Posts tagged winter

Brucemore in winter

   I’m fortunate to live near the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids. I rarely miss Balloon Glow on Brucemore’s massive front lawn and other summer events, but winter has its own appeal.

   The following event coming up on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, will highlight the winter landscape at Brucemore. Here is how the Brucemore staff describes their guided hike:

   The trees and grounds glisten under a blanket of un-tracked snow. Brucemore’s ever-changing landscape is beautiful even through the cold days of winter. Join the Brucemore gardeners on Saturday, January 24, at 10:30 a.m. for a guided hike through the estate’s 26 acres of natural outdoor winter beauty.

 

Brucemore’s winter hike follows an unpaved and often unseen route around the Brucemore estate. Current issues of preservation and public use are explored, along with stories from the past about the Brucemore families’ seasonal activities. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about their own gardens and landscapes.

 

Admission is $10 per person and free to Brucemore members. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online at www.brucemore.org .

 

Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classroom experiment

 

 

     Several weeks ago, my sons both brought home their classroom projects: corn and bean plants they sprouted in plastic cups. The boys envisioned eating fresh corn and beans in the cold of Iowa’s winter. So, more to make them happy than thinking they would continue growing, I agreed to transplant them into a larger container.

 

Just two weeks ago, pretty pinkish blossoms appeared on the bean plants and in the last several days the beans started emerging. Even though it won’t make a hearty meal, the plants have been fun to watch and they’ll provide a little taste of summer in January.

 

 

bean sprouts

bean sprouts

homegrown beans

homegrown beans

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The gardening itch

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

     OH!  I had an itch I couldn’t scratch the other day.  And, it occurred two days in a row! The weather was so beautiful!  I wanted so badly to scratch in the snow and dirt to just take a tiny little peek into the flower beds.  I don’t really know what I expected to find.  But I was so curious.  I strolled around the yard. It was like the second day of my latest diet:  can I resist the urge?!   I did resist though not wanting to disrupt the protection the melting mulch provides.  But, then, lo and behold!  A seed catalog arrived in my mail box.  Now how do the seed companies know when to provide a positive reinforcement that spring is just around the corner!

     January is a perfect time of the year to plan gardens.  Measurements will help determine the number of plants needed.  Check the Iowa State University Extension Service web site for gardening information.    Share photos at your favorite garden center.  Ask lots and lots of questions.  Gardeners are nearly always willing to offer advice and knowledge.    One of the most difficult decisions for me in purchasing new plants is color combinations that will provide attractive contrasts.   I relate to a statement, “nature doesn’t create bad color combinations, we do” in an Iowa State Horticulture and Home Pest News publication entitled “Color for Winter Landscapes throughout the Year”.  The article promotes color and interest in conifers but I found it intriguing in the combinations of colors suggested. 

     An absolute must have for a source for color combinations is the 2009 Iowa State University Extension Service calendar available for $6.00 at the Linn County Office in Marion (or mailed to you for $8.00).  Each month features dramatic photos in a different color for each month with lists of annuals, perennials and woody plant selections in the color of the month. The final two pages share a wealth of design information.  And, the back cover provides numerous Horticulture publications and resource contacts.  It is one of the most informative calendars around. 

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Mistletoe mythology

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

I’m sitting here gazing out the window again.  It’s cold.  It’s dreary.  The big round hay bales are adorned in caps of frozen snow.  The cardinal in my Lilac Bush must have flown the coop for better living conditions. Now and then an occasional squirrel scurries across the yard searching for buried treasures.  Flocks of wild turkeys dotted the hillside along East Post Road and Hwy 100 yesterday.  We followed three young deer trotting down the middle of our road acting as if the right of way was theirs.  I suppose it was easier than struggling in the deep snow.  They stopped in a neighbor’s drive and glared as if we were imposing on their life style.  We wondered how many critters are wintering in homes along our road abandoned due to the flood.

