AFTER A PROLONGED, unseasonably frost-free autumn, Old Man Winter decided to make an early appearance (winter begins Wednesday Dec. 21, at 2:44 a.m.) and delivered us a winter blast of artic air and, for many of us here on the Peninsula, a whole lot of snow.
What, if anything, does this cold air and snow mean for your plants?
First, if the plant is right for the area, really nothing, because it really has not been cold (plant-wise).
However, this first blast of real cold weather has now frozen down the hardiest of perennials, so go out and cut them back, removing all frozen, dead foliage before rot starts to destroy them.
Also, Mother Nature is a real poor pruner, so after any snowstorm, inspect your plants and perform a “cleanup” prune if necessary.
Now, how about a list of botanical wonders perfect for the holidays and as a great gift to the host or hostess of those numerous Christmas parties and gatherings you will be attending?
First, let’s revisit the poinsettia, that quintessential Christmas plant.
Poinsettias are not poisonous and do not pose a health threat to children or pets.
Have no trepidation about buying and giving them as a perfect party favor.
Poinsettias, however, are very sensitive to the cold, so heat up the car and rush them quite quickly from your house to the car to the recipient’s home.
Poinsettias also need high humidity, so keep them well watered and put them atop a saucer that you add water to on a daily basis.
Evaporation will cause a column of water vapor to rise up through the plant all day long.
2. Christmas cactus.
Not a desert cactus, this is a great houseplant because it is very long-lived, needs only minimal care and, for the most part, is resistant to disease and insects.
It is photoperiodic, meaning it needs short days and long nights to bloom. The natural day-length of December forces it to bloom.
Christmas cactuses can last for decades, often becoming family heirlooms, so why not start a tradition this season?
Their fluorescent blooms are stunning.
I wrote about this perfect stocking stuffer before.
Amaryllis are ideal gifts because of how gorgeous their huge trumpet flowers are.
They are also tall, stately plants that demand attention, and if you give the bulbs as a gift, the recipient has a real sense of pride that “they grew this plant.”
Everyone who sees a blooming amaryllis will proclaim its beauty.
4. Heather or heath.
Here is another common potted, winter-blooming nursery plant that is available most everywhere plants are sold.
Why not wrap and dress up the pot to make it a perfect table decoration?
Then in January, outside it goes for years of winter bloom and enjoyment.
Orchids are classy plants and have intriguing floral petal patterns.
They also last for months on end in anyone’s house, even those people who are all “black thumbs.”
This is a very classy botanical gift perfect for the hard-to-please.
6. Holly plants.
The area’s nurseries along with various plant vendors have potted beautiful variegated holly plants.
Again, dress up the pot with Christmas wrap and give a gift that not only looks marvelous indoors but can then be planted outdoors after the holiday season is past for years of outdoor beauty.
Call me romantic, but mistletoe adds an element of excitement, conversation, fun play and seasonal tradition to anyone’s house during the holidays.
Here is your chance to be playful. Buy and bring a sprig of mistletoe to every friend’s house and party you attend this month.
This magnificent blooming species is one of my all-time holiday (and post holiday) favorites.
Not only will it bloom for several months, it has a very attractive silvery leaf pattern as well.
Cyclamen prefers low light and filtered light conditions, means cyclamen flourishes inside anyone’s home.
Keep the plant moist, however, or its bud will shrivel away.
In addition to a live plant, why not spark up the holidays with:
9. A holiday arrangement.
At this time of year, florists offer fantastic table arrangements that usually feature candles.
These seasonal arrangements are primarily composed of evergreens, so they have a wonderful holiday scent and really dress up any dinner table.
10. Wreaths and door swags.
Numerous nurseries and greenhouses along with various charity organizations offer beautiful evergreen wreaths and door swags for sale.
Made up of multi-texture conifers, pinecones, holly and seasonal trimmings, wreaths and door swags also have a great scent, and the needles make a mess outside rather on your carpet.
Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).