Author Archives: rogers

Holiday Tree for the Birds

Celebrate the season with your feathered friends by decorating a tree in your yard, or even one in a container, with special treats they’ll love.

Bird-Friendly Ornaments

There are several types of delicious “ornaments” birds will love, and they can be fun, easy projects to brighten up a winter day.

  • Pine Cone Feeders
    Pine cones are easy to turn into impromptu bird feeders. Gather some pine or spruce cones. Tie a loop of twine or colorful holiday yarn around the top to use as a hanger. Fill the crevices with peanut butter, then roll in bird seed or cornmeal.
  • Orange Halves
    Don’t toss out that orange rind – turn it into a bird feeder! Fill scooped out orange halves with a mixture of peanut butter, suet and seed. Poke a length of wire, yarn or twine through the top to attach to the tree. Coconut halves are another great option.
  • Bird Cakes and Muffins
    Make “bird cakes” to set in the branches: Melt 2 cups of suet in a saucepan. Mix in 2 cups of peanut butter and several cups of cornmeal, until the mixture is soft but not too sticky. Spoon mixture into muffin cups and decorate with black oil sunflower seed. Cool before using.

Great Garlands

What’s a holiday tree without garland? To make a bird-friendly, edible decoration, string unsalted, unbuttered popcorn on lengths of heavy-duty thread, twine or yard (avoid fishing line that birds can get tangled in too easily). For more color and variety, add whole peanuts, cranberries, grapes and raisins to the garland as well, or even a few loops of whole grain, unsweetened cereal such as plain Cheerios. You can even include other dried fruits, but avoid any seasoned or sweetened options (those foods aren’t good for birds). Weave your edible garland among the branches.

And Lastly, the Tree Topper!

Top your bird-friendly feeder tree with a grapefruit “star” the birds will love. Slice the ends off a grapefruit, leaving a 1″ slice in the middle (use the ends to fill with seed or peanut butter mixture, a larger version of the filled orange halves). Wire 5 cranberries around the edge of the slice to form the points of a star, trimming away the excess rind in between if desired. Then, wire the whole thing to the top of your tree.

Now stand back and watch as your feathered friends enjoy their holiday feast!

bird_tree_2bird_tree_3bird_tree_1

Create a Beautiful Tree in 6 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how to create that beautiful Christmas tree, the kind featured in photo shoots and magazines? Whether you opt for a live potted tree, a fresh cut pine or an artificial tree you can reuse for several years, the steps to a stunning, artistic tree are the same, and you don’t have to be an interior designer to create a lovely Christmas tree. 

  1. Color
    Pick a theme color or color pair. This may be colors you simply like together, or you could mimic school colors, a favorite sports team or classic holiday pairings like burgundy and gold or blue and silver. Consider your tree theme and choose colors accordingly, such as blue and aqua for a tropical, undersea tree, or white and silver for a winter wonderland tree.
  2. Lights
    Use one strand of 70 to 100 lights for each foot of tree (7 strands for a 7-foot tree). This will be the approximate ratio on a pre-lit artificial tree, or you will need to add lights to a live tree. Spread the strands out evenly, and tuck wires into the tree so they are less visible. White lights or a single color are generally more elegant than multi-colored strands.
  3. Ribbon
    Plan on 40 to 60 yards of ribbon unless the tree is in a corner. The treetop will typically take 10-15 yards of this amount. You can also mix two ribbons for a nice effect, too. Wire-edged ribbon is easier to shape into graceful curves, and a broad ribbon will make a more dramatic impact, particularly on a larger tree. Drape the trailing edges of ribbon down the sides of the tree, either straight toward the ground or in a graceful spiral.
  4. Accents
    Add silk or dried flowers as your next step along with garland. Make sure flowers are placed at different depths within the tree so there is dimension. Holiday flowers such as poinsettias are most popular, but you can opt for different blooms to coordinate with your theme, such as roses for a Victorian tree or tropical flowers for a festive beach-themed tree.
  5. Balls
    Use 6-8 boxes of plain glass ball ornaments, either all the same color or 3-4 boxes each of two coordinating colors. Tuck some of these ornaments deeper within the tree to reflect more light and add depth to your decorating. A medium-size ornament is appropriate, or choose balls of different sizes but in the same plain color and basic shape.
  6. Ornaments
    Add themed ornaments last for that finishing touch and to give your tree some whimsy and pizzazz, but try not to go overboard with quirkiness. If you prefer a simpler, more elegant look, avoid overly themed ornaments but choose simple colored ornaments in different shapes that match your overall color plan, such as using drip, icicle, or star-shaped ornaments to complete the tree.

