Are You Planning on Having a Real Christmas Tree This Year?

 In George Irvine

Although there are many really nice artificial Christmas trees around, there is something really special about celebrating Christmas with a real natural tree. A real tree can form the focal point of all your Christmas decorations both within your home or when placed outdoors

When used within the house, the main drawback is the fact that a real tree will tend to drop all it’s needles causing quite a mess on the floor, but this does not have to be the case. With just a little bit  of care and attention this can be avoided.

When choosing a real Christmas tree, aim to buy a cut tree or a pot-grown tree. Avoid buying a containerised tree because these trees are actually cut trees which have been put into a pot. This means that the root loss they suffer when being dug up means they will never survive. A pot –grown tree is defined as a tree that has spent all it’s life growing in a pot. Our Christmas trees at Cardwell are either Pot Grown or Cut Trees – never containerised trees.

By far the best, and most common kind of Christmas tree, is one that is sold as a cut tree and there are a number of types to choose from.

The traditional Christmas, tree is the Norwegian Spruce but there are others which are much better and do not shed their leaves so freely. For example, the Fraser Fir and the Lodge pole Pine are two kinds of tree that are great to have in the home and are not prone to needle drop as much as the Spruce trees.  However, the crème-de- la crème of Christmas trees is the Nordman Fir and all of the trees mentioned here are available locally at Cardwell Garden Centre. All the trees stocked at Cardwell are come from a Scottish grower who often supplies trees to Downing Street and some of the top London hotels.

When you buy a cut tree, take it home and then cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk. Place the tree on a ‘Tree stand’ (you can get one at Cardwell) which has a built in reservoir, but take care not to place your tree beside a radiator or other source of heat.

Christmas trees are very thirsty and need to be topped up with water every other day, but take care to have electrical wires or lights clear of any danger of getting wet. Keep the tree watered and it will last for a good few weeks.

If you need any further advice about your tree just ask the specially trained experts at Cardwell Garden Centre when you are purchasing your tree. My advice is to get along as early as possible and snap up the best of the trees as they arrive.

Cut Holly Now.

If you want some holly to add some festive decoration in the home, I would advise that you cut some sprigs now rather than later. If you delay cutting a few sprigs laden with nice red berries you might find the migrating hungry birds from Scandinavia get there before you and the berries will be gone long before Christmas..

Think about Water as Well as Winter.

As winter approaches, often fast and furious, it is important that we give some thought to water and take action before it is too late. Among the various water-related tasks to tackle now is the simple job of making sure that the garden hoses are empty of all water before the temperature drops below freezing point. It is also important to turn the water supplying the outside tap off at the stopcock which is usually located inside the house. By doing this now you will avoid the pipes freezing up and then bursting when the frozen water in the pipes begin to thaw.

Another useful task is to take a look at your garden paths which, at this time of year are often covered in moss or lichen, which makes the paths quite slippery. I would advocate that you apply a proprietary path cleaner such as ’Algon’ and give the treated path a vigorous brushing with a stiff wire brush.

If you have a water butt in the garden it will be beneficial to empty is and give it a good clean out before winter comes along. Once cleaned inside top up with some clean water.

Lastly, where you have shrub type plants, or even spring bedding plants, growing in large tubs growing outdoors in the garden, you need to raise the containers up from the ground using pot feet or even a couple of old bricks to allow excess water to drain from the compost otherwise the compost will freeze solid and when it eventually thaws the ceramic pot may well crack.

Winter Planting Time is With Us.

Some shrubs can be planted in the ground provided it is not frozen solid or badly flooded, anytime over the next three months. Such shrubs are available from Cardwell but they must be planted in the ground before the end of February.

Common plants that can be planted in the bare-rooted state are roses and hedging plants. The latter are usually sold in bundles of about ten at this time of year and you will find lots of different specimens available at Cardwell.

Trees are often available in the bare-rooted form.

These Indoor Flowering Plants Are Simply Stunning.

