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 The Garden Supplies Advisor : Garden Supplies News Home : December 2004

December 4, 2004 11:07 - Welcome to Garden Supplies News


This is a weekly (and sometimes more frequent) news report covering gardening and garden supplies.

Stay tuned to keep up to date with all that is happening in the gardening world.

Look out for:

Product Reviews

Topical News and Information

Seasonal Hints and Tips

Special Bargain Offers

And all other items of interest that I can find. See page

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December 4, 2004 16:01 - In the Garden now - North v South


Here are two contrasting views of what you should be doing in your garden at this time of year.

According to Pat Stephens from Vancouver there is only one thing to do on those cold, wet winter days when you have no inclination to venture out into the garden. "Just curl up by the fire with a cup of hot coffee and read" is her suggestion. In Vancouver the time for active gardening is past and you should instead be making plans for the forthcoming season. Studying seed catalogues and planning future projects is the order of the day.

The view from Santa Cruz is rather different. Here Sharon Hull reminds you that there is still work to be done. For anyone not used to gardening in a mild winter coastal climate, things may seem rather confusing. Whilst many plants are past their best and shedding their leaves, others are producing new shoots as though it were spring. Although living in the south gives you the chance to work your garden all year round, you have to beware of the occasional frost and take steps to protect you tender plants.

Source: The Colombian
Santa Cruz Sentinal

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December 4, 2004 16:13 - Give me some ideas


The choice of a gardening gift can sometimes prove difficult so here are a few suggestions in the hope that these may solve your problem. Think about Garden Decor and you will find all sorts of products that would make an ideal gardening gift such as plant containers, windchimes or even a specialty gnome! Garden art by a local artist could also be a good choice. On a more practical note garden tools are a safe bet. For a gardenener who watches the weather (and who doesn't) there are thermometers and barometers.

For some more suggestions have a look at Gardening Gifts for green fingered friends.

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December 6, 2004 10:21 - Don't waste valuable fallen leaves


Bagging or dumping leaves at the roadside is a missed opportunity, says Barbara Pleasant, author of the gardening book called "The Southern Garden Advisor." Gardeners who just treat fallen leaves as a nuisance to be disposed of are missing out on a valuable source of organic material.

Leafmould needs no activator and no turning, merely space, time and leaves that must be swept up anyway. If you have a dark corner where nothing will grow, it might just as well hold your leafmould heap. A simple wire enclosure will stop the leaves being scattered by the wind. The leaves go in as they are gathered, with no layers of anything, but be careful to remove any dead branches and avoid treading the leaves too much. If your pile is under a tree, water it occasinally in summer and nature will do the job of making humus as efficiently as in a thick drift of leaves on the forest floor. The following fall the material will be ready for use.

Advice on how to make the best use of fallen leaves occupies only three pages of Barbara Pleasant's book which covers a wide range of topics on a month by month basis. "The Southern Garden Advisor" is available from Amazon for only $10.19.

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December 7, 2004 10:35 - Garden Ramblings


Before I started this blog I set up a newsletter called "Garden Ramblings". Because this was my first attempt at publishing a newsletter I decided to limit issues to one a month. If you are interested you can subscribe to Garden Ramblings and you will find that it follows a regular pattern each month.

One of the items is "Plant of the Month" which features one plant each month with a full description, notes on cultivation and folklore associations. I try to select a plant that is appropriate for the season. The newsletter comes out on or about the 15th of the month so I am now just putting the finishing touches to the December issue. I have to confess that I not yet made up my mind on what is to be the "Plant of the Month". Should it be holly or a fir to represent the Christmas tree? Or mistletoe? You will have to read the newsletter to find out.

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December 8, 2004 10:19 - Euphorbias, Poinsettias and Rooftop Gardens


I have never been a great fan of euphorbias. The plants have always struck me as being rather uninteresting with small unremarkable flowers. On the other hand Christmas would not be complete without one or more poinsettias in the house. After reading an article in The Free Lance Star I discovered that the poinsettia is a species of euphorbia whose botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. In "Talking to my friends in the garden" Tony Wrenn states "I have no doubt that plants are capable of tapping into the gardener's feelings, perhaps even understanding his language." After elaborating on how he communicates with his plants, he provides some interesting information on euphorbias.

One problem associated with rooftop gardens is the weight of the soil and the possible damage that this can cause to the building. A Japanese construction company has developed a new product which makes it possible to plant ornamental flowers and shrubs on the roof of a building without damaging the structure. Instead of soil the system uses a new type of mat consisting of a water retention layer and a drainage layer. This system reduces the weight by half compared with using soil or soiless growing mediums and so can be used on buildings that have weight restrictions.

