From Al Krismer Plant Farm

December  2011


The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

- Christmas Carol

We hope to make your holidays a more pleasant, rewarding, and successful endeavor for you with seasonal e-news. Most of your gardening activity will of course be indoors this month, and includes regular checking of houseplants for water and pests.  Remember the rule, if in doubt, donít water.  It is better to err on the side of too dry rather than too wet

Look for our January Garden Tips coming early next month. Make sure you check our upcoming monthly tips which will feature our new plants for spring 2012.

A few interesting tips......

  • Save cardboard cylinders from holiday wrapping paper for making biodegradable, cutworm collars. Cut cylinders into 3-inch tubes to fit over transplants.

  • Try other plants for the Christmas holidays besides poinsettias. These include such long lived Christmas Cactus and amaryllis. Or you might want to try a colorful cyclamen for a cool windowsill. Read more about the 'other' holiday plants in this our December

  • For the gardener, each year there are many new gardening tools. Small tools might include special trowels and digging implements, specialty pruners, and even new styles of garden gloves. Every good gardener has a hand pruner, but how many have a pruning holster that straps onto your belt?

  • Try the new 'fantasy' poinsettias which extend the color spectrum for poinsettias.

    Forward these garden tips to a friend

  • Other December Garden Tips

    Holiday Houseplant Decorating Tips

    • You also can decorate your home for the holidays or the season with azaleas, cyclamens, Christmas cacti, and, everyone's favorite, poinsettias. Be sure to purchase plants that are disease- and insect-free. Look for lush, green foliage, and avoid cold injury by wrapping well for the trip from store to home

    • Once home, remove the decorative foil or punch a small hole in the foil to allow water to drain freely out of the bottom holes. Place your holiday plants away from drafts and heating sources.

    • When buying houseplants in winter be sure to wrap them well for the trip home. This prevents the foliage from freezing and protects tropicals from drafts

    • Fresh flowers make every holiday occasion more festive. To help them last longer, remove any foliage that will sit below the water. Recut their stems under water, then transfer them immediately to a clean vase filled with lukewarm water that has floral preservative dissolved in it. Once they're arranged, put them in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.

    • Cut poinsettias can last up to ten days in arrangements. Congeal latex immediately after cutting by quickly searing the cut ends, dipping the ends in boiling water for ten seconds, or soaking the stems in ice water for several minutes

    • For unusual seasonal decorations, attach shiny, red and gold apples to wreaths and garlands.

    • Some other garden and landscaping materials that can have a role in holiday decorating include cones, sweet gum seed pods, acorns, dried flowers and gourds, and miniature ears of Indian corn. Dried weed heads, milkweed pods, bittersweet, dried ferns, and even seed pods from catalpa and locust trees can be used as well.

    • Research at Oregon State University has shown that dipping berried shoots of holly Ilex aquifolium in 3 to 4 percent calcium chloride solution for one minute results in firmer, better-keeping berries.

    • Boughs of Colorado spruce, balsam, and white pine provide an aromatic decoration for the holidays, or any time during the cold winter months. You can cut your own, or buy boughs at most outlets where Christmas trees are sold, to use on the mantle or as a centerpiece. Or try your hand at making your own wreath

    • Fresh flowers make every holiday occasion more festive. To help them last longer, remove any foliage that will sit below the water. Recut their stems under water, then transfer them immediately to a clean vase filled with lukewarm water that has floral preservative dissolved in it. Once they're arranged, put them in a cool place, out of direct sunlight

    • For a special gift order one of our four styles of holiday arrangements.


    Christmas Tree Tips

    • If you buy your tree from a cut-your-own place, you'll know it's fresh. For precut trees, test for freshness by bending the needles between your fingers. If they don't snap or break, then the tree is fresh. Or bounce the tree on the ground. A shower of falling needles indicates that the tree is too dry

    •  Get your tree into a bucket of hot water within 15 to 20 minutes after a fresh cut is made to the trunk. We will be happy to make a fresh cut for you, but if you can't get it into water quickly, you should saw a thin slice off the bottom of the trunk right before putting it in water. This will help the tree take up water and stay green longer

    • When you set up your tree, try to place it away from heat ducts, fireplaces and sunny windows. Check the water level daily to be sure there is always water in the reservoir of the stand.

    • If you decorate with pinecones, place them on a cookie sheet and "bake" in a 200 F degree-oven for a few hours. Cool before using. This will kill any insect pests that hitched a ride inside.

    • Use pine, fir and juniper greens to make holiday decorations such as wreaths, garlands and swags.


    Holiday Plants:

    •  Provide houseplants with increased humidity; mist often or place plants over a tray of moist pebbles.

    • Try some of the new poinsettia varieties a wide range of colors and types. The "winter rose" type have spherical bracts, some varieties have been bred in various shades of plum, light salmon. apricot and two tone bracts.

      Tired of the same red poinsettia.

      New Luv U Pink deep pink long lasting hybrid poinsettia from Ecke poinsettias

      Polar Bear poinsettia ---For every Polar Bear purchased, Ecke Poinsettias will make a donation to Polar Bears International for research and education projects in support of polar bears

      Hints on Selection and care of poinsettias


    • The bright colors of cyclamen blooms chase away the winter blahs. For home display, be sure to protect furniture by placing your plant in a favorite container with a water-tight liner inside. Remove the plant for watering and draining. For an elegant look, cut a few blooms and place them in a slender bud vase or small pitcher. The blooms resemble orchids when displayed in this manner

    • Plant paperwhite narcissus bulbs in a shallow container of soil or gravel. They need no special cold treatment, only a steady supply of moisture. Keep the container in bright sunlight. You might have to stake or tie flowering stems upright if they grow too floppy. These delicate little flowers send out a fragrance that will permeate your home.

