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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for December

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...Christmas is upon us. We can count our blessings to include no lockdowns, no mandatory anything, where we can attend our houses of worship, and freely visit family and friends. One does not know how much we have while living in America until certain freedoms are taken away. Let's pray we never have to go through the last 2 years again.

It is time to bring home pots of bright poinsettias, narcissus, mulling spices to fragrant the home during the holidays, Christmas cactus, and garlands of greenery to decorate the house. You may want to invite friends over for a little Christmas cheer or have a neighborhood open house, inviting newcomers to enjoy and meet new people. Christmas is definitely a time for sharing goodwill and love. Love is truly the most important thing we can spread not only during this season, but all year round.

What to do in the December garden? Whether we have had a hard freeze or not, we must prepare to shelter tender tropicals, and perennials from sure death. Cut back Dragon Wing begonias if in pot gardens and put them in pots and place in a garden shed or garage. I usually wrap the pots with newspaper for better insulation and this goes for all pots which are not brought into the house. Although Vinca is not a perennial here in zone 8, last year I did an experiment by repotting some Vinca in a clay pot with soil which was about 6" down from the lip of the pot. Only tarping on the very coldest night, the Vinca came back this spring and is still going strong. I plan on keeping it outside for another winter and see if it is truly a survivor. Go vinca. If you have Dragon Wing begonias which are planted in the ground, these can take a good bit of cold but they must be mulched heavily. The tropical Plumbago and Mexican Healther can be left planted in the ground with mulch and will return in the spring. Bulbs that can be overwintered out of doors in pots or in the ground include: amaryllis, elephant ears, canna lilies, ginger lilies, daffodils, narcissus, but not tulips. Tulips and caladiums tend to rot if they are not lifted and stored during spring and summer.

Winter annuals can still be planted such as pansies, dianthus, dusty miller, lambs' ears and verbena. Also certain herbs can be planted now and do well for years. These include parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, marjoram, and mint. However, be careful with mint because it tends to spread. If it just gets into the grass, okay, but if it gets out into the flower beds, you will be weeding out mint from now on. Another rampant spreader is Mexican petunia or Ruellia, especially the variety with blue blooms . They spread through the running root system and even round-up does not completely eradicate it. I once saw a woman buy 10 pots of this plant at Lowe's, and wanted so much to ask her whether she knew that this plant would become a pest in a few years. She asked the sales girl for a perennial that has no pests, low maintenance and will multiply and spread. The Sales staff gave her what she wanted. Well, I want to talk to this lady in about 3 years on how well her Mexican petunia has spread. It will grow anywhere, even in pure gumbo. Now the variety with pink blooms is not as invasive.



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