Christmas Cactus FAQs by RGC Bloggers King Trousdale, Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

Christmas Cactus FAQs by RGC Bloggers King Trousdale, Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

A Christmas Cactus is a succulent plant from the Brazilian rain forest. It is at home in a jungle, not a desert. Treat your Christmas Cactus right and it will live and bloom for decades. Here are some FAQs to help you treat your Christmas Cactus just right.

Should I repot my Christmas Cactus?

  • If your Christmas Cactus came in a small pot, it needs to be transplanted to thrive
  • Select a medium pot and fill it with a mix of potting soil and perlite

When do I water my Christmas Cactus?

  • During bloom season, water when it is dry to the touch–not sooner
  • In spring and summer it likes frequent and thorough watering with good drainage
  • Never let your Christmas Cactus sit in water

What kind of light does my Christmas Cactus like?

  • Your Christmas Cactus needs bright indirect light
  • It will adapt to low light by forming fewer blossoms

How long will my Christmas Cactus bloom, and will it re-bloom?

    • A Christmas Cactus blooms for about three weeks, from Christmas to Thanksgiving
    • It’s normal for some blooms to fall off
    • If your Christmas Cactus is indoors year round, you need to force dormancy for it to re-bloom
      • Force dormancy 6 to 8 weeks before you wish it to re-bloom
      • Force dormancy by cutting back on moisture, light (12 to 14 hours of darkness) and temperature (around 50°)
      • Make sure you keep your Christmas Cactus away from drafts

Can my Christmas Cactus live outside?

  • The Christmas Cactus isn’t cold hardy so leave it inside until April 15
  • At that point, take it outside, put it in a shady area, and water it weekly until early October (cool nights are required for the bloom cycle)
  • You may want to take precautions against squirrels and chipmunks. Common precautions include spraying hot wax on the Christmas Cactus. Hot wax is a product that has a thin coat of wax with hot pepper sauce
  • RGC member Nancy Moses keeps her Christmas Cacti on a beautiful rolling rack, which she displays on her patio during the spring, summer, and early fall. When it’s time to force dormancy, Nancy rolls the rack into her garage

Where can I read more about my Christmas Cactus?

Have fun with your Christmas Cactus. We hope it will live long and prosper.

 

Plants: Winterizing Your Dahlias by RGC Blogger Donna Feit

Plants: Winterizing Your Dahlias by RGC Blogger Donna Feit

I love my dahlias. I bought some tubers online a few years ago, planted them as soon as they arrived, and several weeks later was delighted with beautiful pink and sunset-orange blossoms. They bloomed throughout the latter part of summer right up until the first frost. I left them in the ground for the winter and they returned the following year.

After that, I wanted to learn more and started to research growing dahlia. I was surprised to learn that they don’t “winter” well and are often killed by freezing cold weather…I was fortunate in that the first winter was an especially mild one and my tubers survived.

I don’t want to run the risk of losing my beautiful dahlias, so this year, I’m going to dig up the tubers and store them properly over the winter. Since we’ve already had a couple of frosts, now is the time! Cut off the stems and leaves. It’s a good idea to let the tubers cure (dry out a little), especially the larger ones. Shake the dirt off, but it’s not necessary to completely clean them. They may be okay wrapped in newspaper, and/or stored in a paper bag. But, it’s even better to store them in dry-to-slightly-moist packing material such as peat moss, coco coir, wood chips, pet bedding, or sawdust. You could also use a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Use whatever you have on hand.

Line the bottom of a box with newspaper to keep any packing material from falling through the cracks. Layer the packing material on top of that. Lay the tubers in the box so they will be surrounded by the packing material. You can store several clumps in the same box as long as they are not touching. Fill the box with packing material so the tubers are completely covered. Close the box and put on a shelf. It’s important that your dahlia storage space is cool and dry. A basement or the inside wall of your garage should work. If it is too warm, the tubers could rot.

You’re all set! After the last frost next spring, you’ll be able to replant your tubers and enjoy beautiful dahlias from late summer through fall.

 

 

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Show Your Plants Some Love by RGC Blogger Lisa Ethridge

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Show Your Plants Some Love by RGC Blogger Lisa Ethridge

Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight throughout the fall initiate the cold-acclimation process which enables plants to withstand winter temperatures. The best way to prevent cold damage is to select plants that can tolerate temperatures where you live. Georgia has different climatic zones, so it’s important to select plants that meet the minimum cold-hardy requirements for our area. For North Fulton that’s zone 7B.

Cold temperatures and wind can damage all parts of the plant including fruit, stems, leaves, trunk, and roots. Carefully selected plants can survive a freeze but may not survive a prolonged period of below-freezing temperatures.

Healthy plants have a better chance of surviving cold weather. A soil sample is the best method to determine what nutrients plants need. Contact the UGA extension agent to get information about soil testing. Pruning and/or fertilizing in late summer or early fall encourages tender new growth which leaves plants vulnerable to freezing temps. Check publications B961 and B1065 for information about feeding and pruning ornamental plants. Mulch is important too. It reduces heat loss of the soil, retains moisture, and protects the plant roots which also can be damaged by a freeze.

