A GROWING CONCERN: A ‘light’ week of gardening

SO SATURDAY, QUITE the little group of volunteers helped prep the lights for the Winter Ice Village as the ice skating rink went up in downtown Port Angeles.

If all goes well, 108,000 lights will be hung in a magnificent seasonal display, that the now omnipresent dark affords us. Provided we get the help — yet another plea.

But I’m never really sure if I like daylight savings time. It’s nice to have some light in the morning.

But with all of the gardening work we have to do this time of year, turning pitch black by 5:30 definitely cramps the evening work schedule.

Spring-flowering bulbs

I’ve been particularly concerned lately about spring-flowering bulbs.

One of our famous blustery November storms took over at the end of last week, but before then our fall weather has been wonderfully mild.

It’s been almost spring-like at times and that’s what’s been prompting my concerns. Spring bulbs planted too early on the North Olympic Peninsula can sprout ahead of their perfect time.

And this makes them susceptible to early spring or late winter frost damage.

Right now is a perfect time to plant bulbs and you can usually get them at sale prices — most nurseries need shelf space for their Christmas items.

As I have been slowly (due to their condition) pulling out summer flowers, I have become increasingly concerned about early emergence of various daffodils, grape hyacinths and spring irises.

To avoid this, I’ve been adding an inch or two of topsoil or fine mulch over the top of my bulb beds to protect against the warm rays of the radiant sun.

Consider doing your bulb and flower beds a great favor and top dressing them this coming week.

You can take care of this issue as you decorate your home for the holidays with wreaths, swags, garlands and centerpieces.

Simply layer some of those evergreen boughs on top of your bulbs or bare flower beds. And while doing this why not be creative?

I’m talking about creating some beautiful ground ornamental holiday displays.

First, find a Douglas fir, spruce or other evergreen tree that will provide you with an abundance of pruned branches or tips.

Did you know that the Pacific Northwest supplies more than 25 million pounds of evergreen boughs worldwide during each Christmas season?

Much of the supply comes from high-elevation public forests and large industrial private forest lands. However small privately owned forests also contribute to this supply.

Use sharp shears and keep proper pruning principles in mind so you don’t harm or disfigure the tree.

Layout the foliage in such a manner as to complement the shape of the bed, whether it is 20-feet long or 3-feet and circular. Put the branches so the tips jut out over the edge, extenuating the points of the flower bed.

Most times, I put in place my kales, cabbages, grasses, heather’s, Dusty Miller or other ornamental plants first, then layer the base of evergreens in and around them.

This thick, several layer base acts as a “frog” to the rest of the arrangement. A frog is a florist term for something that acts as a hold for the rest of the arrangement.

When a multi-layer base of evergreens is applied 3 to 6 inches deep, then it is very easy to insert a plethora of other items.

Create an exciting design, such as adding height in the middle, following the contour of the land and tilting the arrangement toward the primary view from the front porch.

For example, the bed could look like an upside down bowl, a crescent moon or a gorgeous floral arrangement you’ve seen.

Decorative arrangement

Use blue spruce, diadoras, yellow tip junipers, red cryptomeria, variegated holly, contorted willow, red or yellow twig dogwood or whatever else you can muster.

Quite often, before I insert these eye-candy items, I lay down Christmas lights on top of the evergreen base.

Be it green lights, multi-color or whatever your heart desires, adding lights really provides great night time views.

Make sure to do a good job taping up the plug-in sockets so no moisture gets in, avoiding direct contact with wet soil.

Use colored electrical tape. Green is my favorite to match the evergreen base as it blends into the arrangement; that is, unless the Christmas light wiring is white then I use white tape. Again, be creative.

Based on the foliage color, use blue lights on blue spruce, red on cryptomeria or amber lights on yellow evergreens to maximize the appeal and glow from the lights.

Think about making hanging baskets.

Thrust evergreens into the baskets and then light them up for spectacular displays.

We do dark extremely well here on the Peninsula during the late fall and winter.

Use the blackness as a blank canvas and paint with holiday lights.

With the darkness and holiday blues, we can use this fall weather to create a fun and exciting look in our yard and brighten the spirits of the entire neighborhood, as well as the Winter Ice Village.

Give time, get expertise

I want to start by thanking everyone who came to help Saturday.

Volunteers were great with preparing the 108,000 lights that will be used at the colossal display at the Winter Ice Village.

But now I must ask for your help again.

On Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. we will be hanging in 50,900 lights just in the tent alone and could use anyone and everyone’s help.

Then on Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, we will be decorating the Christmas trees generously donated by Lazy J Tree Farm.

If you want to come down in any manner or group — grab your neighbors, people from church, your business or whomever — just come on down.

We will assign you a tree with all the lights and colors you could choose, along with advice on how to professionally decorate and light that tree.

If you have an old Christmas tree stand, which we know everyone does in their attic or garage, please, please bring that down as well. We will definitely need those.

It will be such a wonderful community event creating the “Forest of Light”

See you all there. Please.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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