Indoor flowering plants are certain to lift one’s spirit during the dark days of winter, but perhaps the most interesting plant is the Amaryllis and you will have great fun growing one. These stunning plants are grown from a bulb and you can have the majestic flowers in bloom in just six to eight weeks after planting.

Amaryllis bulbs are popular presents for Christmas and you can find them at Cardwell in the run up to the Festive season. The flowers are held above a tall stem and there are lots of different varieties to choose from with some of the star-like flowers sporting strong vibrant red hues while there are other kinds exhibiting bi-colours and pastel shades.

Amaryllis bulbs are usually very large and it is best when buying a bulb to look for a blemish-free large one. The bulbs can normally have a circumference of 12 to 14inches but I have seen some which are much bigger.

Before planting, choose a pot which is some two inches larger in diameter than the bulb and make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If you did not get compost supplied with the bulb, it is best to use compost which contains plenty of organic matter such as peat and mix this with an equal amount of grit or perlite.

Plant the bulb into the pot making sure that one third of the bulb is above the compost. Firm the compost around the bulb, and because the plant is quite tall growing, you need to put a tall stake in place to support the plant as it grows. It is important to place the pot in a warm place, or even on a heated tray or propagator and water sparingly. Soon you will see signs of growth and the stem starts to emerge from the bulb.

It is great fun to watch the plant grow a few more inches every other day and this is one plant where the stem will grow taller without any evidence of leaves. As the plant grows taller, keep tying the stem to the stake so that the plant will grow straight. Often you will find that some bulbs will contain more than one stem and each stem will produce flowers.

Once growth appears quite rigorous you can move the pot to a slightly cooler location. Once the flowers start to appear and open, move the pot to a cooler, light location or even a cool greenhouse and your Amaryllis will continue to flower for weeks on end.

Just take a trip along to Cardwell Garden Centre and you will find a good selection of different coloured bulbs to choose from.

Buying a Poinsettia for Christmas.

The Poinsettia is very much synonymous with Christmas and it is often known by it’s common name  – the plant of the holy night.

These lovely plants are mostly red in colour but you can get some with the bracts as the flowers are called, in yellow or white colours-.

A Poinsettia adds to the festive colour at Christmas and with just a little care and attention can provide festive colour in the home for several months. You will find those brilliant plants at Cardwell.

The very important factor lies in choosing the source of your plant. Poinsettia plants do not like cold draughts and if exposed to such conditions will shed their leaves and flowers within a few days of getting it home.

When buying a Poinsettia it should come supplied with a protective sleeve– if it does not have one, or the retailer does not offer one, I would refrain from buying it. It also pays dividends to take a plastic carrier bag with you or pay five pence for one –even if the plant is a plastic sleeve. At Cardwell all Poinsettias in-store have protective sleeves.

Lastly, do not go walk-a bouts with your new plant on a cold and frosty day.

Hyacinths for a Christmas Display.

If you planted up a few bowls or pots of prepared hyacinths away back in September and placed the pots in a cool dark place, commonly known as plunging, now is the ideal time to take a look at them.

You should find that the shoots are roughly about two inches high and they will be white in colour.

Take the pots out of the plunge and give the compost a little water. Place the pots in a cool, but light position for about a week. This will allow the shoots to ‘green-up’ a bit. When this has taken place you can then move the pots indoors where they will get a little heat to bring them into flower for Christmas Day.

The Cold Winds in The Winter.

Over the past week, the temperatures have gradually dropped much nearer zero and on same days even below zero especially during the night and early in the morning, If you wake up and find your lawn covered in a layer of white frost, I would suggest that you should refrain from walking over it, otherwise you will harm the grass.

You will probably find that the garden paths can have a nice coating of frost on them and in some parts there will be ice formed on them. It goes without saying that these will be quite slippery. Steep paths and steps and drives can be a bit dangerous and it pays to have a few bags of rock salt – obtainable from Cardwell garden centre- on hand to treat these areas.

House Plants for Christmas.

House plants make popular gifts at Christmas and many readers might well find themselves the recipient of one of those popular plants. With just a little tender care a nice house plant can provide much joy for many months – and even longer with some kinds of house plants.