            Relatives from Texas are in Iowa for the Holidays. We’ll enjoy a dinner with them and the weather will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation. My brother stopped yesterday with holiday cheer.  We travel to rural Bertram for another meal with fine food, fun gifts, and mega-jocularity.  97 year old Great Grandma will join us for a brunch.  Grandson Charlie got a reply, postmarked from the North Pole (!) from his letter to Santa.  Granddaughter Catie is convinced she has been a model child all year, but is waffling a bit on the Santa Claus thing.

 ‘Tis the Holiday Season. Hopefully everyone can find something, albeit small, to be thankful for.

 Many of us continue to be abundantly blessed.  Others are not so lucky. My Holiday wish to you is that you enjoy this Season for whatever reason you choose, but please, please make a note to yourself, that like wildlife that strives to survive this frigid weather, many many friends, acquaintances and folks you’ve never met will need your help going forward as they struggle to regain a balance in their lives.  Remember them as we embark on another New Year.

            On a lighter note:  any idea why we call Nature “Mother” and Winter “Old Man”?  Did you know Mistletoe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?  Its berries are poisonous; it has no roots so leaches from the tree to which it’s attached and in mythology was said to be a sign of submission when sighted during times of war!

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Attracting birds and other wintertime tips

The following Q&A is from Iowa State University Extension’s garden experts:

I recently purchased a Norfolk Island pine.  How do I care for it? 

 

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant. During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons and ornaments. The Norfolk Island pine thrives indoors when given good, consistent care. Place the Norfolk Island pine in a brightly lit location near an east, west or south window. Rotate the plant weekly to prevent the plant from growing toward the light and becoming lopsided. 

 

Thoroughly water the Norfolk Island pine when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, which drains out the bottom of the pot. From spring to early fall, fertilize the plant with a dilute fertilizer solution every 2 to 4 weeks. A temperature of 55 to 70  degrees F is suitable for the Norfolk Island pine. Winter is often a difficult time because of low relative humidity levels in most homes. Raise the humidity level around the Norfolk Island pine with a humidifier or place the plant on a pebble tray. Low relative humidity levels, insufficient light, or infrequent watering may induce browning of branch tips and lead to the loss of the lower branches. 

 

Which trees and shrubs provide food for birds during the winter months? 

 

When attempting to attract birds to the landscape, trees and shrubs that provide food during the winter months are extremely important as natural foods are most limited at this time of year. Trees that provide food for birds in winter include hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), hawthorn (Crataegus species), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and crabapple (Malus species). Shrubs that provide food for birds include red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), sumac (Rhus species), roses (native species and Rosa rugosa), snowberry (Symphoricarpos species), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). 

 

Can I dispose of my wood ashes in the garden? 

 

Wood ashes contain small amounts of several plant nutrients. The nutrient content of wood ashes depends on the type of wood burned, the thoroughness of its burning, and other factors.  Generally, wood ashes contain 5 to 7 percent potash, 1 percent phosphate, and small amounts of other elements. However, the largest component of wood ashes is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is a liming material. Liming materials raise the soil pH. 

 

The soil pH is important because it affects the availability of essential nutrients. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Any pH below 7.0 is acidic and any pH above 7.0 is alkaline. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Most vegetables and perennials grow best in slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Plants may not perform as well in soils with a pH above 7.0 because of the reduced availability of some essential nutrients. 

 

Avoid applying wood ashes to garden areas with a pH above 7.0. Applying wood ashes to alkaline soils may raise the soil pH and reduce the availability of some plant nutrients. An application of 10 to 20 pounds of wood ashes per 1,000 square feet should be safe if the soil pH is below 7.0. If the soil pH in your garden is unknown, conduct a soil test to determine the pH of your soil before applying wood ashes to flower or vegetable gardens. 

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Grandma’s plants

     The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

     Did you get Grandma’s Christmas list?  I’ll bet she says she doesn’t want anything:  she has too much stuff already.  What do you do?  How about a winter blooming window sill plant!

