The Joy of a Tree

The wisest people tell you to save and invest in your future, and this is great advise. But, there is another way to invest in your future as well.

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Plant a tree!

And, if you live in a hot climate, I would suggest you plant one that is going to give you plenty of shade in the years to come. That  tree may look small in your yard or landscape now, but with proper care and food, it will grow into a substantial part of your landscape, that will give you years of benefits.

There’s nothing more rewarding on a hot summer’s day than to sit under a shade tree and feel the difference in temperature compared to standing under the sun’s hot rays. And the relieve from the glare of the sunlight on your eyes makes you sigh. Children seem to instinctively know to play in the shade. They build tree houses to serve as a clubhouse, swing on tires hanging from the largest low branch, or just lay on a blanket to play with their toys or read a book. Some trees, like a Weeping Willow can become anything from an old fort to an enchanted kingdom. All it takes is an imaginative child and there will be hours of entertainment for a summer’s day.

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As an adult, I love to pull around a lounge chair and sit to read under an old shade tree. And, without a doubt, there is something romantic and old-fashioned about having a picnic on a blanket spread out under the tree’s shade. Can you picture it? A checkered blanket, a wicker basket overflowing with food and an open bottle of wine.

But the properly chosen shade tree can also be a practical choice. It can improve your property value and appearance of the other items on the land. Placed in the right location, pruned and fertilized to encourage optimum growth, your investment is sure to pay off. As the tree matures, it can even have an positive effect on your air conditioning bills.

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45604279 – female red squirrel standing on tree branch with flowers

There is one other benefit that I personally enjoy: the tree can become a home for many birds and other wildlife. It provides food and shelter for these animals. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting out in your backyard under the shade tree, listening to the birds song or watching the squirrels chase each other. You can’t help but to feel a sense of peace.

So make your investment: pick a tree for shade, flower  & fragrance or even for privacy.

Now, sit back & watch it your investment grow a little more each year.

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The Garden Catalog

Where you one of those kids that grabbed the Toys-R-Us Christmas catalog and ran off to dream about what to ask Santa?

Are you a catalog Junkie now?

 I know I am. nothing gives me pleasure like sitting down and it comfy chair with a cup of coffee and a stack of catalogs to go through. Nothing except a stack of gardening catalogs.

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 I’m amazed at how many new ways there are to promote gardening. From new types plants, to new types of tools with everything in between, the promotional ads are everywhere.

 There seems to be a gardening section in almost every catalog. From lawn ornaments, lawn furniture, outdoor lighting or tools and plants, the catalogs have a bit of everything. There’s such an array: you’re sure to find at least one or two things to mark on your wish list.

Personally, I love getting the catalogs with all of the new hybrid plants. Seeing your old favorites plants in a new light is exciting. The science behind developing these hybrids is fascinating, and the results can be surprising.

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And then there’s the tools. I wish I had the imagination to come up with such tools! Tools I can’t live without; from gloves attached with finger shovels, to contraptions that help you carry things across the lawn. If there’s a need, there’s an invention. Even if there isn’t a need at this time, somebody will make a tool, creating a need for it.

 I think it’s exciting when it industry as old as time comes up with new items and new ideas. It says much about our quest for the perfect garden. And the desire for the easiest way to achieve those results without breaking your back. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the old tool from the new one. The changes maybe as small as a different angle of a blade, of a new material used in manufacturing.

Have you ever noticed that you have a favorite tool? No matter what new product comes on the market, you hold fast to your favorite. Perhaps someone special it gave to you? Or it might be because you’re hesitant about trying something new. Or maybe you’re simply set in your ways and content with the tools you have. After all, if they work, do you need to change them?

It doesn’t matter if you’re content with your old favorites, or not willing to try new things, because we all seem to be tempted to find out about the newest and the best out on the market. I’d be willing to be that the gardener in you will pick up a magazine and flip the pages out of curiosity, when no one else is looking.

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I’ll say good bye for now, the mail carrier just delivered the newest magazine! Time to grab a glass of lemonade and find a shady spot in the garden…

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Love ’em or Hate ’em!

I think everybody will agree that the right tools for the job make the job go smoother.

There’s nothing worse than fighting with something when the right tool can make the job go so much faster and more efficiently. Getting the overall results you want with a lot less stress is the biggest advantage to find the perfect tool for the chore.

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The Gardener is no exception and there’s a huge array of tools at our disposal to make our job easier and give us something to discuss. The newest tool on the market is just one commercial away. Most of us are eager to try them out and voice our opinion  whether they’re good or bad. We may fall back on our old favorites time and time again, but we do love to try the newest market trend.

 I believe it’s safe to say the most essential tool to a gardener is whatever means you use to get water to your newly planted plants. The most common methods would involve either a water bucket or a hose. Now, there’s not too much you can do to a water bucket to change it, other than make it a pretty color or change a bit of the design. But the overall working mechanics of a water bucket doesn’t change.