Covering plants with sheets, blankets, or cardboard boxes helps protect them from low-temperature injury. Plastic sheeting is not recommended; temperatures under the plastic rise quickly which can result in burned leaves or worse. Remove the cover during daylight hours to provide ventilation and allow the release of the trapped heat.

Plants have water requirements during the winter months. Make sure plants get at least 1” of water per week which is essential for a healthy, cold-hardy plant. If a cold snap is predicted, water the plants. Moist soil absorbs more heat and helps maintain an elevated temperature around the plants.

GA Extension offers more than 600 free, research-based publications to help you learn about everything from planting the perfect vegetable garden to raising a backyard chicken flock, and from identifying stinging and biting pests to determining if your agribusiness is feasible. For more information, go to http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications.

National Garden Week: A Look at Some of our Favorite Gardens by RGC Members

National Garden Week: A Look at Some of our Favorite Gardens by RGC Members

We are closing out our National Garden Week posts with a look at favorite gardens members have visited, pictures from Lisa’s recent visit to Gibbs Garden, and pics from a few members’ gardens–the feature image for this post is from Mary Ann Booth Cabot’s backyard. We hope you are as inspired by these gardens as we are. Thanks for celebrating National Garden Week with us.

Debbie V suggests we add visiting these gardens on our bucket lists:

Image from https://www.lewisginter.org/aloverofroses/rose-garden-2/

 

 

 

Gretchen C’s 3 favorite gardens to visit in the United States are:

Image from longwoodgardens.org

1. Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, PA. These gardens are located just 30 minutes from where I lived the first 30 years of my life, so I have been there innumerable times. The gardens are known for their fountains, architecture, and green houses. In 1798 an arboretum was planted at this location. In 1906, Pierre S. DuPont really developed the garden with structures and more plantings. It was opened to the public in 1921. There are over 1,077 acres with 4.5 acres of greenhouses and a 5 acre fountain area. In addition, there are buildings enclosing a theater and world class organ as well as an outdoor theater where one can see a play or musical in the summer.

The Philadelphia area’s climate is a zone that encourages many types of horticulture and for this reason there is much to see in the extensive outdoor gardens. The Christmas Decorations in the large conservatories are magnificent.

I first visited as a child but remember most vividly taking my own children there in strollers. At that time there was no admission charge and a friend and I would go frequently with our young children. A favorite spot was an outdoor water feature that flowed down a large stone stairway. After moving north to New Jersey and then Connecticut, I would visit my parents in December, take them to see the Christmas Decorations, and have dinner in the restaurant.

2. Portland, Oregon Japanese Garden. There are many Japanese Gardens in the world. This one is situated on 12 acres on a wooded hillside west of the city. It is a tranquil spot with 8 separate different styles of Japanese Gardens. Water runs through the gardens as falls and pools, adding to the enchantment. In addition to the tea house there are other small Japanese style buildings. There is a Koi Pond and many moss coated structures. The numerous Japanese Maples are not to be missed. If you have visited Portland, you know that horticulture in that area is more abundant than many other places. This is due to ample moisture and moderate temperatures.

3. Of the gardens I have visited, our Atlanta Botanical Garden is my other favorite. No need to tell you as I know you all must love it too!

 

Lisa E shared these beautiful pictures from her recent visit to Gibbs Gardens, a world-class garden in Ball Ground, GA, a few miles north of Roswell.

         

 

Linda Lee P shared these gorgeous pictures from Miramar Beach.

   

 

Carolyn H shared images of her remarkable daylilies.

       

                   

           

 

Mary Ann Booth Cabot shared glorious pictures from her garden.

     

 

National Garden Week: Go Green with a 100% Solar Powered Fountain by RGC Blogger Suzy Crowe

National Garden Week: Go Green with a 100% Solar Powered Fountain by RGC Blogger Suzy Crowe

I love fountains. Their sound is soothing, happy music to me, they attract wildlife, and they give birds a place to drink and bathe. This spring I decided to convert a wet area in my landscape to a fountain. The wet area was a bog I created with reeds and yellow iris in my grandfather’s 55 gallon cast iron scalding pot. I was planning to go with a fountain with an electric pump until I came across the cute little ZETIY 100% solar bird bath fountain that doesn’t require a battery or electricity. You can’t get any greener than that! In addition, it only cost $16.70. It sounded like a win-win for me and for the birds.

When the fountain came in, I decided to test it before clearing out the boggy mess in the scalding pot that would become a fountain. The fountain was very easy to put together — I just had to put the pump into a clamp on the underside of the fountain and test out the 4 nozzles that came with the fountain. It took me a little while to figure out how the pump fit in the clamp, so I took a picture of the bottom of the fountain in case you decide to get your own fountain.

 

 

Once the pump was clamped down, it was on to testing the fountain. I used a large metal bowl and tested each nozzle. The nozzles were very easy to change and had a nice array of spray-patterns. I got a nice little sprinkle from the nozzle I ended up choosing. I also fell in love with the sound of the fountain–I could tell it was going to be well worth the time it would take to clean out the scalding pot. Here’s my video of the test.

