Garden Plot: Grubs, greens and Christmas trees

To cut your own or buy pre-cut? (AP)
Keeping a Christmas tree fresh

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 4:56 pm

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Mike McGrath,

Prune evergreens now – if you’re going to use the greens!

Charlie in Howard County writes: “Is it OK to trim my evergreen hedges now or must I wait until spring? They’re haven’t been trimmed this year, are overgrown, and I normally keep them neatly cropped.”

Well, it depends, Charlie. The ideal scenario for the health of the plant is to begin some gentle shaping just as growth resumes in the spring, and continue light pruning until summer heat arrives – that’s how you get the nicest looking, longest living shrubs.

But this is the time of year I make exceptions to that rule for folks who want some homemade holiday greenery. So if crafty you want to be, go ahead and remove some shoots to get the makings for a nice swag or wreath. You can do the same with hollies and other berry-bearing shrubs. Just be sure to use a really sharp pair of hand pruners – not those vibrating clippers of death – and wait for a cold stretch so you don’t wake the poor plants up.

What to do with an old amaryllis

Rebecca in Silver Spring writes: “Last Christmas a friend gave us an amaryllis that bloomed beautifully. I kept it outside all summer and fall, where it happily grew lots of healthy new leaves. I waited for the leaves to turn yellow, but they did not, and I finally brought it in rather than have it freeze. How do I care for it so that it will bloom again? Obviously there isn’t enough time to have to bloom for this Christmas.”

No, but it could bloom again, Beckster.

After they finish flowering, amaryllis need to have their leaves soak up sun – which you did – and they should also be fed at this time (which you may or may not have done). At some point afterward, they then need to get a three-month rest in a coolish spot without food, water or light. (This can be in or out of the pot. I put mine down in the basement with a note in my Day-Timer to rescue them three or four months later.)

After that (essential) rest period, gently trim off any old leaves, water the plant well – really saturate the soil – and place it in a warm spot. Then move it into bright light when new growth appears. The “watering to flowering” period after a rest takes about six weeks, so “Christmas amaryllis” should be started early-to-mid November.

To try and keep the same bulb flowering at the same time (holiday season) each year, feed with worm castings or a gentle organic liquid fertilizer right after the flowers fade. Keep the plant in bright light, and take it outside after all chances of frost, but bring it back indoors around mid-July and start that rest period.

Rescue and revive it around the second week of November, and think good thoughts

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