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The garden hose is another story. It can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy. There are   many styles with great promises of being the perfect product on the market. You could spend an hour trying to figure out exactly which one you want. You can also spend a fortune on a garden hose. But, if you take it home, turn it on and it kinks up, then it wasn’t worth the time or money you paid. There’s nothing worse than getting part way to the plant you need  to be water and having the garden hose kink.

If you do have a problem, the best thing to do is to follow the hose back to the hose bib and figure out why the hose isn’t working properly. If the water is coming out at a trickle rather than full force, decide if the problem is at the water source or has the hose wrapped itself into a knot?

 A two-minute job has suddenly turned into a 10-minute fiasco, all because of the wrong tool. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve tried many styles, and I still haven’t found the perfect one. But I have learned a few lessons about how to use a hose, and here are a couple of tips that I can give you.

 1. If you can keep the water on while you’re winding up the hose you won’t get the Kinks. The exceptions  are the new expandable and retractable hoses. Unfortunately, if they hold too much pressure inside for long, they will burst.   You can agree,  that’s just as bad, because once they burst they are no good.

2. Another quick tip; if you’re near a pool and you can let your hose go across the water rather than across the decking, you’ll find it’s much lighter to move around. Often, kinks and twist in the hose will work themselves out when they’re in the water. I don’t know why, but it works to your advantage. Once your hose is all wrapped back up, release the pressure and let  the water out of it. This will help keep your hose from bursting as it builds up pressure in the heat of the day.  I think the best advice I can give you is to buy reinforced hose for your gardening work. I understand that it might be heavier than the retractable ones, but it will last the longest.  If your hose isn’t working properly, then take it to an area where you can expand it to the full length, and check for problems along the way. Once the job is done and the plants are watered, its time to step back and admire your work.

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 Use your tools to your advantage, not to your discouragement.

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What kind of garden will you grow?

Here is a question for you to consider…

are you a gardener for practicality or for beauty?

Because whichever one you decide you’re going to plant involves different plant choices and maintenance practices. Your chances for a successful garden could hinge on the answer you decide proceed with.

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For the gardener who is concerned most with Visual Appeal, then your gardening starts with picking plants that appeal to you the most. Then you will combine them and the environment  you’ve chosen for them to grow to their fullest potential. Maintenance practices will also be different. Your primary goal is to achieve lush foliage and showy flowers. This will require more precise pruning and dead-heading. Your fertilizing will need to be more specific for blooming plants

For a basic Green Landscape the goal will be to maintain your plants in a healthy condition where they can be pruned and fertilized regularly. Attention to detail isn’t as required in this situation.

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For the Sustainable Garden, or one that gives back, you may find more research is needed. It’s not as simple as going to the garden center and picking plants. You need to about know the plants  you’re picking. Do they need full sun? What insects are they prone to? When and how do you apply proper harvest methods? It’s extremely important with a sustainable garden to know what type of pesticides and fertilizers you are using. You want to be as organic as possible, using products that have little to no residual effect. Don’t forget, at some point you will want to harvest these products for eating.

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Many people have a limited space for gardening and will combine all three types of gardens into one area and is perfectly doable. You need to be focused on details, because in a mixed garden, one little problem quickly grow in to a major problem that can devastate your fruit or flower harvest.

Take a few minutes before you go to the garden center and draw out on a piece of paper how much space you’re giving your garden. Then decide how much of that space you want to give up for each type of plants. Walk out and look at the area  you will plant. Be sure you have easy access for getting your plants and materials back to the garden. Then check the soil; do you need to add to it? Is a little peat moss needed, or is simply turning over the soil and loosening it up enough?

Being properly prepared before you go select your plant material will save you many steps down the road.

By planning ahead, you will enjoy your garden to the fullest.

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The Garden Players

Some will call them pest, some will call them cute, but I will call them entertainment!

I’m talking about those little guys with the bushy tails, always busy, always moving and (it seems) always eating.

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Yes, I’m talking about Squirrels!

A friend of mine calls them rats with busy tails (obviously he doesn’t like them), but no matter what they are called, Squirrels are part of the garden culture. You need to learn to at least live with them.

Once you get past the fact they will eat the bird food you put out for the feathered guests in the garden, dig up your most tender plants and tease your cats watching from the window, you realize they really aren’t all that terrible to have in the garden.

My office has large windows looking out into my garden and I have hung the bird feeders in full view of all the activity. And there is plenty to watch. I’m fortunate to have a large variety of birds come to lunch on my offerings- from finches to cranes. Cardinals, blue jays, wood peckers, ground doves and mockingbirds are regular visitors as well. Occasionally I am lucky to find a humming bird. And as threatening as they can be, there is a falcon that will show up when he’s hungry.

