2005 Newsletter Archive

Newsletter 35: Christmas

Week 35 (12/1/05)



December has arrived, the Holiday season is upon us, and that means only a couple more newsletters before we go into ‘newsletter winter hiatus’. Where has the 2005 year gone? By the way, only 20 more days until winter, 24 more days until Christmas and Hanukkah, 25 more days until Kwanza, and 31 more days until New Years!



[Just curious – Why does ‘catgut’ come from sheep and horses?]



*WHETHER IT’S THE WEATHER – The sudden drop in temperatures and snow flurries here and there certainly had many thinking winter had arrived! But it didn’t take long for the temps to come right back up into the 60’s. But, it’s back down as the week ends, which again, is where we need it to be. Some rain showers this week provided much needed soil moisture, but keep checking to make sure your plants have good soil moisture going into the winter; especially those evergreens! Good soil moisture and a spraying of Wilt Pruff, and they’re good to go!



[Just curious – Why are Chinese gooseberries from New Zealand?]



*CHOOSING AND CARE OF A CUT CHRISTMAS TREE – Ah, the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree; it’s the only way to go for the Holidays. There are many different types to chose from, including White Pine ( long soft needles and dense branches), Black Hills Spruce( shorter stiff needles), Balsam Fir (the original Christmas tree, fragrant softer short needles), Douglas Fir (sweetly fragrant soft flexible needles), and the 2 most popular cut Christmas trees, the Scotch Pine (longest lasting medium length needles and stiff branching for those heavier ornaments), and Fraser Fir (fragrant soft blue green needles, good branching habit for ornaments). So choosing a tree becomes personal taste and likes. For America’s Best, it’s the Fraser Fir!


Things to consider when picking the right tree:



Give the tree a needle check for freshness. Take a needle off the tree and flex it between your forefinger and thumb. If it’s fresh, it’ll bend and spring back. Try gently pulling on a branch allowing it to slide through your hand. If you have a handful of needles, that’s not the tree for you! And last, pick up the tree and gently thump the bottom against the ground. Some needles will fall, but it should only be a few.



Next, measure the tree to be sure it fits in your home. If you don’t, I guarantee it’ll be bigger at home than it is here at the tree lot!



Bring your tree stand along just to make sure it fits, but don’t put it in the stand permanently until you’re ready to put it up in the house.



If you’re going to put the tree up when you get home, have the folks at the tree lot put a fresh flat cut on the bottom, removing about 1 inch. Then sleeve the tree for transporting home. If you’re not going to put it up right away, do not put a fresh cut the bottom.


Caring for your cut tree: [A Christmas tree is a living thing; treat it as you would a cut flower to keep it fresh]



If you buy your tree several days before setting it up, store it outdoors in a cool and shady place, protected from wind and sun. You may want to make a fresh flat cut on the butt of the tree (remove about 1 inch), and store upright in a container of water.



Spray your tree with WiltStop. This seals moisture in the needles, keeping your tree fresher, longer. Do this before bringing the tree into the house. (Use WiltStop on all your fresh Holiday greens, we spray all ours ahead of time for you.



When you bring the tree inside for decorating, make another fresh flat cut at the base before placing it in the stand. If you’re going right from our tree lot to the indoors (within 6-8 hours), our garden pros will make the fresh flat cut for you.



Place a ‘tree disposal bag’ around the base of your tree before putting the tree in the stand. This bag will help make clean up easier after the holidays are over.



Your new tree is thirsty! After placing your tree in the stand, add warm water (containing ‘Tree Life’ Christmas tree preservative) to the stand immediately, and be prepared to add this water solution daily, or as needed. Do not let the stand go dry. Once dry, the bottom of the tree will seal back over and no longer take up water.



Place your cut tree away from fireplaces, radiators, heat ducts, and any other source of heat. Even in front of picture windows exposed to the sun will heat up.



Remember to check your Christmas lights for safety, and turn them off when the tree is unattended. And continue to check your tree for freshness. Use good judgment when deciding if a tree is too dry and needs to be taken down.


After the Christmas holiday:



Place your tree outdoors to make a shelter for birds and other wildlife.



Participate in a park or city program that shreds trees for use as mulch.



Cut the boughs off and use them to winter mulch perennials.



