Friday, November 26, 2010

Fresh Holiday Greens

Years ago I would go to my father-in-law’s house to harvest greens for my holiday decorating. He had a beautiful assortment of needled and broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs from which I could cut and gather greens. Now in my third home, I’ve finally planted some of these wonderful trees and shrubs that don’t seem to mind a light pruning in early December. Added to that, some are cone-bearing, a huge bonus for Christmas decorating. Here are some of the greens in my backyard.

Junipers have a nice blue color with extra interest in the blue berries.

Cryptomeria japonicas are beautiful evergreens with soft, short needles. They are dark green and grow to about seventy feet in a pyramidal shape.

Cedars provide a wonderful fragrance and nice color to arrangements outdoors in containers or indoors in vases and boughs.

Hollies are wonderful additions to holiday decorating. The evergreen hollies are generally dark green with red berries. Winterberry holly is a deciduous variety, dropping all of its leaves in the fall leaving bright red clusters of berries perfect to use as an accent.

Spruces are nice to use in wreaths. Their branches are stiff and the needles short; needle retention is poorer than in pines and firs. They are great to use outside and will retain needles longer if sprayed with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf.
Mountain laurel is used extensively in the south. Use it indoors and out to complement needled evergreen branches.

Other evergreens are great too, and, eventually I may plant white pine, Southern magnolias and boxwood in the yard to use for decorating. In the meantime, Valley View Farms has all sorts of these and other greens available from Thanksgiving week until Christmas.

Here are a few tips to keep greens fresher longer.
  • Use clean, sharp pruning and lopping shears to cut the greens.
  • Put cut greens into a bucket of fresh water until ready to use. Crush the ends of the branches to allow for better water take-up.
  • Consider spraying with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf to keep greens from drying out.
  • Keep greens out of direct sunlight and away from heaters and candles.
  • Replace greens if they dry out too much. They may rehydrate with an overnight soaking in water. 
Enjoy the colors and fragrances of the holiday season. And, make notes now to plant some of these remarkable trees and shrubs come spring.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Squirrel Busters and Other Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders

    So, how about you? Have you gotten tired of squirrels getting into the bird food? Admit it; they are fun to watch, but the birds don't necessarily want to share. Click on the video I found on YouTube above to see one way to keep the squirrels from getting the food. It is very entertaining.
    There are all sorts of ways to thwart the squirrels. Our Wild Bird House, located over in the water garden area is an important stop to make to view all of the products to feed birds and discourage the non-feathery critters.
    Squirrel baffels can be installed above and below bird feeder on poles to keep squirrels away from the feeding stations.

    Spring loaded feeders that are set so that the feeder is open to smaller birds, but not the heavier squirrels and crows are available in several styles.

    Several others keep the squirrels away with a combination of heavy metal mesh and the gravity spring-loaded stopper. Still one other feeder, the Mandarin, has a long roof line that keeps squirrels from reaching down to the platform feeding station. Who knew there were so many ways to keep squirrels out of the bird feeders?

    John and Carrie, the Sunday Gardeners on WBAL TV 11, will be talking about squirrel proof feeders on their segment airing at 9:15 am on Sunday, November 21.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Get Your Best Guess In the Book by Noon on November 6th

    Matt, Andy and Tim have cut the pumpkin open
    Tom Tasselmyer is a good sport. Every year on the first Saturday in November, Andy, Alan, Matt, and Tim cut open the BIG pumpkin (this year's weighs in at 1540 pounds and is named Rolling Thunder) as Tom rolls up his sleeves in anticipation. Tom then starts to scoop out pumpkin guts and separates the seeds from the rest of the pumpkin mush.
    The Tasselmyer Family 2006

    I should mention that Tom's wife Laurie and their sons Matthew, Andrew, Michael, and Stephen have each assisted several times from year to year. The Tasselmyers count out the seeds fifty at a time and place them in clear cups.
    Gloves are optional

    Cups contain 50 seeds each

    As the crowd watches, cups are lined up on two tables. You can see everybody second-guessing their entries in the pumpkin book. You see, since Rolling Thunder's arrival on October 6th, people have been writing their best guesses as to how many seeds are in the monstrous pumpkin in a book. Thousands of names fill many pages. The winner will receive a $300 Valley View Farms gift card. Second place wins a $200 card and third a $100 card.
    Here are a few of the entered guesses

    Donna will be searching the book for the winner
    So, how many seeds will be in this year's pumpkin? Unfortunately, we won't know until Tom's job is through. Stay tuned.