Yet, as mesmerized as I become watching the movements of the birds, it is the antics of the squirrels that makes me smile. They endlessly chase each other around the garden, playing whole heartily like children at recess. Sometimes,  there will be a bit of bickering over who’s turn it is at the feeder, but it always works out, and everyone gets their share. Birds and squirrels alike. On the hot summer days, they can be found splashing and playing in the bird bath.

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I was gifted a fun birdfeeder that twirls with the weight of the heavier birds. It is designed for small finches, but don’t tell my squirrels. They think it was put there for their enjoyment. Even greasing the pole doesn’t detour their attempts at a meal. I laugh out loud as I watch their efforts. Once they finally reach the top, they jump to the feeder, only to have their weight cause the feeder to spin, often sending them flying. But they don’t give up and immediately try again.

There are 5-7 regular visitors from the squirrel community that make my yard their home. Nesting in the oak trees overhead, using my roof as quick access to the front yard and resting on the bench under my palm tree. They are used to me, and I know   with a little effort I could tame them enough to eat from my hand. As they patiently wait on the fence where the feeder is hanging from as I refill it, one or two are chattering at me the whole time. Politely they wait for the feeder to be hung back up before venturing forth to eat, my presence doesn’t bother them.

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So, I feed the birds and the squirrels and in return they give me their form of friendship and vast amounts of entertainment. I’d say it’s an arrangement we all agree on.

 

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What’s a Gardener to do?

The holiday season is over, all the decorations are packed away and a new year is in full swing.

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You enjoyed all those guests who came to share the joy of the season with you, and many came with gifts. Some living gifts, that need care long after the holiday season.

Like any gifted gardener, you have been able to keep your holiday plants in good health while the have added beauty and delight to your Christmas decorating. Now, you wonder, what do I do with them? Do I throw them away, mix them with my other potted plants, or plant them in my garden?

Although I don’t save the seasonal plants myself, many of my friends do. And they always ask me what to do with them.

The answer is pretty simple: treat them like any other foliage plant you may have. But there are a few things that you can do to promote blooms for the next holiday season.

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Poinsettia’s require altered daylight in the fall to set their beautiful red colors. With the  combination of daylight savings and the right location, they will do this with no extra help. Planting in the ground on the East or North East of your property will give the plant the lower light when they need it. Go ahead and cut the plant back when the threat of cold weather is over, and give it a feeding of good fertilizer.

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Christmas Cactus loves bright light, but will burn in our hot summers. Be sure to place this plant in a protected area. Hanging from an oak tree is perfect. Then, come late summer, make sure it is also in a location where it will receive the benefit of low light from daylight savings. Fertilizing with a blooming plants blend at this time will also promote flowers.

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Norfolk Island Pines are a popular alternative/addition for the traditional Christmas Tree. They are perfect for small homes or tabletops, often decorated with small ornaments and lights. After the holidays, they make a great potted plant. BUT, I urge you to consider the nature of this plant before you plant it in your yard! This sweet little plant can grow into a tree over 40-50′ tall (in their native land over 100′). This plant has now become a major part of your landscape.  If you decide not to plant it outside, then it will do very well as a houseplant, reaching heights of 5-6′. As a houseplant, it will need bright light, even moisture and normal fertilizing.

These are the 3 most common Christmas plant that will give you the benefit of becoming year-round plants.  I wish you the best with them, and hope you will have many years of holiday colors with them.

 

 

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Be The Garden Reporter

Congratulations!

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 You’ve decided to add gardening to your lifestyle. The first step you need to take is to act like a reporter and answer the 5 questions every reporter knows will make for a great story.

Five one word questions-you’ve heard this before: Who, What, When, Where and Why.

 This sounds silly to apply these questions to gardening, but— if you think about it— it makes sense.

 Who? Who are you planning the garden for? For your own enjoyment? Or perhaps to enhance your landscape so your neighbors will enjoy it and meet the codes of the community.

 What? What is the goal of your landscape design? Are you trying to hide or enhance a view, are you trying to create a pathway and direct traffic? Or are you trying to add color and interest to a mundane landscape?

When? This can be extremely important. When are you planning on doing the Landscaping? During the heat of Summer? If so, watering will be a critical issue. If you’re planting in the January/February months, then you have to anticipate the possibility of a frost which might affect your new growth on her new plants.

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Photo by Botanical Concepts, LLC

Where? Where do you want to spend your time gardening? In the privacy of a small courtyard garden. Or maybe where you can enjoy the natural view of the ocean or river as you work. 

Why? This is the most personal question of all. Why do you want to go through the hard work and effort of adding to your landscape? It could be a monetary reason such as trying to improve your property value. Or, perhaps it’s merely for your personal enjoyment. Maybe you want to attract butterflies and birds.

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Once you determine the answers to those five questions thing you ready to start your quest for a new landscape look.

Happy Gardening!

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