    • If outdoor plants dry out during the winter, the foliage can be damaged. Water plants in late summer and fall, especially if rain has been less than normal, and on warm winter days if soil is dry.

    • Norfolk Island pine, a popular houseplant, can work well as a small, table-top Christmas tree. Keep it in a sunny window and allow the soil to dry a little between thorough waterings. Use tiny, lightweight decoration, including lights that don't give off much heat.

    • Ideally poinsettias need daytime temperatures of 60 to 70įF and nighttime temperatures no less than 55įF. High temperatures will shorten the plants life

    • Decrease water and fertilizer on Christmas cactus if the buds are developing. To prolong the colorful bracts on poinsettias, keep them where temperatures don't exceed 70 degrees (F) during the day or drop below 65 degrees at night. Keep potted amaryllis in a cool (60 degrees) shaded location until buds open. Then move it wherever you like. Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures, so keep them back from south-facing windows that heat up during the day. Cyclamen also prefer even moisture, so donít allow to wilt and definitely donít keep too wet or they may rot.


      Amaryllis tip sheet

      Cyclamen tip sheet

      Paperwhite narcissus tip sheet

      Christmas Cactus tip sheet

      Kalanchoe tip sheet

    Shrubs and Trees and Garden Care:

    • To prevent sunscald (winter sunburn on bark) and frost cracking on young, thin-barked trees, such as maples, wrap the trunks with tree wrap or paint the south- and southwest-facing sides of the trunk with white, outdoor, latex paint. This will reflect the warming rays of the sun so the tree bark doesn't heat up on winter days, only to be suddenly cooled when the sun sets and the temperature plummets

    • Prevent salt damage along sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel salt laden snow onto the turf. Kentucky bluegrass is very sensitive to salt damage. Try using calcium chloride based de-icers, sand or kitty litter

    • Apply a two to four inch layer of mulch over perennials when the ground starts to freeze. This will help to prevent heaving of the plant out of the ground during warm spells.

    • If you have hollies, boxwoods or other evergreens, now is a fine time to trim or prune them for holiday decorations. (Don't prune or trim any shrubs that flowers in the spring, like azaleas or forsythia, or you'll be trimming away the part that would have flowered in the spring.) Also, thin whispy growth that might be broken by ice and wet snow can be pruned from shrubs like butterfly bush, roses, annabelle hydrangea etc..

    • Protect evergreens from harsh winter winds by building a simple windscreen. Position the posts on the sides most prone to winds (generally the west and north) and wrap with burlap. Don't use plastic as this will heat up, causing the plants to fry on sunny days. Continue to water evergreens until the ground freezes.

    • Commercial tree guards or protective collars made of 18-inch high hardware cloth will prevent trunk injury to fruit trees from gnawing rabbits and rodents.

      Click here for more info


    Pond Care:

    • Now that the leaves are off the trees, clean fallen leaves from your pond and consider a pond de-icer if you have fish. If you pond's surface is frozen over, Do Not break the ice, doing so could harm your fish. Instead, use warm water to melt a hole in the ice or use a Pond De-icer to keep a hole open.

    • If you turn pumps and filters off for the winter, be sure to drain all the connected plumbing. External filters, UV's, and external pumps will also need to be drained to prevent damage.

    • Consider adding artificial plants to your water garden for a splash of color during these months that are too cold for live plants.

    • Warm spells throughout the winter may tempt you to offer food to your fish. It is much safer for the fish to avoid this temptation; fish cannot properly digest food when the water temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


    Garden Critters:

    • This is a good time to stock up on birdseed for the winter. Black oil sunflower seed is preferred by most species although you might want to provide niger or thistle seed for finches and suet for woodpeckers and chickadees. Blue jays (and squirrels, too) like corn--shelled, cracked, or dried on the cob. Provide a source of water, if possible, preferably a heated bird bath with covered heating element and an automatic shut-off valve or heat cycling on-off switch. The first protects the birds from injury to their feet, the second will prevent damage to the birdbath if goes dry. Use a grounded, three pronged outlet to prevent the possibility of electrocution. Place a flat piece of shale over the heating element to will provide a warm rock for birds to perch on to rest or drink.

    • Clean your birdfeeders in preparation for the winter bird feeding season. Wash feeders with hot, soapy water and soak and rinse with a solution of one part liquid household bleach in nine parts of warm water. Clean feeders twice a month during the winter.

    • Most common birds will visit platform feeders. They are simple to build, or you can buy hopper-style feeders that can be suspended by a wire or placed on a pole. Juncos, white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows, and towhees prefer to feed on the ground. These species will feed on seed kicked off platform feeders by other birds or on feed placed on the ground for them

    • Hanging, tube-type feeders attract American goldfinches, chickadees, and a variety of other species. Tube feeders permit goldfinches to avoid competition with blue jays and grackles which take over platform feeders. Tube feeders will also attract pine siskins and red polls when they are in the area

      For more tips on feeding birds       Click here

      Bird feeding chart      click here

      Read about the mistletoe bird


    Monthly Garden Tips are sent out by Al Krismer Plant Farm by the 15th of each month. Previous garden tips are archived. Please go to our home page at for selection.


    The purpose of the website links and other news articles is to provide information to the reader and in no way implies a particular endorsement or recommendation of that particular website or any content or material within the website


    Contact Information


    phone: 513-385-3276