This past week it really seemed like winter is right around the corner. The days have been sunny, but the fall leaves and colder weather (did everyone have ice on their windshield?) are telling me something different. The warm afternoons are allowing me to get out and clean off the roof and deck in anticipation of the rain when it does arrive. So get out and get those last jobs done now. You might want to even consider putting up those holiday lights too! You don’t have to plug them in, but you’ll be happy that they are up when it gets miserable!
This week we featured...
Winter Conifer Containers
This time of year we are all looking at tired and dying summer containers on our decks and patios. These planters can use a little refreshing so we have something nice to look at during those cold winter days. One plant that we never considered for a container is a conifer. To check out how you can use conifers in your pots we stopped by French Prairie Perennials (971-533-5637) and talked with Rick Naylor. Rick knows his conifers and he had 2 great examples of containers with conifers. The first one had was a Hinoki cypress ‘Little Marky’. This was surrounded by Black Scallop Ajuga, Forever Blue sempervivum, and Forever Red Heuchera. The container next to it had dwarf Monterey Cypress ‘Greenstead Magnificent’. This was next to a dwarf Hinoki cypress ‘Just Dandy’. Also in the second pot were sedum Angelina and Black Mondo Grass.
Even though these conifers were labeled as miniatures or dwarfs, they can turn out to be anything but small. The name ‘dwarf’ and ‘miniature’ can refer to growth habit or the size compared to a non-miniature plant. An example… a dwarf redwood can still turn out to be a 50 foot tree, but it is considered dwarf compared to the normal 300 foot tree. The same holds true for these little guys in pots. They should be good for 2-3 years in the containers, but then you should consider moving them into your landscape or replacing them.
These were just a couple of choices that you have when you stop by French Prairie Perennials in Aurora. You can find even more options if you stop by. Aurora is a great place to visit any time of year, but the fall and winter are even better. Today the 9th, they have a Christmas Open House. Businesses throughout Aurora are having sales and other events to kick off the holiday season. Then, on December 7th and 8th, they are having their annual Wine and Chocolate Walk. You can find out more information at www.AuroraWineandChocolate.com.
Smith Kitchen Gadgets
We have visited Smith Berry Barn (503-628-2172) many times to get some great tasty and timely recipes for your garden produce. During those stories she always has some great kitchen gadgets that make her cooking easier. For the holidays she had pulled a lot of those kitchen ‘assistants’ out for us to see. We started with measuring devices. The first was a cup with 3 pour spouts and a lid. This allows you to turn and see the measurements that you need and then pour from the most convenient spout. The lid helps you store leftovers for later. The second was a shot glass that had small measurements listed on the side so you can measure liquids without spilling them all over. The third measurement device was narrow measuring spoons. Because spice jars have narrow openings, these spoons help you get the right amount out without spilling spices all over your counters.
Next we moved to cutting devices. The first was a scissors that can cut fresh herbs into a fine texture. They call it ‘chiffonade’ for this fine texture cutting technique, and these scissors make it easy. The next cutter was a blade that made ‘wavy’ cuts to veggies. The veggie slices have a more interesting look and can help ‘liven’ up your stews and vegetable dishes. The third slicer looked like a little hat for your vegetables. It is really a slicer that creates long strings of vegetables that are great for Asian dishes and salads. The final slicer was really a corer. This apple corer is just pushed down on an apple and then you pull it up and the core is gone!
The next couple of items were for garlic. The Garlic Zoom minces your garlic in a quick and easy way by just running it back and forth on your counter. The garlic slicer creates thin slices of garlic by just turning the knob. Both worked really well! Lemons were next. Here we used 2 different juicers. One was a traditional reamer, but the unit fits on top of your measuring cup so you get the right amount without having to transfer into a measuring cup and the other was a squeezer type which uses a little hand leverage to get the most juice from your fruit. The last gadget was an emulsifier for your salad dressings and sauces. This keeps everything mixed up by just squeezing the handle a few times before you use it.
