Friday, December 29, 2017

Keeping Your Poinsettia Alive for Another Christmas

Keeping your poinsettia alive for next season is actually pretty easy. Here are three great tips for doing just that from Organic Life Magazine.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Tree Disposal by Carol King

Bottle Tree photo by Carol King
If you used a cut tree for your Christmas tree, chances are you are now trying to deal with disposal! There’s always the landfill of course; most trash companies pick them up without a thought. However, there are several options for your tree other than the landfill. 
Humane Society

Consider these:
  • Recycle your tree. Most municipalities in the Denver area have recycling available. Contact your own city or county; many use chippers to convert trees to landscape or garden mulch. Never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace (the pitch content in the bark and needles can cause them to burst into flames from the intense heat).
  • Do something whimsical: right after Christmas, move the tree outside and decorate it with popcorn, fresh cranberries, peanuts in the shell, pine cones with suet and birdseed; apples, rice cakes, dried corn bundles. Use natural string, ribbon and raffia for hanging. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring, after the food is gone. 
  • Call your favorite conservation group. They often will place trees in gullies and arroyos to slow soil erosion.
  • Trim off the branches, mulch those in the garden and use the frame of the tree to create a bottle tree. Place colored bottles of all kinds on the stub ends of your tree. Put in a location to glisten in the sun and enjoy! Tradition says that bottle trees protect the home from evil spirits by trapping spirits inside the bottles, where they do no harm. 
With a little imagination, dear gardener, your tree can provide enjoyment all year: the traditional tree at Christmas; a home for birds to gather and feed, garden mulch and finally a wonderful piece of folk art created by your family.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017!

Photo Sage Goddess
It feels like the days just can’t get any shorter, and it’s true. Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. 

The 2017 December Solstice (Winter Solstice) will arrive at 9:27 am in Denver, today December 21, marking the moment that the sun shines at its most southern point (in case you are counting, the sun is about 91.473 million miles from earth today).  This day is 5 hours, 38 minutes shorter than on June Solstice. In most locations north of Equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date. To the delight of many of us, this means that the days will start getting longer, however incrementally.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

United States' First Christmas Tree Farm

Ever wonder where the first "farmed Christmas tree" came from?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Christmas Tree

Photo courtesy
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Wreaths by Carol King

Photo by Echter's Garden Center
Hanging a circular wreath of evergreens during mid winter is a tradition that goes back to ancient Greece and Rome.

In Roman times wreaths were hung on doors as a sign of victory and rich Roman women wore them as headdresses at special occasions. Roman emperors wore Laurel Wreaths. 

In Ancient Greece, wreaths were used at funerals to represent the circle of eternal life. They were also given to the winners of events in the original Olympic Games in Greece.

In early Christendom,  evergreen wreaths were laid at the burial place of early Christian virgin martyrs in Europe, the evergreen representing the victory of the eternal spirit over death.

Modern Christmas wreaths transcended from Celtic Kissing Boughs and the German and Eastern European custom of Advent Wreaths.

The word 'wreath' comes from the Old English word 'writhen' which means to writhe or twist. The circular ring shape of the wreath signifies eternity, and the evergreens represent growth and the everlasting. As the wreath is made of plants that remain green throughout the winter, it represents life in the dead of winter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gardening Power to the People: Avoiding Critter Damage to Your Trees in Winter Video

Rabbits and voles love to snack on the trunks of small trees in winter. This video explains four easy methods to protect your trees from their destructive nibbling.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Amaryllis by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Amaryllis bulbs are everywhere during the holiday season. As one of the easiest bulbs to force and bloom, the United States imports more than 10 million bulbs from Holland and South Africa every year to keep up with demands.  We think of amaryllis as being a winter flower because they are commonplace during the holidays but in nature the amaryllis blooms in spring and summer.

Amaryllis is the perfect gift for a gardener in your life. Greek lore tells us the flower is named after a shepherdess, Amaryllis, who was madly in love with a gardener named Alteo.  As it would be, Amaryllis’s love was unrequited.  Alteo would not love her and said that he would only love a maiden who brought him a unique flower that he had never seen before.

