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Garden Ramblings, Issue #052
December 15, 2008


December 2008

Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene


If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend.

If you are reading the text version you will need to go online to see the videos.


In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Attracting Birds to Your Garden Bird Feeder
- Care of Your Holiday Poinsettias
- Ficus as Houseplants The Amazing Fig Family
- Special Offers
- Tailpiece






Welcome to the December issue of Garden Ramblings. We are back to the usual arrangement of two main articles with a shorter note in between.

During the cold winter weather wild birds rely heavily on garden birdfeeders so our first article by Janet Ashby gives some useful suggestions as to the appropriate food to provide at this season and also throughout the year.

The second article is by Eudora DeWynter who has some helpful hints on caring for your holiday poinsettias.

Continuing the focus on houseplants our third guest author is Kenneth Brown who investigates the Fig family. He discusses the different varieties and gives some advice on how to get the best out of these elegant houseplants.

As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month. Not much to report this month I'm afraid, but don't miss the free garden ebook!

The video this month is "How to Make a Christmas Flower Arrangement in Holiday Mug".

Enjoy the issue.




How to Make a Christmas Flower Arrangement in Holiday Mug


How to Make a Christmas Flower Arrangement in Holiday Mug @ Yahoo! Video



*********************************************************** Attracting Birds to Your Garden Bird Feeder
by Janet Ashby

It is most beneficial to feed wild birds during the winter months when their natural food may be unavailable but shortages do occur at other times of the year. So putting food out for the wild birds at any time of year can help when there are shortages. During the breeding season a temporary shortage of food will affect the young fledglings so it is especially helpful to put out food for the birds at this time.

Feeding in the Spring and Summer

During the summer and especially when they are moulting, birds need high protein foods. Good examples to put in your feeder are raisins, currents, black sunflower seeds, grated cheese, meal worms, soaked sultanas and commercially prepared summer seed mixtures. You can also purchase mixes for insect loving wild birds.

For fruit eating birds put out grapes, bananas, apples or pears, suitably chopped into smaller pieces. Avoid the use of peanuts, bread or fats as they can be harmful if taken back to baby birds. Home made fat balls are not really a good idea as they quickly go off in the warm weather. Commercially prepared fat bars are better and last for around three weeks before they must be thrown away.

During unseasonably cold or wet weather there may insect shortages. If the weather is very dry earthworms become difficult to catch. For birds with young in the nest they will be tempted by food on bird tables during these times so it is essential to make sure any food you put out is suitable for the young birds. Never put out loose peanuts, large pieces of bread, fats or hard, dry food at this time as these can be fatal if taken back to feed the baby birds.

Feeding in the Fall and Winter

During the colder months put food out for the birds regularly, twice a day if possible, especially in very cold weather. The birds need high energy food during this time so foods high in fats are particularly suitable. Put out good quality food and remove any uneaten food regularly.

Attracting Birds to Your Feeder

You can attract different species of birds to your garden by providing the food they like in a suitable feeder. Large birds will need a feeder with large, sturdy perches, hummingbirds will be attracted to a nectar feeder, finches to a thistle feeder. You can also purchase goldfinch feeders, jay feeders and woodpecker feeders.

Types of Bird Feeders

Feeders suitable for different types of food: Tube feeder - small seeds including thistle seeds Platform feeder - fruit or other food types Hummingbird feeder - nectar Squirrel proof - mesh cage feeders - peanuts, larger seeds, suet Standard type feeder - safflower seeds, sunflower seeds

Food suitable for different species

* Bluebird - bluebird seed available to purchase, cornmeal with peanut butter
* Bunting - small grains and seeds.
* Blackbirds - breadcrumbs, small seeds and grains
* Chickadee - sunflower seeds, unsalted nuts, safflower seeds, suet
* Finches - black sunflower seeds, thistle seeds
* Jays - peanuts, suet, corn, sunflower
* Mourning Doves - cracked corn seeds, wheat, sunflower and safflower seeds
* Mockingbirds - bread, suet, raisins
* Robins - breadcrumbs, raisins, apples
* Northern Shrikes - Suet.
* Siskins - sunflower seeds, thistle seeds
* Thrashers - suet, raisins, bread
* Towhee birds - seed mixes for small birds
* Woodpeckers - cracked corn seeds, wheat, sunflower and safflower seeds
* Warblers - peanut butter, suet
* Townsend's Warblers - cheese, peanut butter, suet
* Yellow Throated Warblers - breadcrumbs.



About the Author
For more information on attracting birds to your garden and some good deals on garden bird feeders check out Garden Bird Feeders or Finch Bird Feeders


Care of Your Holiday Poinsettias
by Eudora DeWynter

One of the most popular plants of the Christmas holidays is the Poinsettia. Poinsettias are very easy plants to keep and with proper care can last in bloom for several months past the holiday season. When you are ready to purchase your plant for the holiday season, there are a few things that you should look for before buying it.