Voila! You have a Christmas tree that will bring beauty and elegance to your holiday decorating all season long.

create-beautiful-tree

Care of Christmas Greens

Fresh cut greens – pine boughs, holly sprigs, mistletoe, etc. – are wonderful for winter and holiday décor, both indoors and out. Extend the life and enjoyment of your fresh greens by following these easy steps:

  • SOAK – Immerse greens in cold water overnight or up to 24 hours. The needles will soak up moisture to stay plump and firm. A good location for accomplishing this task is in a utility sink or bath tub, but be sure the water won’t freeze while the greens are soaking. Use only fresh, plain water without any additives or chemicals.
  • DRY – Allow greens to drip dry for an hour or so in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. This will remove excess water from the branch ends so they do not leak.
  • SPRAY – If desired, spray Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant, on greens when they are finished dripping. This will seal moisture into the needles extending the life of your greens. Do not use this on Princess Pine, and note that this product may change the color of blue-colored cut greens like Colorado Blue Spruce and Blue Juniper. Test the spray on an inconspicuous area first to be sure you don’t mind any changes.
  • DRY – Allow the greens to dry thoroughly after spraying and before decorating and hanging or arranging. This will be sure there are no water spots on any of your bows, accent pieces or ornaments that are part of your fresh arrangements.
  • COOL – Keep greens in as cool a location as possible, out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source, including heating vents, ceiling fans and air ducts. Moving arrangements of fresh greens onto a cool porch or into a garage each night can help extend their vibrancy.
  • BUNDLE – Arrange your fresh greens in dense bundles and bunches, either as wreaths, vase arrangements or swags. As a group, they will help keep each other fresh with slightly higher humidity between each green.
  • CLEAN – Keep fresh greens crisp and clean through the holiday season by dusting them lightly. Use only a clean, lint-free cloth without any sprays or chemicals. This will remove dust that may dim the arrangements, but chemicals could damage the greens or change their colors. Do not brush the greens so harshly that you may damage or dislodge their needles, foliage or berries.

With proper care, your fresh cut greens can be stunning holiday decorations for several days or weeks, bringing a touch of nature into your home even when the world is cased in ice and snow.

Cut Christmas Tree Selection and Care

A fresh cut tree can be a wonderful addition to your holiday décor as well as a treasured Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, with poor care a cut tree can be looking wilted and worn long before December 25, but if you know a few tricks, you can keep your tree looking vibrant and lush throughout the season. Extend the life of your cut tree this Christmas and enjoy the beauty of the season much longer! 

  • In selecting a tree, make sure the “handle” at the bottom is long enough to allow the trunk to fit into your tree stand. Otherwise, it will be necessary to remove large branches near the base, which could ruin its appearance, shape and visual balance.
  • Check the tree’s freshness before your purchase by bending, pinching or flexing needles. They should be somewhat pliable and not fall off easily. Avoid purchasing a tree that is already showing signs of dryness.
  • Make a fresh cut to remove 1/4″ to 1″ of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. If you use a “center pin” stand, make sure the hole is drilled in the stem after the tree is trimmed.
  • Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible within 6-8 hours after cutting the trunk. This will help the tree better absorb moisture to keep the needles plump and secure.
  • If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location, such as a garage, before being taken indoors and decorated. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket full of water. The tree may need to be supported to keep it from tipping over.
  • To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
  • Use a stand that fits your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough for the trunk to fit through the hole. Other stands are open, which may allow a greater range in trunk size. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  • Keep your tree away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, heaters, heating vents and direct sunlight, all of which can make it dry out more quickly. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  • Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged an unable to absorb water.
  • Apply Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant, to branches to help prevent moisture loss and needle drop. This should be done as quickly as possible before decorating the tree.
  • Do not use additives in the water, including floral preservatives, commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey, etc. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain the tree’s freshness.
  • Miniature lights, particularly LEDs and other energy-efficient bulbs, will produce much less heat and reduce drying of the tree. Do not overload the tree with too many lights.
  • Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set. And, do not overload electrical circuits, fuses or circuit breakers.
  • Always turn off the lights when leaving the house or when going to bed. Minimize how long the lights are on, such as not leaving the lights on during the day when they are less visible.
  • Monitor the tree for freshness by bending or pinching needles to test their flexibility. After Christmas or if the tree is dry and brittle, remove it from the house.

With just a few common sense steps, you can find a lovely fresh cut tree and keep it beautiful throughout the holiday season.

Spruce Up for the Holidays

From the Fir Family come some of our most beloved Christmas trees, the Colorado, Norway and White Spruce varieties. Both the Colorado and Colorado Blue Spruce have a nice pyramidal shapes with strong limbs that can hold heavy ornaments or light strands. The Colorado Blue is set apart by its stunning steel-blue foliage. The Norway Spruce has short, soft, deep green needles and the White Spruce possesses a robust full form. Both the Norway and White Spruce should be purchased planted in containers or balled and burlapped as they tend to lose their needles quickly when cut.

