How to pick a Christ­mas tree, poin­set­tia care and gifts for gar­den­ers

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CUL­TURE - By Betty Cahill

Spe­cial to The Denver Post

Dec­o­rat­ing Part II (last week was Part I) is all about putting up bows, boughs, trees and, most im­por­tant, mak­ing mem­o­ries.

REAL TREES

B The fresher the bet­ter: Cut your own if time and re­sources al­low. There are nearby Denver and Front Range cut­ting ar­eas. Check this link for more in­for­ma­tion: www.fs.usda.gov/de­tail/r2/recre­ation/ B When choos­ing a tree at a lot, lightly shake hands with the end of the branch. If lots of nee­dles come off, try a dif­fer­ent tree. B Gen­tly lift the tree (if it’s not too tall) and care­fully raise and lower. Heavy nee­dle drop from the ex­te­rior branches means the tree is not fresh. B While at the lot, ask the

at­ten­dant for some of their left--

over trimmed branches and use them for out­door con­tainer dec­o­rat­ing, or for an ex­tra layer of in­su­la­tion on mulched beds. B If the lot doesn’t pro­vide net­ting for trans­port, bring an old sheet and tie the tree se­curely on or in the car, trunk end for­ward. B Make sure your stand fits the tree trunk so it can ab­sorb wa­ter — shav­ing the bark to fit is not ad­vised and will greatly in­ter­fere with wa­ter up­take. B Make a straight cut (up to 2 inches) off the end of the tree be­fore bring­ing in­doors. The new open­ing will help the tree ab­sorb wa­ter. B If stor­ing the tree for a few days, be sure to keep it in a cool lo­ca­tion in a large bucket of wa­ter. B Once it is in the stand, add clean wa­ter (the tem­per­a­ture of the wa­ter doesn’t mat­ter). A tree can ab­sorb up to a gal­lon of wa­ter or more in the first cou­ple of days. B Check the stand daily and re­fill so the tree end is al­ways sub­merged. No need for ad­di­tives or as­pirin — the tree just wants con­sis­tent wa­ter. B Check the sur­round­ing area for any sap leak­age and clean up right away. Try rub­bing a lit­tle cook­ing oil or petroleum jelly on your hands to clean off pine tar. B Place trees away from heat sources in­clud­ing fire­places, heat vents, ra­di­a­tors and can­dles. B Af­ter the hol­i­days, cut-up tree boughs and place over leaf-mulched beds for ex­tra plant pro­tec­tion. B Check with your lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity for treecy­cling; Denver res­i­dents can re­claim free tree mulch next May. B New for Denver in Jan­uary is week­end tree re­cy­cling (not week­day dur­ing reg­u­lar trash pickup). Read more: www.den­ver­gov.org/con­tent/den­ver­gov/en/trash-and-re­cy­cling/com­post­ing/sea­sonal-pro­grams.html

POIN­SET­TIAS

B Poin­set­tias are a very pop­u­lar sea­sonal plant that will last well into the New Year or next Christ­mas, if you have the pa­tience to care for it through the year. B When bring­ing poin­set­tias home from the store, keep them warm in tran­sit. Any chilled air will set them back or cause in­jury. B The col­ored leaves, called bracts, come in a range of daz­zling col­ors. Look for the new­est light to hot pink col­ors, plus darker reds, and my new fa­vorite, “Envy” — a char­treuse head-turner for sure. B Poin­set­tias need six hours of in­di­rect light from a south, east or west win­dow (not touch­ing the win­dow) and keep away from cool drafts and heat vents. B They pre­fer tem­per­a­tures be­tween 60 and 70 de­grees. B Re­move the foil or punch holes in the bot­tom for proper drainage (same for other foiled plants). B Wa­ter when the sur­face feels dry to the touch, if al­lowed to dry out leaves will drop and plants will wilt. Too much wa­ter leads to root rot and in­sects. B Poin­set­tias are re­ported to be highly poi­sonous to peo­ple or pets — rather it is the ex­posed milky sap that can ir­ri­tate skin. Gen­er­ally, it’s a good idea to keep pets away from most house­plants and, of course, tree or­na­ments. Read more at this link: www.pet­poi­son­helpline.com/poi­son/ poin­set­tia/

GIFTS

B Gar­den­ers are easy to please — gift cer­tifi­cates, tools, gloves or some­thing large like a new rain bar­rel or com­post bin are ap­pre­ci­ated. B For both gar­den­ers and the non-green thumb in­clined, easy-to-grow and low-main­te­nance plants are just as thought­ful. Trends that have now be­come musthaves in­clude ter­rar­i­ums, suc­cu­lent dishes and fairy gar­dens. B Free or low-cost classes on dish or ter­rar­ium assem­bly are avail­able at gar­den cen­ters or botanic gar­dens. Or just stop by a gar­den store and ask for help in pur­chas­ing the sup­plies and plants you need to put to­gether your de­sign. B Hands-down the eas­i­est no-soil plants to grow and ad­mire are tilland­sias, com­monly known as air plants. They come in many shapes and sizes. Place them in hang­ing glass globes or ceramic ter­rar­i­ums, or cre­ate your own set­ting in a dec­o­ra­tive dish or vase. A va­cant gold­fish bowl works well, too. B With your plant gift, in­clude writ­ten in­struc­tions for care. A de­hy­drated tilland­sia will look leath­ery or have rolled leaves. They need to be wa­tered two to three times a week — just im­merse in a tepid bowl of non-soft­ened wa­ter and soak for 15-20 min­utes. Once a month, let them soak longer — one to two hours. Give them bright light. B Ja­panese bon­sai kokedama is mak­ing a come­back. This easy to make “koke,” mean­ing moss, and “dama,” mean­ing ball, is sim­ply the root ball of a small house­plant planted in a clay ball and then wrapped in moss. They can be hung for dis­play or placed on pretty dec­o­ra­tive rocks on a small plate. Fol­low the how to at: www.gar­den­ing­knowhow.com/gar­den-how-to/projects/ mak­ing-kokedama-moss­balls.htm

Wish­ing you a joy­ful hol­i­day sea­son and the hap­pi­est New Year!

Betty Cahill, Spe­cial to The Denver Post

Poin­set­tias are as pop­u­lar as ever for hol­i­day gift-giv­ing and dec­o­rat­ing.

Air plants (tilland­sias) are one of eas­i­est no soil plants to care for and dis­play.

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