Louise Grabell, Pinal County Master Gardener
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas—just like the ones I used to know—NOT! Puleeze—no snow, no sleet, no slush for me! What fun going to your favorite garden center in December and buying a fabulous collection of flowers to beautify your home for the holidays. Yes, by cracky, it’s those holly, jolly holidays! I love spending time in my garden all year round, we recently purchased a 10×16 shed just so I can organise all my tools and accessories for my garden. However, as the seasons change, this is not an excuse for abandoning your garden. There are so many things you can be doing through the winter months to keep your garden alive and growing as normal. So let’s talk about what to buy, how to keep it alive and what to do with it when it (they) have given you all they can—the flowers, I mean!
Let’s start with the most obvious: poinsettias. These are definitely tropical plants, so don’t think you’ll be able to save them for our desert outdoors. The colorful brachts (red, white, pink) will last a long time indoors in a cool place (on the floor, maybe) with weekly watering. No need to transplant, and probably no need to fertilize. They don’t like the dry air of our heated homes in winter, so keeping them as cool as possible will prolong their beauty. The actual flowers are very tiny yellow blossoms at the centers of the bracht clusters. Of all the colorful plants for the holidays, poinsettias take first place.
Next: amaryllis bulbs, if started early enough, produce a glorious array of multiple flowers on each stalk.
A good-sized bulb will have at least two flower stalks with flour blooms on each. Amaryllis flowers can be white, red, salmon or any combination. Flowers are single or double or even ruffled. They are quite pricey as bulbs go, but these will come back year after year. I prefer to plant mine in the garden where they thrive and multiply; however, I do know folks who’ve had the same bulb in a pot indoors and get flowers every year. The leaves will require sunlight as that is how the bulb gains food for storage, but they will eventually dry up as the bulb enters dormancy. This is the time to remove it from the pot it came in and plant it in the garden. Well-drained soil and irrigation will keep your amaryllis happy and reproducing.
Cyclamens are also available now and these can be planted outside in containers to decorate your front entrance. They come in every shade of red, pink, purple and white, too. If you keep them inside, they will continue to bloom in the same fashion as African violets. Weekly watering and bright light will keep them healthy and the cooler the better. They are a bulb and eventually the flowers and foliage stop growing; this is when dormancy is reached. This is a good time to put them outside in a container and let them sleep until next winter when they will happily reappear. Enjoy making your home a welcoming sight with flowers!
Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website: http://saddlebrookemastergardeners.org/ for all up to date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.
Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.