were this easy?

For more information about amaryllis, please click on the Amaryllis Care handout link located on the sidebar of this newsletter, or go to the handouts page located on our website.

Caring for and Choosing Poinsettias

If you've been subjecting a potted poinsettia to fourteen hours of darkness nightly since October, it should be in full bloom now. Stop fertilizing it for now, and display it where you can enjoy it.

Buy more potted poinsettias early this month, if you want to give them as gifts or use them to decorate your home or entryway. The best plants are usually sold early. Wherever you purchase your plant, be selective. Choose a plant that hasn't been abused. Exposure to extremes of temperature and over- or underwatering can occur before you take your plant home, and these things can make the green leaves fall off prematurely, a common problem with poinsettias. The colorful bracts should look healthy, not wilted, and the leaves should be green and firmly attached to the stalk. If several have fallen off, that's a bad sign. Also inspect the flowers, the tiny little buttons in the center of the colorful bracts. Make sure they're fresh looking and not brown or mildewy.

When you get your poinsettia home, give it the location, light, and other conditions that will help it last. Place your poinsettias out of drafts and in bright light, such as 18 inches to 2 feet below an electric light source, but away from direct sunlight. This should provide the required temperatures: 70 degrees F in the daytime, and 60-65 degrees F at night are ideal. One of the worst places to keep a poinsettia is on top of the TV. If you leave the foil on the plant don't allow it to collect water at the bottom; tear holes in the foil so water doesn't collect in it. The best way to water is to put your plant in the kitchen sink, water it thoroughly, and let it drain before putting it back on display.

For more information about this fun topic, please click on the Poinsettia Care handout link located on the sidebar of this newsletter, or go to the handouts page located on our website.


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There's nothing that says Christmas quite like the fragrance of a fresh cut Christmas tree. Somehow, scented candles and air fresheners just don’t have the same natural aroma. Selecting and bringing home a fresh cut tree is just a natural part of the holiday tradition.

You can get the most out of your holiday tree by following a few simple guidelines.

When selecting your fresh cut tree, gently stroke the branches or pick up the tree a few inches and bounce the cut end on the ground; few needles should fall if the tree is fresh and has been properly cared for. Make sure to get the right size tree so you don’t have to do a lot of pruning. Measure the height of your ceilings and the width of the space you plan to display your tree in. Remember that a tree doesn’t need to be perfectly even if displayed in a corner.

Once you bring the tree home cut another inch off the base before setting the tree in its water stand. This will help the tree take up water more easily. Immediately fill the stand with water after setting up. Make sure to check the stand's basin daily and add water as needed. Display your tree away from heat sources such as heater vents, fireplaces, stereos and television sets which can promote premature drying.

Above all else, make sure you use only Christmas lights with a UL seal of approval. Inspect your lights each year for excessive wear such as frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking before putting them up. Never use candles near a tree. Remember to turn lights off before going to bed or when unattended. Finally make sure to use non-flammable decorations on your tree. Homemade paper ornaments are cute, but hang them somewhere else in the house for all to see.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

For more information about this fun topic, please click on the Christmas Tree Care handout link located on the sidebar of this newsletter, or go to the handouts page located on our website.

Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhite narcissus are one of the most fragrant and easiest bulbs to grow. The heavily scented, spring blooming, white trumpeted flowers can be grown both outdoors in the garden or forced in containers where their wonderful sweet scent can fill a room.

The paperwhite narcissus is especially popular for forcing to bloom indoors during the winter months. Unlike most other daffodils, paperwhites do not require a cold period. The most popular way to grow paperwhites is to force them to bloom indoors during the winter. Simply fill a shallow bowl or container halfway with decorative stones or gravel. Place the paperwhite bulbs onto the stones, pushing them down just far enough so the bulbs are supported in an upright position. You can place the bulbs fairly close together; they don't mind being crowded

Add water just to the bottom of the bulbs. If the water covers too much of the bulb, they can rot. Now put them in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks. When the bulbs begin to root and the plant has started to grow from the bulb, move your container out into a brightly lit room. Four to six weeks later, your paperwhites should be ready to bloom!

Plant a new pot of paperwhite narcissus every two weeks so you can extend your enjoyment all winter long.

For more information about this fun topic, please click on the Forcing Paperwhites handout link located on the sidebar of this newsletter, or go to the handouts page located on our website.


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Whether your bulbs flower at Christmas, or on any particular date, depends partly on if you used prepared bulbs in the first place. However, timing also depends on how cold you kept the bulbs and at what point you bring them out from their resting place into light and warmth.

Check bowls of bulbs plunged outdoors beneath sand, peat or grit used to keep them cool and dark while roots develop. If the shoots are about 1 inch high, it’s time to bring them indoors.

If you have kept bulbs in a cool, dark place indoors, in a cupboard or loft, check these periodically, too. Bring them into the light when the shoots are 1-2 inches tall.

Wipe the container clean if it has been plunged outdoors, then place in a light but cool position indoors or in a conservatory. Only put in a warm place once the buds have emerged and are beginning to show color, else the stems may be too long and weak.

If you sow grass seed on the surface as soon as you bring the bulbs into the light, you should have an attractive carpet of grass by the time they flower. Just before the bulbs come into full flower, cut the grass to a height of about 1-2 inches, to make it look even and neat.

For more information about forcing bulbs, please click on the Forcing Bulbs handout link located on the sidebar of this newsletter, or go to the handouts page located on our website.

trivia

This Month's Question:
What plant is named because its lower leaves tend to line up in a north-south direction?

This Month's Prize:
TBA

Pumpkin Muffins

What you need:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • Cooking spray

Step by Step:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flours, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine pumpkin, buttermilk, egg substitute, canola oil and applesauce in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched in center.

Cool muffins for 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove muffins and cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 16 muffins

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More Gardening Advice

November Garden Tips

December Garden Tips

Houseplant Healthy

Amaryllis Care

Poinsettia Care

Christmas Tree Care

Forcing Paperwhites

Forcing Bulbs

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