Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, this time of year is special to each of us in our own way. We really do greet friends and neighbors with a bigger smile and a warm holiday wish when we see them on the street, at a community event or even in a store. It means a lot to me when a reader says how much they learn from my column. If you've enjoyed even one of them, I'm a success. Isn't there a saying to the affect that a person is a success if they get up in the morning and do what they want to do? I'm blessed to be able to do just that- give gardening advice with the occasional pearl of wisdom thrown in and create gardens. How fortunate can one get?
I look out my window and see the chickadees working the plants for aphid eggs. I cleared a path of downed branches for the deer twins to pass behind my fence on their regular route. My resident raccoon family are happy finding worms along the driveway. And my cat, Jasmine, has grown a luxuriously thick, black winter coat.
There's not much else I need to do in the garden right now. Roses don't get pruned back until the end of January. Dormant spraying of fruit trees can be done in January and again in February. There'll be lots of time in late winter to prune deciduous trees. So sit back and enjoy the holidays.
While you're out and about you may see a shrub blooming with large flowers in red, pink or white. Chances are it's a camellia sasanqua. This species of camellia is native to the evergreen forests of southern Japan and many of the neighboring islands as far south as Okinawa. Cultivars began appearing in Japan in the late 1600's but it was the Dutch traders who imported some specimens into Europe in 1869. The leaves can be used to make tea and the seeds used to make tea seed oil for lighting, lubrication, cooking and in cosmetics. Tea oil has a higher caloric content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan according to Wikipedia. All this from an incredibly beautiful shrub for partial shade.
Another plant that I forget about until it starts blooming about now is the Christmas cactus. Each year I'm amazed at how many blooms I get from these tough, neglected plants. If you have a Christmas cactus that is dropping buds, though, you should look for a few conditions that might be contributing to this problem. Temperature change is a major factor -moving your plant from a warm location to a cooler one or vice versa. Ripening fruit nearby will give off ethylene gas and cause the flower buds to drop. Watering with cold water or a cold draft from the front door might also be the culprit. Keep plants away from furnace vents and fireplaces, too. Christmas cactus are easy to grow in bright light and average home temperatures. I have two that bloom their heads off and I have to confess my care for them is nowhere near what I advise you to do. They are forgiving, though, and live for a very long time sometimes being handed down from within families.
Most importantly I want to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday from The Mountain Gardener.