Today, we take a look at some of the popular plants that make ideal gifts at this time of year and I will attempt to offer some of the basic needs to keep these plants blooming well over the months to come.

One of the most common house plants on sale just now is the Kalanchoe – or ‘Flaming Katie’ as it is often known. Surprisingly, more pots of this plant are sold at the Dutch plant auctions each year than any other house plant. Once upon a time it was just sold as a Christmas flowering gift plant but now it is sold in flower almost all year round.

Kalanchoe will enjoy average warmth, even down to a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and it loves being placed at a bright windowsill. Water thoroughly but let the compost dry out before watering it again.

Another great house plant is the Christmas Cactus, and it is well known to last for many years, and it is also very easy to propagate more plants from the original. The Christmas Cacti belong to a family of Cacti known as forest cacti and unlike the desert cacti which does not need water during winter the Christmas Cacti does need water while it is in flower. They will do well in a bright location.  They love a temperature of around 70 degrees in daytime but like it a little cooler at night (60-65 degrees). When the plant is in flower take care not to over-water it and try not to move it around too much.

Indoor Cyclamen is another popular plant to give or receive as a festive gift and their vibrant flowers in pastel shades can be simply stunning. However, Cyclamen need to be kept in a cool but bright situation making it an ideal plant to have in a porch or vestibule or in a room which never gets too warm.

When watering Cyclamen it is best to water from below, just stand the pot in a basin of water for about 15 to 20 minutes- and then take the pot out and let it drain. This is because the plant is grown from a corm, or bulb as some people call it, and it is not deeply planted. Watering from the top may cause the corm, or bulb, to rot and this will cause the plant to die.

Santa Gives Lots of Ideas For Christmas Presents for Gardeners.

One day last week I was sitting enjoying a few quiet moments in pensive mood when I became aware of a familiar seasonal sound – yes, it was the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells and when I looked up there was the jolly big man himself, resplendent in his big red suit and snow-white beard.

He came over and joined me and in no time at all we were enjoying a glass or two of mulled wine. As we chatted, I took the opportunity to ask him about suitable Christmas gifts for gardeners. Stroking his long white beard, he thought for a moment or two before telling me that gardening gloves are always popular with gardeners. Indeed, he said there are gloves for almost every task in the garden. Greenhouse heaters also make a great Christmas present and you can never go wrong with a thermometer to register both the maximum and minimum temperature in the greenhouse.

Secateurs are very useful gifts and will be welcomed by any ‘green-fingered’ friends or relatives.

Santa also suggests the following items are ideal stocking-fillers, small trowel and fork sets, seed trays, plant labels, gardening twine and spray-bottles. Santa was also quick to add that should none of the items mentioned appeal to you, you can also opt to give a gardening gift voucher – and these he said are obtainable from Cardwell Garden Centre.

Holly Wreaths Can Adorn Your Festive Display.

Holly wreaths are so versatile in that they can be used both indoors and outdoors during the festive season. For readers looking for a lovely holly wreath, I can tell you that Cardwell Garden Centre can provide you with various sizes of wreaths.

House Plant Arrangements Make Ideal Gifts.

Maybe you are looking for something more than just an individual house plant for a Christmas present for a dear friend or relative, so why not consider a nice arrangement of indoor plants in a state-of-the art container that will bring lots of pleasure to the recipient for many months to come.

Cardwell Garden Centre have a selection of these available on their displays, but you can also have one made up to your own requirements simply by phoning the garden centre on 521536 and discussing what you want in terms of cost and colour scheme with the plant experts and they will tailor-make the arrangement and deliver if necessary.  Just remember, they are just a phone call away and will be glad to help you. Give them a ring today.

Bare-Rooted Plants Need Your Help.

This is the time for planting bare rooted trees and shrubs and these need to be planted into the soil between now and February provided the soil is not frozen hard or waterlogged.

However, if weather prevents getting them planted it is important that you heel the plants into an area of soil to prevent frost from killing off the roots.

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