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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for December

Christmas time is here again with all of the chores of decorating inside and out. But I have been noticing decorations, gift baskets, Christmas wrapped candy and Christmas themed cookies since Halloween. It appeared that Thanksgiving was lost in the shuffle. I just hate to rush the season, but it is truly time now to get ready to have the finest Christmas ever. One thing, that with all the reminders, we should be well prepared with no last minute shopping this year. If you are searching for a good gift to give neighbors and friends, think about pots of herbs like rosemary, and cilantro which could be placed on a window sill in the kitchen and used in cooking during the holidays. I have come across pots of rosemary shaped trees in some of the big box stores that are attractive. Spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, cannas and spider lilies are thoughtful gifts. These are the gifts that keep on giving. (Just remind the ones who receive tulips that they must be kept in the crisper of the refrigerator for about 6 weeks before planting.) Other gifts could include Poinsettias, Christmas cactus, and potted narcissus or the bulbs for forcing.

Since we in Montgomery and the River Region have relatively mild winters, December is a good time to plant fruit trees and shrubs such as blueberries, pears, figs, plums, peaches and apples. However, blueberries, peach and apple trees must be planted in a neutral to acid soil. I made a large raised bed at the farm in Dallas County with railroad ties and filled it with good sandy loam soil probably 20 years ago. The reason for all this trouble is that gumbo soil is highly alkaline which would kill this list of plants. Many in our area including parts of Montgomery are blessed with neutral to acid soil. The other fruit trees and shrubs listed are actually not pH sensitive, so any soil will suit their needs.

Other gardening chores we should remember this month.

1. Pruning shrubs that have outgrown their space such as privet, roses, ligustrum, cherry laurel, magnolia and other shrubs forming hedges. Do not prune any shrubs or trees that flower in the spring because those have already set their bloom buds in early to late summer. Flowering shrubs and trees should only be pruned within six weeks of the end of the bloom cycle. If there are errant long shoots coming off the camellias, azaleas and sasanquas, then cut these back to hold the shape of the shrub. Hollies can be pruned back now, but these do have abundant red berries at this time of the year, so be judicious in cutting back.

2. Refurbishing the flower beds with compost and good soil.

3. Cutting back perennials

4. Making areas to sow seed and noting these areas on a plan or just use spray paint to outline this seed area.


Christmas fern--Dryopteridaceae

Christmas fern, also called shield fern, is one of the most popular of the evergreen ferns. Its name comes from the fact that it stays green well past the Christmas season and in our area is evergreen. If the fern is nipped back by inclement weather, they will come back the next spring. This fern is native to North America and a member of the wood fern family. Easy to grow both indoors and outdoors. They thrive in both shade and partial shade, but too much sun exposure can negatively affect its hardiness. They do well in pot gardens, and many times will be planted as a ground cover.



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