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Garden Ramblings, Issue #016
December 15, 2005
December 2005

Monthly musings on the garden scene

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In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Guest Article
- The Garden in Winter
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources




Welcome to the December issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is that traditional Christmas houseplant the Poinsettia.

The Guest Article this month is by Marilyn Pokorney on "How to Control Deer in Your Garden".

In "The Garden in Winter" I try to dispel the myth that the garden is dead during winter and suggest some ideas to help you enjoy your backyard at this season.

Special offers are hard to find this month. Hardly surprising with the Christmas just around the corner, so this section is rather shorter than usual.

In the resources section you will find details of three websites which may look a little plain at first, but dig deeper and you will discover real gold.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month

Name: Poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima).

Description: Tender perennial sub-shrub which can grow to five feet but is usually 18-24 inches tall with eliptic bright green leaves. The plant produces small flowers which are surrounded by large colored bracts which are its main feature. The bracts are usually red but pink and white forms are also now common.

Origin: Native to Mexico.

Cultivation: Poinsettias thrive in acidic, free-draining soil and full sunshine. Feed every 2 weeks during the growing season with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Propagate by division or grow from seed. This applies to Zones 9 and 10 only. In all other areas poinsettias are treated as houseplants where they need bright light but should be kept away from cold windows.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble free.

Folklore: The name is derived from Euphorbus, a Roman physician, who lived in the first century BCE. There are some 2000 species of euphorbias all of which have a white latex sap which can be irritating if it comes into contact with skin. The herbalist Nicholas Culpepper claimed that the sap "eats away warts and other excresences". In the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine the plant has been used to treat asthma. There is some research into use of components of the sap for treatment of cancers, but folk remedies have been criticised as likeley to cause tumours. Although some varieties are poisonous, poinsettias are not and it has been estimated that you would have to eat five hundred leaves before coming to any harm.


How to Control Deer in Your Garden

Deer are the most difficult of all pests to deter from a garden. They love many different plants. Flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs are all on their menu.

The best way to keep deer out of a garden is by using a fence that is at least 6 feet high. If it's a small garden that may be feasible but for large gardens or yards, the cost is prohibitive, or possibly not practical.

So the only other choice is deterrents.

Deer don't like the smell of raw eggs, fish products, kelp, or ammonia. Any spray made from these products can be used. Just mix the product of choice in water and spray the plants to be protected.

Deer don't like the smell of soap either. Some gardeners have especially found success with Dial and Zest brands.

Blood meal scattered around the garden is another good deterrent.

Since deer don't like capsaicin, the ingredient that makes peppers hot, a spray made from chili peppers deters deers.

Hang fragrant fabric-softener strips, and small nylon bags filled with human hair on trees around the garden.

Some gardeners have found success by laying chicken wire on the ground about six feet wide around the perimeter of the garden. The deer don't like to walk on it because their hooves get stuck in the loops of the wire.

Try planting time-released garlic capsules at the bases of trees or shrubs or in the rows of plants to be protected.

There is a wide variety of plants that deer won't eat. A list of what they like and don't like can be obtained from your local county cooperative extension office.

For even more deterrents visit:

Copyright: 2005 Marilyn Pokorney

Marilyn Pokorney Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the environment. Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading. Website: [email protected]


The Garden in Winter.

Novice gardeners often regard the period between October and March as a time of the year when the garden should be ignored until the warmth of Spring returns. After all the flowers have faded and trees and shrubs have shed their leaves so what is the point? With experience comes the realisation that the garden in winter has a character and beauty all of its own.

Because most trees and shrubs lose their leaves in the fall, the most important element in planning a garden that is attractive in both winter and summer is to get the basic structure right. Paths, hedges, trees and shrubs should be arranged so that the view from the house reveals something of interest at each season of the year.

Just because all your annual and herbaceous flowers are over and now a mass of frosted stems does not mean that there can be nothing to enjoy in the garden. Even without leaves and flowers many shrubs can provide a colorful display through the winter months. Dogwood (cornus alba) has bright red stems throughout the winter. Yellow stems are found on several varieties of willow. Many garden trees exhibit colorful trunks and branches which are only clearly revealed once they have lost their leaves.

With all this talk of bare stems you should remember that there are many shrubs that keep their leaves and do produce flowers during the winter. The Winter Jasmine (jasminum nudiflorum) is a sturdy shrub which will grow almost anywhere whose bright yellow flowers light up any dull winter's day. Mahonia (M. japonica) is another shrub with yellow flowers which has the added benefit of a fragrant scent. Rose pink blooms are borne from December to February by one of the Viburnums (V. x bodnantense).

Another group that can provide interest in winter are those that have finished flowering but then produce colorful berries. Cotoneaster, Pyracanthus and Skimmia all have bright red berries which make a striking display and also attract wild birds into your garden in their search food.

So far we have been concentrating on shrubs. But what about smaller plants? Does your flowerbed have to remain bare all winter? Not at all, there are plenty of hardy plants that can survive the winter frosts and snow. The Christmas Rose is one of the several varieties of hellebores that flower at this time of year.

Other plants that flower later but are useful for ground cover include Bergenia, Pulmoniaria, Saxifrage and Lamium, the Dead Nettle. Ivies and Vincas also make good ground cover but need to be pruned regularly to keep them under control.

If you are one of those people who have tended to forget about your garden in the winter, I hope that this article may have given you a few ideas on how you can plan your backyard so that it gives you pleasure throughout the year.


Special Offers

With Christmas just around the corner the main message from the merchants this month is "Get your orders in fast if you want delivery in time for the holidays".

Dutch Gardens are featuring their "Festive Flowering Baskets" but you have to place your order by December 19 to guarantee delivery before Christmas.

Gardeners Supply Company are holding a "Secret Santa Sale - Save up to 81% on over 100 items. Now is your chance to save on the perfect present and get it under the tree in time for Christmas". I could not find many 81% discounts, but there are plenty between 30-40%, so well worth a look.


Useful Resources

In recent issues of Garden Ramblings I have featured several large and showy sites so, for a change, here are three rather more basic websites but full of useful information. Well worth adding to your bookmarks in my opinion.

The first is where a simple home page leads to a comprehensive directory of plants, trees and shrubs with detailed descriptions and helpful hints on cultivation.

Garden Forever contains a large collection of gardening articles. It is an ideal place to browse on a cold winter's day when you want to stay indoors out of the cold.

And lastly for some light relief, take a look at David Hobson's Garden Humour.



Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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