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December 9, 2004 10:37 - More Garden Ramblings


The other day I mentioned my newsletter "Garden Ramblings" and told you how I was busy preparing the next issue for publication on 15th December.

One of the regular features is a section on plants noted for their fragrance. This has already covered spring flowering bulbs and roses. For the November issue I picked winter flowering shrubs and described six that are in flower during this time of year.

While I was walking around my neighbourhood the other day I noticed one shrub that I had not included in the list. This was the mahonia which is a shrub that I never used to find particularly attractive. It has prickly leaves rather similar to holly and for most of the year looks very dull and drab.

The garden at my last house had borders full of mature shrubs that had been planted at least ten years ago and so were becoming overcrowded. There was a mahonia squashed between an arbutus or strawberry tree and a pittosporum, so I cut it down and felt no regret at its loss.

Now that I have found a mahonia in full flower in a neighbouring garden, I have changed my mind and am trying to decide where I can plant one in my present garden. From November to February it bears spikes of bright yellow flowers to brighten up these gloomy winter days and then it has a delightful perfume as well.

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December 10, 2004 09:58 - "Crime doesn't pay but gardening does"


"Crime doesn't pay but gardening does" makes a good headline but if you read the rest of this piece you will discover that it is written by a Scottish journalist reviewing two TV programs. If the subject of English garden design in the 1970's interests you, then follow the link, otherwise move on swiftly.

"Not only is this the season for growing annuals in South Florida, it is also vegetable season. You don't need a lot of land to grow a few vegetable plants and enjoy some fresh produce from your own patch" says Eileen Ward. After this encouraging start she goes on to list reasons why many gardeners lose their plants to insects and diseases including fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. Do not be put off by this rather depressing start since she then proceeds to give practical advice as to how you can overcome these problems. Read more...

"Don't prune it, move it" is the best way to deal with hydrangeas according to Nancy Brachy. If you want to learn all about the ugly season and why incorrect pruning can guarantee that you will have no flowers next year then read on..

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December 11, 2004 08:19 - "squirrels eats my tulip bulbs"


Yes, according to Wordtracker "squirrels eats my tulip bulbs" is typed into the Overture search box on average twice every day. Clearly there is a real problem here and the message boards and forums are full of helpful advice.

The problem.
You plant your tulip bulbs with loving care in anticipation of a mass of colorful blooms in the spring but a few days later you find that the soil has been disturbed, your precious bulbs have gone leaving a few half-chewed remains behind.

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December 12, 2004 09:44 - Keeping holiday plants healthy


With the holiday season fast approaching it is time to consider how to care for the traditional houseplants that are available at this time of year. Poinsettias, cyclamen and amaryllis.

I have never had much luck with poinsettias but this is probably because for the last twenty years I lived in a large draughty victorian house with inadequate central heating. Since poinsettias like a daytime temperature of between 60 to 70 degrees and a minimum of 60 degrees at night it is little wonder that they struggled to survive in my inhospitable abode.

Cyclamen, on the other hand, I have found prefer a cooler position out of full sun. In my new house the plants thrive on a north-facing windowcill.

The amaryllis is another plant with which I have had mixed results. This large bulb grows very rapidly producing a thick stem with two or three large flowers. The stem is so heavy that it tends to lean and can collapse ruining the plant. However, when given a little care, the result is truly spectacular.

These thoughts were prompted by an article by Tim Lamprey who gives you full instructions on how to care for them.

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December 13, 2004 09:38 - This plant is poisonous but goat's milk is the antidote


According to Nicholas Culpeper, the famous 17th Century astrologer-physician: "It is an herb of Saturn, and therefore no marvel if it has some sullen conditions with it, and would be far safer, being purified by the alchymist than given raw. Goat's milk is an antidote for it, if anyone suffers from taking too much. The roots are very effective in quartan agues and madness, they help falling sickness, the leprosy, both the yellow and black jaundice, the gout, sciatica and convulsions.

Used as a pessary, the roots provoke the terms exceedingly; also being beaten to powder and strewed upon foul ulcers, it eats away the dead flesh and instantly heals them: nay it helps gangrene in the beginning."

This is a description of the "Government and Virtues" of my "Plant of the Month" in the December issue of Garden Ramblings due out on Wednesday.

