A GROWING CONCERN: Winter is coming

I THINK MY buddy, Jackson, has just finally thawed out from the -6 degrees to 0 degree weather we encountered in Yellowstone National Park two weeks ago.

And now we saw our own mini version of cold here this last week, which once again drives home for me how absolutely mild and wonderful it is here on the Peninsula.

However, last week’s cold snap has definitely delineated cold tolerant plants from sensitive ones.

Those summer plants are now brown and deteriorated.

They need to be pulled and composted.

Of course, we are still in prime bulb planting season, so buy and plant them like crazy.

But as we move through mid-fall into late-fall, let us explore all the possibilities of your seasonal holiday garden.

There is a wide range of plants that can be purchased now for great colors.

Heather, holly, kales, cabbages, colored evergreens, viburnum and Dusty Miller’s are only a few.

Go out, find these items or others that suit your house and plant them.

This is the best time because soil temperatures are still warm, the rains have begun and plants will have several months to adjust and adhere to your native soils before spring.

However, finding and planning these is the simplest part of the seasonal garden.

These finely textured, showy fall and winter plants need to be the focal point of a holiday display.

To set off your plant, inside or out, for the holidays you’ll find it’s easy being green — evergreen that is.

Now is the time to prune away any evergreens that are overgrown, out of shape or have errant growth, but don’t throw the cuttings away. Use thinning cuts to prune, reaching down into the plant to remove tall, long or in the driveway branches.

Gather up pruned branches of as many colors types, textures and varieties as you can amass.

Trade with or prune your neighbor’s trees, with permission, for greater selection. Don’t forget about your friend’s yard, too.

The trick with this next stage is to collect from five to 15 types of greens. Once this beautiful collection of textures and colors is acquired, begin the arrangement.

For example, let’s say you pulled up old marigolds and then planted beautiful parrot tulips in their place. You then planted a couple of nice ornamental kales on top of them.

Now, it’s time to move in and place around the base a covering of the evergreen cuttings you have the most of.

This will create a covering into which you can insert the remaining varieties of greens. You are literally making an arrangement out of evergreens using the base as an oasis, block or frog.

Take your blue spruce and yellow diadora and stick them into the base-ground. Next, use red pine branches to add height and texture.

But don’t stop there. Add some berried holly branches or variegated holly stems. Insert red or yellow dogwood stems.

There is no end to your creativity: Paint artichoke heads gold for a knockout holiday look or use nice long, bright berry branches of pyracantha, which can really add pizazz.

Even with this gorgeous arrangement, you are still not quite there.

You need to cover your place with Christmas lights — not hundreds but thousands. Use lights to really display your creative side.

The best light shows in the country are at botanical gardens. Why?

Gardening is all about color, mood, depth, feel and excitement.

Don’t let gray, cold days disparage your garden.

Think outside the flower pot.

Here are some decorating ideas:

• Cover the trunk of a tree with 400 green lights and then wrap individual branches with a thousand multicolored lights.

• Wrap lights around big balls for huge outside Christmas ornaments.

• Make a forest of different colored individually lit trees.

• Hang rows of lights from the roof to make 10 -foot-long icicles.

Now for some basic lighting tricks:

• Use as heavy duty a cord as you can get.

• Double string roof lines or trees using separate cords plugged into different circuit breakers.

This way if one line goes out, the display is still fully lighted.

Plug the lights into each other at the base of the plug. You can stack three or four together.

• And then go buy some more lights because you can never have enough.

The coming holiday season is a great time of peace and happiness.

Let’s all join in lighting up the Peninsula with joy.

And come down to the ice skating winter village.

A light request

Last year at this time I sent out a plea to my readers and your response was incredible.

And although it was 20 years since the previous time I asked, it’s now only been one year that I ask you to help out again.

The Winter Ice Village skating rink will be back bigger and better then ever.

The city is providing us more power which means more lights.

This Saturday, we will have tens of thousands of lights needing to be taken out of their boxes and prepared.

I ask you to please, please come and help — and get a free light display consultation in the process.

From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. we will meet under canopies at the rink’s location — exactly across from Odyssey Bookstore on Front Street in Port Angeles.

Please, at your convenience, come and help.

It’s a monumental task, but with the community’s support, tens of thousands of people will skate again this year and share family holiday memories.

See you there.


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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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