The people's voice of reason

Southern Gardening - Potpourri for December

When I think of the month of December the words cheerful, happy, joyful come to mind. There is so much to do with family and friends such as decorating the house together, having a few neighbors in for coffee and eggnog, and fine tuning the Christmas tree to make this the best Christmas ever. Every year I always buy a few new tree ornaments to add to the mix. A friend commented last year that I had so many wonderful ornaments that it would take someone until next Christmas to look at them all. Needless to say, I like Christmas trees that are full, not skimpy. But each to his own. And of course, Christmas decorations must include poinsettias. These plants greet anyone who comes into your home with a big loud Merry Christmas.

Also, this is the time of year for giving. Throughout the year, I make different items to give as Christmas gifts. When the pears come in at the farm, I make pear chutney; when the tomatoes come in, I make a delicious tomato relish called Orr Sauce; then there is beer mustard, Jezebel Sauce and pepper jelly. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I gaze upon the glass canning jars filled with these wonderful condiments. But if you are not into canning, home baked goods are always a welcomed gift.

The garden chores switch from constantly weeding, to pulling out the last of the annuals and pruning back the perennials. Many of the annuals have now reseeded such as zinnias, cleome, and torenia. These flowers you can term underground or invisible. I try not to disturb these areas when working in the beds so as not to destroy the seed habitat. I also gather what seed that is left and place them in paper envelopes labeled with the flower and date. These gathered seeds when planted will germinate at a much better rate if sown the next season.

Another chore we need to take a look at is pruning. Many of my canna lilies have encroached into a lot of the bed, so I must dig them out. Cannas also make wonderful gifts. The cast iron plant or aspidistra is another creeping invasive plant that has its place in the garden but not the whole garden. It is funny that when a plant is happy and wants to say “Thank You”, it multiplies before your very eyes. After a 3-year battle, I thought I had completely eradicated the Mexican petunia or Ruellia, but to my horror, it has shot up about 10 plants. These are the purple variety and the most prolific. I see them in garden centers selling for $5.00 a gallon. All I can say is “buyer beware.” Not so much in Montgomery, but at the farm, I am constantly in hand to hand combat with honeysuckle. It goes without saying that it is too late to prune azaleas, and basically any flowering shrub that blooms in the spring because the blooms for this spring were set about 6-8 weeks after they bloomed last season. If you do prune these now, the areas cut back on the shrub will be devoid of flowers.


This plant is also called the Cast-Iron-plant and for good reason. It is almost impossible to kill and has been termed the best houseplant for beginners.

Outdoors this plant gives structure to the flowerbeds with its dark to medium lime green blade shaped leaves. Many times it is used as a ground cover under Magnolia trees and Oak trees where precious little will thrive. Aspidistra is native to Japan and China, can survive in most soil types and requires little to no maintenance. It falls into the family Ruscaceae and has hidden blooms. If the leaves turn yellow, just cut them to the ground.

One of the best uses I have found for aspidistra is in flower arrangements. The long leaves make a dramatic showing in the arrangements. Since it is a woody, stemmed plant, these leaves hold up for weeks.



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