Many of us struggle with what to do with our holiday Poinsettias after the holidays are over. They are still alive, but what happens next? We have heard that bringing them back to their former glory next year is really hard, but we hate to throw them away…
Dr. Leonard Perry, of the University of Vermont, has written a great how-to guide, which I will share with you here. In it, he uses holidays and well known dates as markers for when to do things, and explains in simple terms how they need to be done. We tried it a couple of years ago and it worked like a charm.
Holly is a quintessential December plant. It is hung about the house at Christmas time, and is steeped in religious tradition. The Druids believed that Holly stayed green in the winter and had red berries so as to keep the world looking beautiful when the Oak was without leaves. (Many a landscape designer has had that same thought, too.) Holly has been thought to keep away lightning, frighten off witches, and keep goblins away from little girls. Some say it brings about sweet dreams, and others say you can use it to make a tincture to get rid of a cough, although from what I have read, ingesting holly would only relieve a cough by giving you something much worse to worry about, so best leave holly out of any cold remedy.
The Holly pictured above has the typical holly look: shiny, prickly evergreen leaves, and lustrous red berries. You need both a male and a female holly plant in order to get berries, which appear only on the female. Some grow to be 15-20 feet tall like Ilex aquipernyi ‘Dragon Lady’ while others are considerably shorter. Some are pyramidal in shape, some are tall and very thin, while others are rounded. If prickly leaves aren’t for you, Ilex glabra, or Inkberry Holly, has rounded leaves a lot like Boxwood, and is a decent substitute if you don’t like Boxwood’s smell. If bare branches covered with berries is more your style, Ilex verticillata, or Winterberry Holly, is a deciduous version that looks fantastic in the winter. All hollies like full sun to part shade, and moist, well drained soil.
Plant one or two to keep away the elements, witches, bad dreams or to just keep the world looking beautiful in the winter, it’s up to you. There’s a holly for everyone. All you have to do is find the one that makes you happy.
I get asked a lot if fall is too late to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials, and the answer is a resounding “No”. In the fall, they are starting to get ready to retire for the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the strength to establish themselves- quite the contrary. In the fall, perennials, trees, and shrubs don’t have to spend their energy on making leaves and flowers and attracting pollinators, so what energy they have can be used for root growth and getting settled in their new place.
Some caveats apply – if the summer has been very dry, and the plants seem stressed in their pots because they haven’t gotten enough water, you might want to pass them by and find others that have been better cared for. You don’t want to start with a stressed plant.
Also, if it’s a dry fall, and there is water rationing, it’s better to wait until spring when hopefully more water will be available. Just like any other time that you are planting, the new plants need to be well watered for several weeks in order to do well.
In New England, it’s best to stop by Halloween. But until then, as long as there is enough water, you can have great success with new plants. And sometimes they are on sale, because nurseries are often looking to get rid of stock so they don’t have to overwinter it. Win-win!
Japanese Anemones, or Windflowers, are invaluable plants in the late summer garden. Not only do they suddenly appear when other things are looking tired, but they seem to fill a void without seeming to take up a whole lot of space. They can be described as “see-through” plants, meaning that the bulk of their leaves are near the bottom of the plant, while the flowers rise on tall stalks, creating a light and airy look.
Japanese Anemones grow to be 36-48 inches tall although they don’t seem as big, and have really interesting round buds which compliment the flowers. They prefer part shade but will be ok in full sun, and come in shades of rich pink like ‘Bressingham Glow” to white like ‘Honorine Jobert’ or ‘Whirlwind’, and every shade in between. Divide them in the spring, then forget about them and be pleasantly surprised when they show up in the fall to freshen things up!