Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is it Poisonous?

Many holiday plants are toxic...but do you know which ones? Read on to learn more about potentially poisonous plants.


Contrary to popular belief poinsettias ARE NOT considered dangerous. In the 1970s, scientists determined that concerns over the plant were unfounded.


The berries of these pretty plants, more often found outside than in, can be toxic if ingested. Eating 20 berries can be fatal to a child.


Photo from the US Forest Service

This romantic plant has a dark side. The entire plant is poisonous if eaten. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to 'Love Bites'.


Found on the prairie (and currently in my living room) bittersweet's dainty orange berries are a designer's dream. Be cautious, however, as these bountiful berries can cause a reduced heart rate, sedation and headaches.

Looking for a non-poisonous alternative?
Christmas Cactus is completely harmless.

Photo from Texas A&M.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poinsettia Tutorial

I love poinsettias. (Probably because if it's red, I think I have to have it.) I think I have sent more than one to a premature death, unfortunately. However, with a few tips and tricks you and I can both keep our plants alive and thriving. (If we are really lucky, we may even coax it into re-blooming.)

  • To start, choose a plant with thoroughly colored bracts ("leaves" in laymen terms).
  • Once you get your plant home, place it in an area that will get indirect sunlight at least 6 hours a day.
  • Make sure the plant is not near excessive heat or a draft. Poinsettias will suffer at temperatures of 50 degrees or below.
  • Be careful not to over water your Poinsettia. Standing water that doesn't drain is a no-no.
  • Fertilize your plant after the blooming cycle is over.

How to Re-Bloom your Poinsettia
Once the leaves start to loose their appeal, don't throw the plant out, give re-blooming a try.
  • Cut the plant back to 8 inches in height in late March or early April.
  • Continue watering as normal.
  • Fertilize once.
By May, you will notice some serious growth.

  • Once the days are warm and nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees, move the plant outside. Continue to fertilize every 2-3 weeks.
  • Additional pruning may be necessary to keep the plant from getting leggy. Prune as necessary, but DON'T prune after September 1.
  • Starting October 1, keep the plant in total darkness for 14 hours each night. (The plant will still need 6-8 hours of bright sunlight a day.)

With patience, and a little luck, the plant should be back in bloom by next Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flower Variety Spotlight

Anything with the word "profusion" in its name is a plant for me. Take the new Profusion Zinnia from Sakata Seed America. Flowers can grow up to 12 inches and spread up to 24 inches.

Plants in the series have won the All-America Selections' God Medal three times for white, orange and cherry varieties.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mulch Roses

If you have any type of rose bush (including knock outs), mulch them after Christmas to help them get through the winter.

Mound 6-12 inches of mulch around the crown of the plant, to protect the roots and the graft union where the rose species you are growing is attached to a hardy root stock. (Don't try to use the soil around the rose bush as mulch. Moving it could expose or disturb the roots.)

The mulch will help keep the soil temperature constant, protecting the plant from heaving out of the ground due to freeze and thaw cycles.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Christmas Tree

We went with a Fraser Fir:

Send me pictures of your decorated tree! tara patty at ryan lawn dot com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crown Reduction on Bradford Pears

Bradford Pears are notoriously weak-wooded trees. High winds can split the trees in half easily, and with winter storms around the corner, prized pears should be pruned to avoid this fate.

Ryan Lawn & Tree recommends crown reductions to keep pears in check. This involves drastically reducing the canopy weight of the tree so that it is not so top heavy. We pruned the Bradford Pear above this fall. You can definitely tell it has been pruned, but it looks great and should be good to go this winter.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Storm Coming...

Or so I hear on the news. So far, we haven't been hit very hard. I went out to my car late this morning to get some change and it was wet, but not icy.

If we do get some major snowfall tonight and tomorrow, you may salt your driveway. If you decide to use deicing products, only use as much as you need. Over applying can cause damage to your lawn and ornamentals.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Douglas Fir

Photo from Taylors Trees

Larry Ryan pointed out that I forgot a species during my Christmas Tree series. He was talking about Douglas Fir, a species native to the west coast.

The branches are spreading and drooping in its natural shape, and have dark green to blue green needles. (Most of the Douglas Firs on the lots that are conical have been pruned that way...this may result in a compact tree that is more difficult to decorate.)

You can buy Douglas Firs that haven't been pruned, if you prefer. Heartland Nursery has them in stock.

Christmas Tree Review
Fraser Fir
Scotch Pine
Eastern Red Cedar
Blue Spruce
White Pine

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Heuchera

It is COLD outside today. Luckily, I received a magazine yesterday that highlighted some new cultivars that will be available this spring, so I was warm at heart.

One of my favorites: Autumn Leaves Heuchera from Terra Nova Nurseries.

Autumn Leaves is a four-season plant with vibrant red leaves. The leaves gradually change through the season, finishing off with dark red leaves in the fall. The plant will grow in sun or shade, but prefers well-drained soils. Try it for accent or contrast in mixed beds.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seed Bombs?

I came across these on a design website this afternoon - I have to admit, I was intrigued. I have never heard of such a thing.

I did a quick Google search which, to my horror (delight), revealed the underbelly of the gardening scene. Apparently Guerrilla Gardening is all the rage in bustling metropolises on the coasts (read - New York and L.A.)

In order to be a rouge gardener, you need seed bombs (or seed grenades, as they are sometimes called). You take the "bomb" which is made of a compressed ball of soil containing live vegetation and drop (or throw, with sound effects) them into neglected or vacant spaces that - gasp - don't belong to you. Guerrilla gardeners use these bombs to beautify their environments in secret.

(Some guerrilla gardeners wake up before dawn to plant abandoned expanses of earth the old fashioned way. They may continue to visit the plot to weed and maintain their crop.)

Who says gardening can't be edgy?

Learn more about the movement at guerrillagardening.org.
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