Think of other ways to use your tree, rather than sending it to the landfill.



Do not burn your tree in the fireplace.



[Just curious – Why did they call it the Hundred Years War, if it lasted 116 years?]



*TAKE THE WORRY OUT OF CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR – Don’t let Christmas get you upset and frustrated. Since 1977, America’s Best has been a family holiday tradition with our fresh wreaths and greens, live and cut Christmas trees, custom decorations, and of course, our America’s Best grown holiday poinsettias. And, if you’re not sure what to buy your favorite gardener this year, why not buy an America’s Best Gift Card? Available in any amount, and can be purchased at the store or give us a call.   Come see us this holiday season!



[Just curious – Does killing time damage eternity?]



*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:


"We have 2 Knockout roses in pots too large to move into the garage for the winter. What do you suggest we do, or are we too late to do anything?" -Do the regular pre winter cleanup; maybe even spray the canes with WiltStop. Then, for those large pots (can’t be moved into the garage), you’ll need to protect them (protecting the roots) from severe cold by insulating the pots.   Circle the pots with chicken wire, about 6-8 inches or more away from the pot.  Then back fill that area with leaves, straw, mulch, etc.  Carry it up past the top of the pot a bit to mulch across the soil and lower part of the rose bush itself. I may even take that a step further and pre-wrap the pots with bubble-wrap, then do the caging.  That double insulates and keeps the pot cleaner.  You will need to water as needed over the winter.  Hopefully your pots will be insulated enough and not expand and crack!  You have plenty of time to do this, so you’re not too late.


"When is the best time to remove the lower branches from red maple, sugar maple, and sweet gum trees?" -Whenever they’re in your way and you can do it! Seriously, that is something that can be done 365 days of the year (removing whole branches). When removing those lower branches, cut ½ to 2/3 of the outer branch off first (to reduce the weight), and then make the final cut at the trunk of the tree. Make sure you cut far enough away from the trunk to retain the branch collar (swollen area where branch joins the tree trunk), which is what seals the cut over. Do not use tree paint over the cut; just let it seal over naturally.


"I haven’t covered my rambling roses yet! Did the recent cold weather affect next year’s blooms? Did I wait too late?" -The recent cold spell was a good thing getting those roses to shut down for the winter. And remember, the flowers come from next year’s lateral growth growing off those canes. So you’re in good shape; and so are the roses.


"We had sod installed in October. Should we feed it yet this fall?" -Absolutely! And now’s the time to feed!


"I have a tree that has tiny crabapples and larger regular apples on it. How could that be?" -If the original tree was grafted, more than likely one was the tree on top and one was the root system it was grafted on. Something grew up from the roots, unnoticed, and became a part of the grafted tree. So now you have both. If you look closely, you should notice 2 types of leaves as well.


"Why are the moles pushing up mole hills every where?" -It’s easy digging for them right now, so they’re busy digging those underground highways that you never see. For some really good info about moles, visit our friend Tom Schmidt’s web site – www.themoleman.com. By the way, with so many folks having problems with moles in their yards, my Uncle and I are thinking about doing a reality show, where we travel around the country and tackle mole problems for folks. "Mole Patrol – Coast to Coast". What do you think?



[Just curious – Do Roman paramedics refer to IV’s as "4’s"?]



*YOU HAVE TO KNOW TO MOW – Late warm weather has extended our mowing season into the early part of December. But as the temperatures begin to cool and the lawn begins to shut down, here are a few last minute reminders:


1.) If the lawn is growing, you need to keep mowing. Keep mowing until you can’t tell where you’ve mowed. Then it’s time to stop for the season.


2.) Don’t hesitate to mow remaining leaves back into the turf. After you have stopped mowing for the year, if additional leaves fall on the turf, be sure to remove them as soon as possible. Do not let them sit on the turf over the winter months.


3.) Feel free to set your last couple mowing heights down one notch, or about ½ inch or so. That last mowing at a lower height helps compensate for any additional growth the lawn may have during the rest of the year.


4.) FEED THE LAWN NOW! Go ahead and give your lawn its final feeding for the year. Even if you think you may be mowing one more time, let’s go ahead and feed now. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer, such as Greenview’s Fairway Formula Fall Fertilizer. Remember that this feeding is one of the most important feedings of the entire season. Do not skip this scheduled feeding.