Beyond the holidays, spruces make a lovely addition to any landscape. When viewed in the northern forests, these majestic, needled evergreens are glorious with their graceful, symmetrical, conical forms. Smaller landscapes may also enjoy the merits of this genus with the many slow-growing and dwarf cultivars that are commonly offered, many of which are also ideal when selected as living holiday trees. Larger spruces work wonderfully planted in a row as a windbreak but shine equally as well when chosen as a specimen plant. Added benefits include deer resistance and salt tolerance.

Caring for Your Living Christmas Tree

If you do opt for a bagged, balled or potted spruce, there are certain steps you need to take so they can survive the rigors of the holiday and be ready for planting. 

  1. Only leave a live spruce tree inside the house for a maximum of 5-7 days.
  2. If possible, place the tree in a garage, carport or sheltered area to help acclimate it to a warmer location before putting it into the house. Keep the root ball moist.
  3. Before bringing indoors, spray the tree with Wilt-Pruf to help keep it from drying out.
  4. Place the tree in a tub of 2 inches of water and cover with newspaper or mulch to retain moisture.
  5. Place the tree away from heating vents, wood stoves and baseboard heaters.
  6. Check water level daily and refill as needed.
  7. Prepare your planting hole outside by digging it early and covering with plywood until needed. Store soil in the garage so it does not freeze.
  8. If possible, acclimate the tree once more by putting it in a garage or sheltered area for a few days before planting outside. Continue to keep the root ball moist.
  9. Plant the tree as you normally would, mulch and water well.

Growing Tips 

  • Plants require full sun, good air circulation and moist, well-drained, acidic soil.
  • Spruces are shallow-rooted and should always be planted high rather than low.
  • Mulch the root zone with a thick layer to keep plant roots cool and moist.
  • Consider available space and ultimate size of the chosen variety before planting.

 Since we are interfering with the natural growth cycle of these trees, their survival through the season cannot be guaranteed. However, customers who have purchased living trees from us and followed the guidelines have reported 80-85 percent success rate with the trees thriving in the spring. It is fun to look out into your yard at trees from Christmases past!

Bird Feeding Basics

Winter is the perfect time to think about attracting bird visitors to your yard. Bird watching is a great hobby that can be enjoyed by both younger and older members of the family and getting started is both easy and inexpensive.

Bird Feeders

The type of bird feeders you select will depend on where you want to observe your feathered friends, as well as the kinds of foods you are offering and the types of birds you want to attract.

Hanging feeders, suitable for smaller birds, can be hung from a tree, pole or hook. Platform feeders can be mounted on a pole/post, deck railing or fence, or even just set on the ground. There are also window feeders that can be mounted directly to a window for enjoyment close at hand plus suet feeders or cages which hold suet cakes – a must for attracting insect-eating woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Feeders should be located in a sheltered place where they are not exposed to strong winds or vulnerable to attack from predators such as hawks and cats. Try grouping several different feeders together to attract the maximum number of different birds. All feeders should be kept clean and in good repair.

Bird Seeds

Just like us, birds have certain food preferences. Black oil sunflower seed is one of the most popular seeds, attracting a large variety of different birds. Some seeds such as Nyjer (thistle) are very specific – if you want to attract colorful goldfinches, then this one is for you. Mixes containing sunflower, thistle, cracked corn, millet and other seeds are also available, to tempt many bird visitors. Larger birds that feed on the ground, such as doves, quail and wild turkeys, will love cracked corn.

Natural Food Sources

If you are serious about attracting birds to your yard throughout the year, then think about planting trees, shrubs, perennials and even annuals that will provide natural foods at different times. Birds love berry-producers such as crabapples, hollies, hawthorns and viburnums. Perennial favorites for seed eaters include members of the black-eyed susan family (Rudbeckia), coneflowers (Echinacea), goldenrod (Solidago) and coreopsis. Seed heads of ornamental grasses are also highly sought after. Of the annuals, sunflower (of course!), marigolds and cosmos are popular. Just be sure to leave seed heads on the plants so birds can take advantage of them.

Don’t Forget Water!

Water for bathing and drinking is one of the basic requirements for all birds, even for species that won’t visit feeders. If you already have a bird bath, be sure to keep it filled with clear, fresh water. A bird bath heater will keep water available even during freezing weather. A mister, dripper or bubbler will move the water around and attract even more birds with sparkling splashes.

From feeders and seeds to plants and water sources, we have everything you need to get started attracting birds. Come on in today and you’ll be able to enjoy your feathered friends this fall and winter!

bird-feeding-1

bird-feeding-2

bird-feeding-3

Winter Pond Prep Checklist

Your pond can be an attractive and valuable focal point of your landscaping, but it can also be a delicate one. As winter approaches, certain steps should be taken to ensure plant and fish survival so your pond will still be at its best next spring.

