Christmas is just around the corner and it is a busy, busy time of the year. It is also good to remind ourselves that we should busy ourselves getting closer to family and friends. Plan activities and outings to include children such as viewing the lights at the zoo, or going to a Holiday Pops concert, or having a Christmas cookie bake-a-thon at home. Then make enough to share some of the cookies with residents at a local nursing home. So do not let the time slip away, just start planning the outing, or getting tickets to the concert, or getting out the cook book for the cookie recipe.
There has been much written about how to attract butterflies into the garden setting, but have we thought about attracting our avian friends? Bird feeders are an avenue for this purpose, but have you thought of planting berry producing tree and shrubs? There are dozens of worthy shrubs which can fill the bill in this regard, which produce showy berries in late fall and throughout winter. Here are some plants which you can plant in you garden or yard that will give the birds something to chirp about.
1. Evergreen hollies- the contrast between their dark green leaves and bright orange berries are striking and attract birds.
2. Alabama deciduous hollies-after loosing it leaves, the orange berries dance along the stalks to the delight of birds.
3. Chokeberries-there are 2 varieties of the black chokeberry which are deciduous and there are many red varieties. Recently I walked some property I own in Dallas County, I noticed both varieties full of berries and obvious signs of bird feedings.
4. Mahonia- there are several varieties which will attract birds. Mahonia fruit with a blue berry on evergreen gray green leaves.
5. Sumac-with bright yellow and red foliage sport heavy swags of bright red fruit that draw dozens of bird varieties. Sumacs are quite evident this time of year along highways and country roads.
6. Southern Wax Myrtle-these shrubs have blue gray fruit, but some 25 species of birds will have a feast on this shrub.
PLANT OF THE MONTH - CHRISTMAS CACTUS
Someone asked me recently to comment about the care of Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergia spp.) First of all, they can bloom at any time of the year, but most commonly around Thanksgiving and Christmas. They naturally respond to shorter days and cooler weather by growing buds at the end of their stems, call cladodes. These are short flattened stems which act as leaves. They come in a variety of colors, including red which is popular around Christmas. Keep the plant cool and keep the humidity as high as possible. It does not like wet feet, so never let it sit in water, and give it indirect sunlight. Christmas Cacti are readily available in nurseries and garden centers now and make wonderful gifts.
Chores in the garden this time of year mainly consist of raking leaves, cutting back spent perennials, and discarding any dead annuals. Also remember we can still seed poppies, and larkspur for a beautiful spring show. Both poppies and larkspur seed are sown by raking over the area, sowing the seed, barely raking some dirt over the top. Leave these areas without mulch as the seed will not germinate next spring. It is easier to accomplish this task if you would fill in a to do list, and write it down.
T'is the season to be merry... have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.