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December 15, 2004 09:53 - Mealybugs and Market Gardening


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to earn a living from your backyard? Instead of squeezing your gardening tasks into your spare time after you have worked all week at your day job, wouldn't it be far more fun to spend your time in the garden producing crops that you can then sell to local shops and restaurants? I have just come across this report which looks at the experiences of three people who decided to give it a try. Read more...

On Marco Island in Florida there is a new insect that is worrying the local nurseries. The pink hibiscus mealybug is a new and very destructive insect that is appearing in the area and causing great concern. Read more...

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December 16, 2004 09:44 - City's 30 ft Christmas tree felled by vandal


Was it an overstressed Santa? Or a modern day Scrooge bent on spreading Christmas gloom? Or just an ignorant vandal? The inhabitants of the quiet cathedral city of Winchester in Southern England awoke yesterday to find that a 30 ft Christmas tree in the High Street had been vandalised. During the night the tree was attacked and left lying on its side with its baubles strewn across the pavement. The culprit sawed through the trunk of the tree shortly before 1am and police are now appealing for witnesses.

Source: Southampton Daily Echo

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December 17, 2004 10:30 - Painted Poinsettias and a Vegetablarian


With Christmas only days away the papers are full of
last minute gift suggestions. A book that might please some hard-to-please person is "The Art of Accessorizing" by Christi Carter which teaches her four-step decorating approach including a section on Marvelous Monochromatics.

A book by a "vegetablarian", as Tony Kienitz describes himself, would be more appropriate for a gardener. "The Year I Ate My Yard" is the result of years of research. He claims to have read every gardening book in the La Cañada and Pasadena public libraries. The lack of specific information on Southern California prompted him to write his own book.

When I mentioned my problems with poinsettias the other day, I was not concerned with the color of the bracts, but rather the more mundane matter of keeping the plants alive. Apparently the big thing for next year will be painted poinsettias. These are basically white poinsettias that have been treated with an agricultural dye. The plant absorbs the dye and the poinsettia turns the color of the dye. Some growers add glitter to the outside of the flowers to glitz them up even more. So will you choose blue and gold? Me, I prefer to stick with the red and white.

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December 18, 2004 13:08 - Another Gardening Gift suggestion


This time it is something that you can give yourself and it won't cost you a cent because it is a freebie. It is a Garden Journal in which you can record all the important information about your garden so that you have a handy record when you want to check when you planted your tomato seeds or when you sprayed your fruit trees etc. And the beauty of it is that it comes as a PDF file that you can print off as required.

In just nineteen pages it contains a grid to allow you to plan your plot, then a page where you can record details of your soil type and treatments that you have applied. This is followed by pages for seed starting dates, planting dates and a calendar that you can use for each month. Two more pages allow for fertilizing and pest control.

The next section is where you record your harvest and yields. Pages for preserving records and canning recipes. Finally a few more pages where you can make notes on your successes and those that did not do so well with space for hints and reminders for next year. If you don't need all the pages just print those that you want. All in all this is a great free resource that you can get from Homestead Harvest.

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December 19, 2004 09:15 - Recycle your tree and try lasagna gardening


Today's papers have a wonderful selection of gardening topics. There are still those that are full of advice for last minute christmas gifts - anything from a roll of twine to VIP tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show. For Texas residents there is a really useful article listing a number of local gardening books some of which are becoming hard to find. The advice is to seek them out while they are still available if you live in the state. Read more...

Here's another helpful list from Wichita, Kansas. Believe it or not, Christmas tree recycling sites - for real trees, not your old icky fake ones - will start accepting trees Wednesday, a full three days before Christmas. Read more...

Back to gardening and here are two articles to remind you of the benefits of traditional methods. First Felder Rushing explains that "natural" gardening is not some sort of New Age obsession. Then Donna Little tells you how to build your raised beds using the lasagna method.

See page

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December 20, 2004 09:24 - From humans hanging around in trees to antique roots


"The pace of things in the garden slows down this time of year. Although they continue to plant, prepare beds, harvest vegetables and enjoy beautiful flowers, many gardeners find this a less active season, especially for such high-maintenance jobs as mowing lawns, shearing hedges and watering." After this encouraging start Dan Gill then sets out a long list of tasks that should be completed at this time of year. He does end his piece with some helpful advice on how to ensure that your poinsettias will rebloom in their second season. You can read the full article here.

Tom Krupicka is someone else who has jobs lined up for you. "Now is the time to prune" is his theme and if you wonder "why you see humans hanging around in trees like monkeys taking a spring stroll", you can find out here.

