Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Gardening Gifts

In case you missed it this morning, I co-hosted "Garden Talk" on WNOX-FM 100.3 with Dr. Susan Hamilton of UT Gardens. I'll be filling in for Andy Pulte, the "Garden Guy," from now until January 12. Please join us and call in with your gardening questions!

Today's topic was "Plants To Give As Gifts." We focused on plants that look great this time of year, and that will be available in the local garden centers for gift giving. Because winter is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs, our discussion focused mostly on woody plants. But there's something for every garden in the list we made: big, little, slow-growing, fast-growing, shade and sun. The perfect plant for that special gardener in your life is out there waiting for a new home.

Here are some of our top choices:

  • Winterberry holly, especially the cultivar 'Red Sprite' (pictured above)
  • American holly, the traditional, slow-growing tree
  • Yaupon holly, especially the dwarf, weeping cultivar introduced by Don Shadow
  • Pyracantha
  • False-cypress, many varieties to choose from
  • Dwarf Alberta spruce
  • Arborvitae, many varieties to choose from
  • Virginia sweetspire, especially the cultivar 'Henry's Garnet'

We also suggested looking at the many planted containers offered by local garden centers such as Stanley's Greenhouses and Ellenburg Nursery. These usually feature dwarf evergreens, along with flowering annuals such as violas and pansies, that will last through the winter and in many cases can be planted out next spring.

We received a great question from a local caller: Which evergreens should I choose for fragrance? We seldom think about this aspect of the contribution that many conifers make to the garden, so it took both Sue and I a moment to come up with balsam fir, Abies balsamea. This tree is native to northeastern North America, from Newfoundland south to West Virginia. Further south, it is replaced in the mountains by Abies frasieri, Frasier's fir, a plant now threatened with extinction due to infestation by the balsam wooly adelgid. Balsam fir likes colder conditions that we typically experience in the Tennessee Valley, but may adapt if it receives some afternoon shade in the summer. A good substitute would be Korean fir, A. koreana. Much easier to grow, Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens, received its botanical name due to its strong scent. The dwarf cultivar 'Baby Blue Eyes' remains small enough for most backyards.

If you do purchase trees and shrubs for holiday gifts, remember that these plants are accustomed to being outside in the cold at this time of year, and should not be brought indoors for more than 24 hours. Enjoy them during Christmas, then transplant them to the garden as soon as possible. Last year, we kept two evergreen trees on the front porch. We slipped the nursery containers inside two large decorative pots, and then trimmed the trees with lights. After New Year's we moved them to the garden, where they are thriving and look great against a backdrop of dark foliage from our Leyland cypress trees.

Please join us next week for another edition of "Garden Talk," Saturday, 8:00 AM, WNOX-FM 100.3

1 comment:

Calgary Landscaping said...

Oh my God the Red Sprite is absolutely beautiful! I should put that in my garden, finally give a little winter colour.