First of all if the leaves and flowers are brown around the edges move on, you are looking for plants that have an abundance of dark green leaf foliage and brightly colored (Bracts) flowers that are completely opened. Poinsettias are slow to bloom but when they do their flowers remain for weeks.

Poinsettias do not like the cold so when you purchase them make sure to take them from the store well covered to protect them from cold temperatures and wind and take them straight home, do not leave them in your car if you are living in a cold climate, even a short exposure to cold can damage them. Once you get them home do not place them in drafty areas or near the high heat of furnace or fireplace vents, the best temperature for them is 65-70 degrees.

Allow the soil to dry between watering and water thoroughly. If they seem to be drying out water them, if their leaves start turning light green, give them more sunlight, these plants tend to make a quick come back. Many people believe that poinsettias are poisonous, but they are not, if eaten they will however give you a stomach ache so try and keep small children away from them.

Believe it or not, if you managed to keep your poinsettia healthy during the winter months, you can move it outside come late spring and either plant it directly into the ground or plant it in containers on your deck or patio. To give them some added beauty when you bring them outside, give them a good round trimming and apply a general purpose fertilizer every two or three weeks, and as the weather starts to cool bring them back inside long before the first frost.



About the Author
Eudora DeWynter offers tips on Caring for Your Holiday Poinsettias on her blog at


Ficus as Houseplants The Amazing Fig Family
by Kenneth C Brown

A Big Family!

The genus Ficus supplies us with a wide range of useful items from the edible fig to tires for our car. Many of them also make wonderful houseplants. Ficus elastica is a large tree that can be tapped for its latex containing sap. That's the car tire connection. As a houseplant we try to greatly curtail its size and can be relatively successful if we keep our pruners handy. Ficus carica, the edible fig, does not make a great houseplant and will rarely produce the desired fruit when grown in normal household conditions. They do make great container or patio plants in more temperate climates and also respond well to being trained along walls.

Great Indoor Trees!

Probably the most common tree that is grown indoors is Ficus benjamina, often called Weeping Fig or just Benjy. Very large specimens are in most airports or shopping malls and others, curtailed by pot size and a little judicious pruning, make great small trees in our homes. Their success rate (true of all houseplants,) is determined by the amount of light they receive. They thrive in a high light situation and suffer greatly as the light levels decrease. In our homes a high light situation would be in front of a south or west facing window. In these situations Benjy is a delightful tree with light brown bark and small glossy green leaves. Keep it evenly watered and it will brighten your room for many years.

This One's Creepy!

There are about 800 species of Ficus and only a few of them make reasonable house plants. They include the two large trees above as well as couple of vines that can be used as hanging baskets in the house or wall climbers in a conservatory. Ficus pumila is a small leaved evergreen climber with a woody stem. It will make a interesting hanging or trailing specimen requiring moderate light and the need for consistent moisture. It is one of those plants that never wilts to indicate water stress. It goes from looking fine to crispy dead when its water supply drops too low.

Will They Flower?

Yes, Ficus have been known to flower as houseplants but the real question is; Will I notice or care? Here the answer is usually, no. The Ficus family is defined by their unusual flowering habit. The flowers appear inside a fleshy shell with only a tiny opening to the outside. They are pollinated by particular wasps that go through that opening to lay eggs inside the fruit. If you cut open an edible fig, the soft fibrous interior is actually, thousands of individual flowers facing inwards. Very interesting. Very tasty in the edible fig. Not very showy. On Ficus benjamina you may get little green pea sized balls developing and then being a nuisance as they fall to the floor. When you sweep them up you are collecting hundreds of Ficus flowers.



About the Author
Ken Brown is a professional horticulturist with a passion. He indulges in many aspects of gardening particularly vegetables and indoor gardening. He grows his vegetables in unique ways to maximize limited space. His articles, web site and ezine -Dallying In The Dirt, are written in an informative but light hearted manner. Copyright Kenneth C Brown 2008


Special Offers


With all the major sales over for the time being, I am afraid that there is little to report this month. But here is a garden book you can get for free. It is a guide to gardens in Cornwall, England with some excellent photos. Curl up in front of the fire and dream of spring. Here's the link


Apart from a few reductions in the Outlet section Gardener's Supply Company is currently just offering free shipping on orders over $75.



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Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co are offering a climbing rose collection at 48% off and, as you see from the banner, you can still save $20 when you spend $40 or more.



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This month Nature Hills Nursery are offering free shipping on all orders over $75.









Christmas Flowers



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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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