Amaryllis went to the Oracle of Delphi for help in winning Alteo’s heart.  She followed his advice and appeared at Alteo’s door for thirty nights, dressed in white and piercing her heart each night with a golden arrow.  Alteo did not open the door until the thirtieth night and before him stood Amaryllis with a crimson flower that had sprung from the blood of her heart. When at last he opened his door, Alteo fell in love with the maiden surrounded by beautiful Amaryllis flowers.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Easy Tricks for Pretty Treats by Carrie Garczynski

Photo by Carrie Garczynski
We all have pumpkins this time of year – either for decoration or degustation. Instead of tossing or before composting, there are a few tricks you can do to elongate your autumnal enjoyment. Not only do you have luscious pumpkin flesh to create a tasty treat, you have a perfect decorative vase for the center of your table. Decor like this can also be composted when the season is over. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Mistletoe

Photo courtesy Botanical Accuracy
Where did the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas time come from and what's so special about it? 

Before there were any Christmas trees, the custom to kiss beneath it most likely originated in pre-Christian Europe where it was believed that mistletoe possessed life bestowing properties and was associated with fertility. Along this line of thinking, mistletoe was also used as an aphrodisiac and, if that were not enough, it was used as an antidote to poison and to witchcraft as well. Hence, the custom of hanging mistletoe over a doorway to ward off evil spirits from crossing your threshold.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Choosing and Caring for Your Poinsettia By Olivia Tracy

Poinsettia Plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Photo courtesy of Olivia Tracy

In the first weeks of December, many people buy poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) to decorate their homes for the holiday season. While the vibrant red and pink leaves of the poinsettia are often referred to as “flowers,” they are actually called bracts; the true poinsettia flower sits at the center of those bracts. 

Here are a few tips for selecting healthy poinsettia plants and caring for them in your home. 
  • Choose plants with dark green leaves; if the cultivar has lighter or mottled bracts, then the foliage may be lighter as well. Avoid plants with pale green and yellow leaves; this often indicates that the plant has been given too little or too much water. 
  • If it’s cold outside (around or below 35 degrees Farenheit), be sure your poinsettia is carefully wrapped before you transport it. Once it’s in your home, remove the plastic sleeve immediately; leaving the plant in the sleeve can damage the bracts. 
  • Be sure your poinsettias receive indirect sunlight for at least six hours a day; avoid direct sunlight, which can fade the bracts, and protect your poinsettia from extreme temperatures by not placing it near drafts or heating vents. 
  • Water the poinsettia whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. When watering, be sure to either remove foil wrapping or cut a hole in the bottom of the wrapping so that water can drain out of the pot; too much water can suffocate the root system.

For more information about poinsettias, including how to fertilize your plant after the holidays and help your poinsettia re-flower next year, please see the CSU Fact Sheet 7.412, “Poinsettias”  

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Holly

Holly with berries, photo courtesy

Christmas brings with it many traditions, and it may be the one time many of us still practice a few old customs from folklore from around the world.

Though holly doubtless was, and still is, brought into the house for its shiny green leaves and berries, which reflect the light and add colour to the dark days of Yule, it has another significance as well. Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus' crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation, as is related, for example, in the Christmas carol, 'The Holly and the Ivy'. Yet even here the reference to these two plants refers to a pre-Christian celebration, where a boy would be dressed in a suit of holly leaves and a girl similarly in ivy, to parade around the village, bringing Nature through the darkest part of the year to re-emerge for another year's fertility.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Choosing a Fresh Christmas Tree by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
Are you thinking of getting a fresh Christmas tree this year? It seems that there are tree lots on every street corner and the choices can be overwhelming. Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree and keep it that way.

At the tree lot:
  • Check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; 
  • Shake it carefully to look for needle loss; 
  • Check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. 
If these conditions exist, buy the tree and take it home.

At home:
  • Make a new cut at the end of the trunk about an inch above the old one.
  • Keep the cut end standing in water, whether you decorate the tree immediately or not. This allows a fresh route for water to travel into the trunk. 
  • Check the tree's water level frequently, and refill as necessary. Fresh evergreen trees can take up an amazing amount of water. You may have to fill the reservoir several times a day. Don’t let the water level drop below the trunk, as a seal will formant prevent the tree from absorbing water.
  • Keep your tree away from heat sources such as a heating duct or television set. A fresh tree that receives good care should remain in safe condition indoors for ten days to two weeks.
You can also cut your Christmas tree at several U. S. Forest Service locations near the Front Range, provided you have a permit.  The USDA Forest Service web site , (Rocky Mountain Region Regional Christmas Tree Program) has information on where and when to get a permit, cutting dates and times, tips on caring for your tree including a recipe for a fireproofing mixture, and other details. There are also Christmas tree farms along the Front Range that allow you to “cut your own.” 

For more information on selecting the perfect tree check this CSU fact sheet:

Enjoy that fresh tree!