5.) Forget applying weed killers to the lawn this late in the season. Wait and attack them next spring with pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides.


6.) If you haven’t, but would like to, there is still time to core aerate the lawn. This can actually be done as long as the ground isn’t frozen. If you are going to core aerate, do it as soon as you can.



[Just curious – How many weeks are there in a light year?]





Yardboy, I made granola often when my kids were growing up, and you know what? I’m still making it! This is from my book Gifts without Ribbons: Homemade Love. Feel free to sprinkle some cinnamon over the oat mixture if you like. This granola is jammed packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, calcium and minerals and is not too sweet so it’s perfect to tote during those busy shopping days. It also makes a wonderful gift from the kitchen.



GREAT GRANOLA: (Preheat oven to 325) -Mix together:


7 cups rolled oats


1-1/4 cups coarsely chopped or sliced nuts of your choice


1 cup wheat germ


1 cup coconut


1 cup sunflower seeds


1 cup pumpkin seeds


1/2 cup sesame seeds


1/2 cup flax seeds


-Blend together:


1 cup canola oil


1 cup honey


Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and blend well. Spread in single layers on cookie sheets. Bake about 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Let cool and store in airtight tins.


-Tips from Rita’s kitchen:



Store seeds and nuts away from heat, light and moisture. Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and fiber. For long term storage, store in freezer.



Cinnamon helps lower cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar, so a teaspoon a day is so good for you.



Honey is predigested so your body utilizes it really fast – a great energy boost



Pumpkin seeds/pepitas offer great kidney support


-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP / Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional / Herbalist / Author / Local TV and Radio Cooking Expert / Adjunct Professor U.C. Clermont College / Community Press Papers / Part time Witchdoctor and maker of strange potions [life@communitypress.com attn: Rita]


*FLORES DE NOCHE BUENA – The Holiday Season is upon us, full of traditions and rich in history, including the plant, "Flores de Noche Buena", or commonly known as the Poinsettia.


This large growing perennial flowering shrub is native to Mexico, and may have remained a regional plant, had it not been for the efforts of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. While in Mexico, Poinsett, who was also a botanist, became enchanted by the brilliant red leafed plants he saw during the short days of winter, and sent some back to his home in South Carolina, where he began propagating the plants and sending them to his friends. One thing led to another, and well, thanks to nurseryman Robert Buist, who began selling them right around the holiday season, the Poinsettia became a holiday tradition. And, by an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day!


Poinsettias are a day light sensitive plant, meaning that as the days get shorter, their foliage reacts by turning colors. These are called bracts. The actual flower of the poinsettia is in the center of the colorful bracts.


Through the years, plant breeders have taken the traditional red poinsettia, and have developed many different colors to chose, including so many different shades of pinks and reds, marbled, spotted, plum, white, which by the way, through all the plant breeding, there are still no perfect white poinsettias (they’re actually an off white or cream color). !


And what about the folklore that says Poinsettias are deathly poisonous? Well, it’s simply not true, according to research done at Thee Ohio State University. As a matter of fact, at one time in history, the milky sap was used in a preparation to help treat high fevers. Yes, the milky sap could cause minor skin irritation, and a very high consumption of these bitter tasting leaves could cause sore throats, and upset stomachs, but that’s it. And again, they are very bitter in taste, and it would take a lot of leaf eating to cause any ‘minor’ problems.


Next week, I’ll tell you how to take care of your "Flores de Noche Buena" so those great colors will last all winter long.



[While I was getting my hair cut at the Mason Barber Shop last week, my barber Gary brought up a good question. He asked, "If the Cincinnati Reds were the first major league baseball team, who did they play?" Good question, Gary.]



That’s it for this week. The Holiday season is upon us; enjoy it! Now, do yourself a favor. Go out and have the best weekend of your life.

Carol and Ed Knapton, owners of Americas's Best Flowers You’ll Love Your Garden … It’s Our Promise! May the Holy Spirit Guide You! God Bless
Edward Knapton says Keep on Smiling!
Sec – Treasurer Berry Hill Farms, Inc.
DBA Americas Best Flowers Garden Center
4311 Vilas Hope Road
Cottage Grove, WI 53527
608-222-2269 Fax 608-222-1234 Cell 608-698-5627