The truth is that a gardener thinks of very material things in December. He is thinking of what he wants to give some good gardener for Christmas or else what he wishes he had himself. But when anyone asks him, “What do you want for Christmas?” he blinks his eyes and says, “Well, I don’t want a thing, just a card,” but deep in his heart he wants some special garden book, a new and better trowel, a bird-bath, a gay poinsettia, a vase for flowers, or perhaps a garden diary. Yes, Christmas, which lasts all through December, is the season of longing and happy satisfaction.
Large shade trees may be moved at any time during the winter.
Trees that are not healthy and vigorous are seldom satisfactory after moving. They should be planted as soon as possible after being dug. A good tree carefully dug, properly planted, and guaranteed by a reliable firm is a good investment.
Pruning of trees, shrubs, and vines may be done during the mild winter days.
A mulch is unquestionably a protection to perennials that are growing in heavy soil. It is much safer, however, to apply a mulch that covers the ground but not the top of the plant. Peat moss is ideal for this purpose. A half-inch to an-inch layer will prove adequate.
An aquarium is a logical hobby for an enthusiastic gardener. This may be developed in the living room, sun porch, or in the small conservatory. If built on a large enough scale the joy of an outdoor pool may be had indoors for the winter. A cedar tub, a galvanized iron tank, or a concrete pool may be built as a permanent feature in the home.
House plants sooner or later will be found to have several forms of insect pests. The commonest among these are plant lice, mealy bugs, and scale. The first two may be controlled by spraying with nicotine sulfate or with a pyre-thrum extract. Examine the roots of your house plants occasionally by taking them out of the pot to see if they need repotting.
Frozen plants should be thawed out gradually. Spray them with cold water and keep them away from the sunshine and intense heat until they are completely thawed.
Remember to include flowers, potted plants, bulbs, seeds, and the like in your Christmas lists. One reader wrote us of receiving a “golden garden”—packages of choice seeds of yellow flowers. Needless to say, such a gift will prove a real delight to a garden lover.
For Christmas gifts fill baskets with branches cut from your berried shrubs.
For other Christmas gifts, use sets of handy tools, garden books, a set of trowels, a collection of rare seeds, a live evergreen for a Christmas tree, or an order on a nursery for shrubbery or other plants.
Christmas decorations should extend into the yard and garden. A living Christmas tree with gay lights will be enjoyed by all the passersby while sprays of bittersweet around the sundial, with wreaths over the doors and plenty of cheery winter window boxes also help to bring holiday cheer.
Early this month go to a nursery and select a live evergreen for your own Christmas tree and have it planted for you in a tub or candy bucket painted green.
Excelsior is the best winter covering for tops that remain green. Other good covers are salt marsh hay, corn fodder, evergreen boughs, peat moss, old brush, and straw. Leaves can be used in some places but they mat down and smother plants underneath. Cover hilled-up roses with a mulch of straw or leaves.
Sand is recommended for a winter covering for some tender plants, such as Anchusa and Japanese Anemones.
Berried Shrubs. If you do not have any berried shrubs, plan to get some. Place the name Winterberry on your order blank, as well as Cotoneaster diehiana.
To protect from rodents, put a collar of tin, tar paper, or closely woven wire netting around small fruit trees.
The West Coast
Lilium auratum and speciosum and the native California lilies should be planted now in light, rich soil, with plenty of sand. Do not disturb established lilies unless too crowded.
Cactus are now dormant and should seldom be watered. Start cactus cuttings in the sand after thoroughly drying the cut ends. Protect cactus against frost or too much rain and put charcoal and lime in the light sandy soil.
Plant Sweet Peasnow to bloom in April and May.
Renew the perennial border by taking up the plants and replanting them in freshly spaded and fertilized soil. Plant dwarf gladiolus among the perennials for the succession of bloom.
Begin pruning and planting trees and shrubs, adding to the list as many as possible of the spring-flowering shrubs.
Montbretia bulbs can be planted from now on to March.
Let roseshave a resting period from now on to early March. Prune them the latter part of this month.
Christmasberry. All California gardens should contain Christmasberry (Heteromeles arhutifolia), now so brilliant, for Christmas cheer.
Shrubs that make their bloom on new or current season wood can be pruned from now until February, while plants are dormant.
Plant deciduous trees and shrubs, bamboos, evergreens, deciduous garden fruits, nut trees, and vines this month and next.
Keep newly planted azaleas well-watered.
In New Orleans, the plant is Easter Lilies, Callas, amaryllis, and Hemerocallis (daylily).
In Texas spray your citrus fruits with an oil emulsion spray to control scale, insects, and white flies. Mulch the trees.
In other Gulf states consult your state agricultural college for spray directions for citrus and other fruits.
Southern Holly (Ilex opaca) can be handled with success only during the winter months, when dormant.
To prevent freezing to the ground, stems of tropical plants and shrubs in the subtropical zone should be banked if the weatherman warns you that a hard frost is coming.
Layering. Hydrangeas, holly, oleanders, and various vines are propagated by layering throughout the winter months.