  1. Clean Out Debris
    Use a netted scooper, a rake, your hands and, if possible, a pond vacuum to clean out pond debris. Rotting vegetation produces gas under winter ice that can be fatal to fish, frogs or other aquatic wildlife. This is also a good time to reduce any mud coverage over the pond’s bottom.
  2. Trim Pond Plants
    Trim and move hardy pond plants to the deep end of the pond (minimum 18” depth) to prevent them from freezing. Cut their vegetative growth back to about one inch above the soil line. Extra foliage will be more delicate and could rot over the winter. Especially be sure to trim any foliage that is already broken, wilting or damaged.
  3. Remove Tropical Plants
    Tropical plants or any delicate vegetation should be removed from the pond and placed in a basement or garage where they will not freeze. Keep plants moist throughout the fall and winter months until it is time to return them to the pond.
  4. Disassemble Summer Equipment
    Remove and clean the pond pump and waterfall or fountain feature (if applicable). Store them inside for the winter. See your maintenance guidelines for proper storage recommendations to keep the equipment in peak condition.
  5. Clean Pond Filter
    Thoroughly clean the pond filter and inspect it for any damage. If necessary, repair or replace the filter.
  6. Change Fish Diet
    Feed fish with spring/autumn food mixtures to provide good nutrition for their slowing metabolism. Stop feeding them completely when temperatures drop consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid overfeeding, which would contribute to excess debris and decay in the pond over the winter.
  7. Set Up a Pond De-Icer
    If needed, set up your pond de-icerfor winter use. Test the equipment to be sure it is functioning properly and make any repairs or adjustments as needed.
  8. Cover the Pond
    Cover your pond with netting, screening or a shade cloth to minimize debris that will fall into the water throughout the winter. Secure the perimeter with sod staples or rocks to prevent the covering from blowing away. This will make spring cleanup and restarting your pond much easier.
  9. Relax until spring!
    Your pond will be ready for warmer temperatures when you are.

pond_250x250_2

pond_250x250_1

Deterring Deer

Deer may be beautiful and elegant, but they aren’t always welcome in the garden. Even just a few visiting deer can tear up a landscape, eat an entire crop, destroy a carefully cultivated bed and cause other havoc, such as creating a traffic hazard, damaging bird feeders or leaving behind unwanted “gifts” on sidewalks and pathways. But how can you keep deer out of your yard and away from your garden and landscape?

Popular Deer Deterrent Techniques

People try all sorts of home-grown methods to keep deer from destroying their landscape and gardens. Some of the more common tactics include…

  • 8 ft. fencing, including wire or electric fences
  • Big, loud dogs on guard in the yard
  • Deer repellents such as commercial chemicals
  • Predator urine or other anti-deer scents
  • Motion detectors connected to lights or sprinklers

All of these methods work but are limited in their effectiveness. Fencing is costly and unsightly. Repellents and urine wash away. Sprinklers or lighted areas can be easily avoided. So what can you do to keep deer away permanently?

Deer are creatures of habit and they are easily scared. Anything you can do to mix up their habits or make them think there is danger nearby might be enough to make them go elsewhere in search of food. But deer aren’t foolish and if they realize the danger isn’t real, they will return. Therefore, you must rotate any scare tactics you try and reapply repellents frequently. This can be a lot of work to keep your garden safe, but you can make your garden do the work for you.

Plants Deer Won’t Like

While deer in large herds with insufficient food will eat almost any garden vegetation, particularly in harsh winters, you can opt for plants that aren’t popular with deer to minimize deer damage. At the same time, avoid planting favorite deer plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, roses, Japanese maples, winged euonymous, hemlocks and arborvitae, as well as any edible garden produce.

So what can you plant in your landscape to discourage deer? There are many attractive plants deer will avoid, including…

Trees

  • Chinese Paper Birch
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Dragon Lady Holly
  • Douglas Fir
  • Japanese Cedar
  • San Jose Holly
  • Serviceberry
  • Scotch Pine

Shrubs & Climbers

  • Barberry
  • Bearberry
  • Blueberry Elder
  • Boxwood
  • Caryopteris
  • Common Buckhorn
  • Creeping Wintergreen
  • European Privet
  • Japanese Andromeda
  • Japanese Plum Yew
  • Leucothoe
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Russian Olive

Try using these less deer-friendly plants to create a dense border around your yard and garden area, and deer will be less inclined to work their way toward the tastier plants. When combined with other deterrent techniques, it is possible to have a stunning landscape without being stunned by deer damage.

 

deer_1