     There are some really neat little fellows out there.

·         African Violet:    has soft thick leaves and beautiful petite blooms.  Enjoys temperatures around 70’ with good air circulation.  Likes about 16 hrs. of daylight and 8 hrs. of darkness each day to produce blooms.  Hmmmmm sounds just like my Mom, warmer temps. and a good night’s sleep!

·         Shamrock:  resembles a large clover. Can have green leaves but can also be tricolored or deep purple.  Desires cooler temperatures, around 65’ and lots of bright light.  Grandma will be lucky to receive this one.

·         Spider Plant:  enjoys bright light and temperatures around 65’.  Mine profusely  grows long slender leaves with tiny white flowers in a sunny Northwest window.   Pebbles and water in a saucer under the plant offers humidity, keep the roots away from the water though.

·         Cyclamen:  heart shaped leaves and papery soft petals blooming in winter.  Wants well drained soil, really cool temperatures, i.e. 55’ and indirect light.  Great for an area without a lot of windows.  

    If Grandma would prefer a larger plant try:

·         Peace Lily:  not for the faint of heart, this plant has the capacity to become huge. Use it to fill an empty corner.  One of the first plants I ever had, I can attest that the Peace Lily will survive well in almost any condition.  Prefers bright, filtered, or natural light.  Has abundance of glossy, green foliage and regularly produces dramatic white blossoms.  Enjoys any comfortable room temperature.  Soil should be kept evenly moist.

·         Norfolk Island Pine:   Grandma gets a small live Holiday tree with this one.  Let the grandkids have fun decorating with lightweight ornaments.  Thrives with consistent care.  Needs brightly lit window.  Rotate weekly as it will grow toward the light.  Water thoroughly when soil becomes dry to touch. Discard excess water from saucer.  Likes humidity:  place on a pebble tray.  Likes temperatures 55-70’. 

    Complete your choice with a colorful bow and a handmade card and Grandma’s gift will be indeed special! 

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Salt, de-icers and trees

The following is from the International Society of Arboriculture. The group’s Public and Industry Relations Manager, Sonia Garth, encouraged readers to also check out their Web site at www.treesaregood.org for more information.

 

     When winter snow and ice begin to fall, so does the salt, on driveways, sidewalks, and streets to aid in melting away potential hazards. Keeping our surroundings safe during the winter months is important, but salt can be a serious threat to our trees, when used without caution.

     “Excessive exposure to salt can cause widespread damage to your trees, leading to permanent decline and sometimes death,” said Jim Skiera, Executive Director of the ISA. “The problem with salt damage is that it might not show up on your trees until summer, when deicing salt is the last culprit you would suspect.” 

     To minimize the damage done to trees by deicing salts, Certified Arborists at ISA offer the following tips:

1. Use less salt. Mix deicing salt with abrasives such as sand, cinders, and ash, or use alternatives such as calcium magnesium acetate and calcium chloride.

2. Protect your trees from salt trucks on the street. If possible, set up barriers between the street and your trees to keep salt spray from hitting tree trunks.

3. Plant salt-resistant trees. Trees such as the sycamore maple, white spruce, willow, and birch tend to be more salt-resistant than other species. How well they fare varies from climate to climate across the country.

4. Improve soil drainage. Add organic matter to your soil to help filter salt deposits.

You can also keep your trees healthy by taking care of their basic needs. Other tips that will help combat the damage done by deicing salt include:

·        Irrigate to flush the salts from the soils in spring

·        Mulch sufficiently to reduce water loss.

·        Control pest infestations and destructive tree diseases.

     If you feel your trees may be susceptible to salt damage, contact a local ISA Certified Arborist in your area.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), headquartered in Champaign, Ill., is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research and education around the world. As part of ISA’s dedication to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees, it offers the only internationally-recognized certification program in the industry. For more information on ISA and Certified Arborists, visit www.isa-arbor.com.

 

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