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