 

Next I moved on to cleaning out the swamp. I forgot to take a picture of it before I started, but here’s what it looked like when I was close to the end. I transplanted the iris and the reeds in a shady area of my yard that has poor drainage. So far, they are still living and growing.

Once I cleared out all of the plants and as much of the dirt as I could, I filled the fountain with water. As you can see, there was a ton of vermiculite in the water. Why oh why did I use ancient potting soil when I created the bog? After a feeble attempt to float out some of the vermiculite, I had a brainstorm–I could use wire mesh to scoop out the pesky stuff. That worked quite well. I scooped out all of the vermiculite I could see, let the water settle for a while, then I scooped out more. Scoop, settle, repeat. Scoop, settle, repeat. After a while, the vermiculite was gone.

Since the fountain is 100% solar, there is no moving water at night. I needed to figure out a way to prevent mosquitoes without harming the wildlife. I needed an environmentally friendly biological solution. Lucky for me, I faced this same problem with the bog, so I just added some Mosquito Bits I had on hand. I have to add a few more bits every two weeks, but Mosquito Bits are a great solution.

A day or so after I finished the scooping, the water was clear as a bell. Now I’m seeing a lot more wildlife activity in my yard–I’ve seen nuthatches, house finches, brown thrashers, robins, blue jays, cardinals, a hawk, other birds whose species I don’t know, chipmunks, squirrels, and, as you can see in the featured image at the top of this post, a little frog sitting on the right side of the rim that thinks it has found a new home.

This is a great little project–I highly recommend it to you. It’s a win-win for wildlife and for the intrepid gardener.

National Garden Week: Feeding…& Watering…the Birds by RGC Bloggers Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

National Garden Week: Feeding…& Watering…the Birds by RGC Bloggers Lisa Ethridge & Suzy Crowe

A song in the children’s movie, Mary Poppins, features a woman selling birdseed crooning, “Come feed the little birds; show them you care.” It turns out, she’s right. Feeding the birds during the winter is a popular pastime which increases the survival rate of our feathery friends. But what about during the summer? There are mixed opinions about that, but more about that later. Whether or not you feed the birds in the summer, everyone agrees that birds need water year round. Wild birds need fresh water to drink and to bathe. Many bird aficionados incorporate birdbaths or ponds in their gardens to meet the birds’ needs.  Birds flock to these water features, especially those with moving water. As a bonus, in the summer these water features may attract new baby birds hanging out with their parents.

So water features are a go year round. What about feeding the birds? The Humane Society article Feeding Your Backyard Birds says the only birds we should feed in the summer are hummingbirds and goldfinches. Hummingbirds need nectar in the summer due to their high metabolism. Goldfinches nest later than other birds, so they need nyjer seed in the summer until the thistles go to seed.

Unlike the Humane Society, the National Wildlife Federation offers considerations for feeding wild birds in the summer. The article Summer Bird Feeding: the Case For and Against points out that you might want to feed the birds in the summer so you’ll be visited by birds that don’t live in your area in the winter. It’s up to you to decide whether to take down your bird feeders in the summer.

Lucky for us, Georgia’s winter appeals to a lovely assortment of seed-eating, fruit-eating, and insect-eating birds who look for sustenance in shrubs and trees as well as on the ground. So it’s important to provide different types of food and to use an assortment of feeders if you want to maximize your bird-watching experience.

When it comes to bird feeding supplies, a visit to a specialty bird store can provide valuable information, guarantee fresh seed, and showcase quality accessories. Purchase table-like feeders for ground-feeding birds such as sparrows and towhees. Hopper and tube feeders are best for shrub and treetop species such as finches and cardinals. Suet feeders—for cool to cold weather only—will attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Be sure to buy sturdy, good-quality feeders that are easy to clean. Cats running loose in the neighborhood are the bane of a bird feeder’s existence. Make sure to place feeders out of predators’ reach.

Different types of food will attract a diverse mix of birds. Black oil sunflower appeals to the greatest number of birds. Feeding nyjer/thistle seed is a tasty treat for finches, but be sure it’s fresh; the birds will not eat stale seed. Waxwings, bluebirds, mockingbirds and other fruit/berry eaters enjoy raisins and currants soaked in water overnight and placed on a table feeder. Fill one feeder with peanuts and nuts to attract nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers. When purchasing blends, avoid those with milo, wheat, and oats which do not appeal to most birds. Store the seed in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

Bird feeding and watching can be inspirational and educational. For further reading, the Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware professor’s book Bringing Nature Home and its accompanying website are highly regarded tools to enlighten you about biodiversity, the importance of native gardening, and to move toward biodiversity.

The featured image for this post was taken by Stephanie L’s husband Phil. JoAnn J…woodpecker, Debbie J…brown thrasher, Sherron L…hawk, and Linda B…fledgling nuthatch that they have been watching since the mother built a nest in a birdhouse in their yard… provided the other pictures. As you can see, RGC members love to Feed the Birds…and water them.