For a more contemplative piece concerning antique roots have a look at what Peter Foo has done with his garden in Bandar Baru Sri Petaling.

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December 21, 2004 11:50 - Plant yourself in an armchair or go out and hunt the slugs and snails


"Plant yourself in an armchair" suggests Marty Hair. "Winter is a gardener's mandatory time out so quiet down, flip on a reading lamp and pick up a book. Not only will a gardening book educate and entertain. Several of this year's crop are heavy enough to keep those upper arms buff until spring." Read more..

Here's a contrary view: "Outdoors, it's looking pretty drab this time of year. The last of the leaves are gone, the last of the flowers are long gone, but for an easy and beautiful garden next year, there are still a couple of things to keep up with. Pest control never stops. Keep on top of the slug and snail war over winter. Keep feeding birds, too." Read more

Last minute gift suggestions are still trickling in. Minnie Miller shows you how you can make up gift baskets containing garden supplies. If you are still stuck for ideas, have a look at The Garden Supplies Advisor.

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December 23, 2004 10:14 - A giant Christmas cactus and the shortest day


"Here in the heart of the holidays, it feels deeply refreshing to consider garden gifts that don't cost anything and don't take very long. Although gifts for gardeners are all very well, I am thinking here about gifts from you for your garden" says Ann Lovejoy. I'm not sure about the "don't take very long" since she suggests that you should clean your tools, turn out the garden shed and tidy up the hoses, sweep your paths, clean out your birdfeeders... Once all that is out of the way, she shares some interesting ideas on ways that you can rearrange your garden so that you can enjoy it in the winter as well as the rest of the year. Read more.

If you're the sort of person who can never refuse the offer of a plant even when you have no spare space for more, then this story about a giant Christmas cactus may be of interest. Read more.

"Eight hours and 15 minutes, give or take some seconds. That's all the day there was on Tuesday" reports Marty Wingate as he comments on the passing of the winter solstice. "We're on the uphill swing now and gardeners can feel it in their bones." Read more.

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December 27, 2004 09:19 - More gardening gift ideas?


Why would you need more gardening gift ideas on 27th December when Christmas was two days ago? The answer is very simple. The advice now being offered is how to spend all those book tokens and cash presents that you have been given. Diane Heilenman divides her suggestions into Look-throughs, How-tos and Calendars.

Joan S. Bolton from Santa Maria has a larger selection but prefaces her remarks with this warning: "When scouting gardening books, don't buy according to the pretty pictures. Far too often, garden books have an East Coast or British bias, bearing bodaciously beautiful photos of plants that aren't necessarily suited to our mild, coastal climate."

As we approach the end of December it is time to look back back and review the events of the past year. Here is Laura McLean's contribution from New England.

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December 29, 2004 09:34 - Discover the best gardening tool ever


According to Kathy Zehr "Our best gardening tool this time of year is a grubby looking garden log, kept spasmodically through the spring and summer months. It really does help when planning next year's gardens. Although stained with water, mud and unknown substances making the loose leaf pages a little disgusting, the information on them is priceless about right now as we plan for next year. As soon as the holiday decorations are put away, we begin planning our 2005 gardens. The information in the log is priceless."

If you would like a free garden journal that your can download as a pdf file and print the pages you need, just look back to my entry for 18th December headed Another garden gift suggestion.


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December 30, 2004 09:38 - Time to take down the Christmas tree and move your poinsettias outside?


Now that the Christmas holiday is over and it is time to take down all those glittering decorations and remove the tree, what can you do to relieve the gloom of the dark and gloomy winter days? Well here is one family's answer. Read how they replace the holiday decorations with a colorful and fragrant container-grown tree.

Eileen Ward from Marco Island, Florida is often asked "Can I plant my poinsettia in the garden?" "Yes, you can, and it may become a magnificent specimen, like my neighbor's poinsettia" she replies but "on the other hand, I have seen many poinsettias planted in the landscape die a quick death." To learn her tips on caring for your poinsettia in the landscape, read on.

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December 31, 2004 09:31 - A review of the year and the garden's bones


As 2004 draws to a close it is time to look back and remember how our gardens have performed throughout the year. Have you enjoyed any spectacular successes or suffered any dismal failures? If you are anything like me, there will have been some of each. Here is one gardener's review from Seattle.

Nancy Brachey is someone who believes that winter is appealing in the south. After answering a reader's question as to what kind of gardening gloves work best in the North Carolina climate, she then instructs you to think about your garden's bones. Read more..

And finally may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

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