If you would like to see any of these great gadgets you can stop by Smith Berry Barn during their normal business hours, or you can stop by during their annual Holiday Open House on the 15th of November from 5-7pm. They will have snacks, and wine to sample and a store full of great gifts for yourself or someone you love.
Winter Indoor Plants
Little Prince is our ‘go-to’ place for some great plant picks this past couple of years. With winter right around the corner we stopped by and asked if they had any recommendations for indoor plants for the home gardener. Ryan met Judy in one of the greenhouses to show us a few suggestions that he came up with. He had some great ferns to start with. The Blue Star fern, the Rabbit Foot fern and the Heartleaf fern were all on display. These work really well indoors and if you keep them in a diffused light and light watering they will thrive. Then we moved to Aloes and Echeverias. These are wonderful plants in the home. They can even flower if you have them in the right conditions. Speaking of the right conditions, remember that all plants have different needs. Some like more light, some less. The same hold true for watering and fertilizing. So when you are looking for indoor plants, be sure to check out the requirements for that certain plant. You can find out more information about these plants at your local independent garden center, or you can check out https://littleprinceplants.com. Try some new indoor plants this year and you won’t be disappointed!
Winter Tree Problems
The wind, rain and possible snow of the coming winter can mean trouble for your large landscape trees. How can you tell if your trees are healthy enough for all that Mother Nature has to offer? We sought out some tips from arborist Logan Collier from Bartlett Tree Experts (503-72ARBOR, 503-722-7267) and asked him for some signs we can look for. Logan took us to an area near West Linn to check out a couple of trees. He told us that you should check your trees from the ground up. Look for damaged roots, trunks and canopies. He showed us a large maple that had lost a few big branches. He said that an arborist should check out this tree to make sure that there wasn’t any decay or disease that could weaken it even more. We then moved to a multiple trunked tree that could lose one of its trunks due to rot and decay at its base or between the 2 main leaders. We also saw a tree that had a bunch of dead branches and one that had fungal conks (a sign of possible internal disease). Those are just a few of the 8 signs that you should look for in a dangerous tree. Other signs included weakly attached branches, cracks in the branches near the trunk, pealing bark and signs of decay or rot. These are the most obvious of signs, but if you are unsure of the safety of your trees you can contact Bartlett. Bartlett even has a brochure that can tell you what else to look for. Logan also emphasizes that you insist on a certified arborist. They are trained to look for the damaged spots and are trained (insured and bonded) to remove the weak tree safely.
Fall and Winter Camellias
The winter months can be boring in the garden. There is not usually a lot of color to enjoy. One plant that will brighten up your garden in these dreary months is the camellia. The Sasanqua Camellias are a variety that blooms in the late fall and into winter, with wonderful color. The interesting thing about these plants is that they will tighten up when it gets cold and then when the sun comes out they will open up their blooms and even set new blooms! They are also a wonderful plant the rest of the year too, even when they’re not blooming. Brian at Tsugawa Nursery (360-225-8750) in Woodland brought out a few of his favorites to share with us. The first one was a new double called ‘Showa-no-sakae’. It has incredible pink flowers on a taller plant. A shorter shrub form with pink flowers was next, called ‘Jean May’. It can be kept even shorter with regular pruning. A great holiday bloomer was next; ‘Yuletide’. This one is an old favorite with its deep red petals and bright yellow center it is perfectly named for this time of year. There is a new variety of ‘Yuletide’ called ‘Pink-a-boo’ with the same bright yellow center and soft pink petals. These both will bloom through the holidays. The next variety was called ‘Bonanza’ and it had a little tighter dark pink or red colored bloom. The final one we saw was from the Ice Angels series of plants, called ‘Winter Snowman’. It had a bright white bloom so it would brighten up any area in the winter garden.
If you are not sure of which plant you like, Tsugawa’s had a large board with all their camellias posted on it, so you can compare them without wandering around the garden center! The ones we saw were just a few of the varieties that you will find at Tsugawa’s or your local independent garden center. If you are looking for some great late season, into winter color, you should check these out.