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November 24, 2009 WINTER EVERGREEN CONTAINERS: The Druids started bringing evergreen plants into their living quarters to help them tolerate the winter months and also to help the "plant spirits" survive. Throughout history we humans have continued this wonderful tradition. The fragrances, colors and textures enrich our surroundings and our lives throughout the holidays and the entire winter months. Use varieties like white pine, western red cedar, noble fir, holly, magnolia, boxwood and eucalyptus to make outdoor container arrangements or indoor wreaths, centerpieces and mantle swags. Indoors the greens will last 10-14 days before drying out. Treating with an anti-transpirant will increase their lives by an additional 2 weeks, by preventing the foliage from drying out and the needles from dropping off. Outdoors the containers last from December through March.

HOLIDAY GIFT PLANTS: The following plants help to decorate our homes for the holidays and also make wonderful gifts: Poinsettias (all colors, shapes and sizes), Amaryllis, Cyclamen, Christmas Cactus, Ivy topiary, Rosemary topiary, and Paperwhite narcissus. BUT, how do you take care of them once you have received them? We will talk about the most popular ones:

I. POINSETTIAS - native to Mexico, this plant likes its soil to become dry on the surface in between waterings, and HATES to ever stand in water. Cut the bottom of the foil covering to make sure that the water can drain. Keep in bright, indirect light. Buy the freshest plants with the small flowers (not the colored bracts) that are just beginning to open.

II. AMARYLLIS - native to the sub-tropical regions, these beautiful bulbs only need water or moist soil to trigger flowering. When the stalk is developing, leave in bright, indirect light. Let the soil surface get dry to the touch between waterings, (usually once a week). If you want to keep the bulb to re-flower next year, cut the spent flower off, keep the foliage plant in bright light indoors until spring and move out into the garden. You want 5 leaves to grow to set flower buds for next year.

III. CYCLAMEN - this plant loves cooler temperatures, 60-65 degrees, to stay happy. Put it in a window sill, where temperatures stay 10 degrees cooler than the center of the room. Keep the soil moist but never let the bottom of the pot stand in water. This is a tuber that goes dormant when the temperatures get warm. Most people think they have killed it. After the foliage dries off, let the tuber rest for 6-8 weeks, re-pot it and it will grow starting in the middle of summer to be in flower next fall.

SELECTION AND CARE OF CHRISTMAS TREES: The practice of bringing evergreens into the home to "survive" winter dates back to the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice. It was to provide a place for the nature spirits to stay during the cold and dark winter months. December 21st is the winter solstice this year, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The celebration is for the re-birth of the sun, when the days start to get longer. See the attached handout for hints on how to select the best tree and how to take care of it. (The magic word is "water".)

ARCTIC REINDEER VISIT CHALET NURSERY (ON LOAN FROM SANTA)- Reindeer are much smaller than we imagined. The adult female is 3-4 feet with antlers that extend another 2.5 feet. (Both males and females have antlers!!) They are not native to North America, the reindeer living here now come from herds imported to Alaska from Siberia. They are native to northern Europe and Asia. There are no wild herds, all reindeer are domestic animals. Chalet is providing these animals as a learning tool for the area schools, with 18 classes scheduled for tours in the next two weeks

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