Monday, January 28, 2013

Sprucing up, perhaps?

After the holidays, I wasn't exactly burdened by high hopes for the dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca "Conica") that served as this year's tabletop Christmas tree.  Sure, I anticipated a bit more than trees of Christmases past--those conical arrangements of cut boxwood that ended the season as winter mulch or the tempermental tiny cypresses that declined and dwindled into webs of spider mites--just because I did have a greater commitment to this year's tree.  That's what a bigger root ball and a heftier price tag gets you around here.
However, surveying the web didn't yield many kind words about these plants.  Articles entitled "How Not to Kill a Dwarf Alberta Spruce" or that use phrases like "best chance of survival" do not inspire a great deal of confidence.
After all the ornaments and lights were removed and packed away, I stuck the Alberta spruce in the south facing window of a rarely-inhabited bedroom. (It's hard having college-age kids who flit in only briefly during vacations . . . ) Every couple of days, I drop by to water.
So how pleased I was to see sprays of new neon green growth decorating the branches.  The little bunches were doffing their caps and shaking out their needles. Most of the activity seems to be occuring in neither sun nor shade, but along the sides of the tree.

I'm not sure what any of this means except I know that green is better than brown. And beating your expectations--even those set low--always feels good.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spotting the bobcat's spots

Seems that our local bunny bounty has attracted some hungry new inhabitants: in addition to hawks and coyotes, we now have bobcats prowling our 'burb. Welcome, neighbor, I say!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mulching after the holidays

After the holidays, when the ground is solidly frozen, is the best time to apply winter mulch.  As a seasonal bonus, discarded Christmas tree boughs can be used as a terrific insulating layer. The idea here is to create a stable micro-environment around the roots of the plant in order to prevent the soil from heaving during freeze and thaw cycles.  Roots do not like to be pulled and pushed, ripped and torn!  The micro-environment under the mulch layer buffers against the effects of severe and sudden temperature changes, allowing the plant to ease along through the winter season.

Tops on my list for winter mulching is the "New Dawn" rose. After its run-in with Hurricane Sandy, it's been reduced to a stand of bare canes.

This rose will definitely be pruned and shaped come spring but in the meantime, the canes have been lassoed in between a ring of study metal garden stakes.

A pile of evergreen branches is heaped over the base of the rose.  When the weather starts to turn warm--in an eternity from now, I fear--the branches can be removed, a bit at a time. Over-wintering dahlias are similarly protected.

Best of all, this mulch is free and, for a brief period, widely available as folks haul their old trees to the curb for pick-up. Yes, you don't even need to make use of your own Christmas tree! Typically, we celebrate around a table-top tree--this year, a dwarf Alberta spruce--which can spare no branches.  So yes, I'm that person who's leaning over her neighbors' discarded trees with a pair of clippers in one hand and an armful of cut boughs in the other. It's all in the holiday sharing spirit, right?