Tips for those wanting a live Christmas tree
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Nov 28, 2012 | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At times like today I am reminded of a neighbor of Ma and Pa. We called her “Miss Mary” and she was an original. She had a daughter, Valley, the same age as my mother. Mama told me this story and it became a family joke. Miss Mary had been putting off making a dress for Valley. One day she asked her mother when she was going to make that dress, to which Miss Mary replied, “Now Valley, I told you I’d make it when I took a notion and so far, I ain’t got no notion.” So today, I am finding it hard to get a notion to write my column.

I am looking out the window at my two beautiful Nandina. The plural of Nandina is also Nandina. The tags of red berries are bigger than ever. This lovely plant has some specific things to do in caring for it. They are a bit expensive if you buy a four-year old one but so worth it. This lovely plant is reminiscent of a bamboo plant and is from China or Japan. It is a broadleaf evergreen. Occasionally one will have yellow berries which is a misfit of nature. Some years the berries will be a darker red. One great benefit is that they multiply all on their own from seeds and you can dig them up to have lots of Nandina. They like rich soil and you may want to add some rotted manure to a planting hole. To prune them, and this is important, prune in late fall, or early winter, in the shape of a pyramid. Start at the bottom and move up the plant, a foot at a time. I like to use them at Christmas as a table decoration when those bright red berries and wine colored leaves make quite a show. They also make lovely mantle decoration. I have never had one to have insect damage or any kind of mildew. Mine are on each side of my front porch along with the foundation plants.

Another lovely flowering shrubs that often needs pruning is the rose of Sharon and now is the time to prune them if you want blooms next summer.

If you are thinking of buying a live Christmas tree, here are some tips. Keep the root ball well watered before planting. Dig the hole now while the soil is soft rather than wait till it freezes. Leave the tree outside until ready to decorate and take it down and plant as soon as Christmas is over. The warm house is bad for an evergreen. Also water well after planting. Your tree should never be in the house more than two weeks.

You may start trimming your roses back now that we have had some hard frosts and the leaves and blooms are wilted and dropped. As you probably remember from this column, I suggest cutting back to about 18 inches but some growers cut less and some cut more. Just keep in mind that you will lose a rose now and then from winter winds.The white and yellow roses, for some reason, are the hardest to grow as is the lavender.

After the ground has begun to freeze and the temperature has dropped to twenty degrees for several nights, mound up the dirt around the roses. Get the dirt from somewhere else because digging around the roots will damage them. On warm sunny days in late November, it’s a good thing to put a pile of dirt next to each rose to get ready for this mounding job.

I can never say enough about the miniature rose. They are by far the toughest rose I have ever cultivated. They seem immune to the winter winds and even disease. They make a great planting in front of foundation plants and also around the edges of flower beds. A rose is considered miniature if the blooms are small so you may find roses sold as miniature which are much larger than the tiny ones. When buying, check the label for height.

When I was very small and spent much time with Ma and Pa since we lived about 2 miles away, she and I spent several weeks scouting just the right tree for her dining room. When she thought it time, we went to find the tree which we had chosen weeks before, dug it up and put it in a bucket along with dirt to fill the bucket. She put it on the dining room table until Christmas when we had to put it somewhere else to make room for the big meals. She would wrap the bucket in some kind of paper and I would go up to the attic to bring down some very, very old decorations and we would choose my favorites to put on the tree. I still look back on that tradition as one of my favorite memories. That dear old grandmother could make the simplest things into magical events for me and for the other grandchildren that would follow.

I have been so pleased to have several calls this week telling me how much you enjoy this column, along with a lovely letter from Harrodsburg. It’s kind of like saying sic ‘em to an old hound dog.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with comments or suggestions.
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