Garden Plot: Amaryllis sales and Christmas tree care

WASHINGTON — After Christmas, there is a whole new list of gardening needs to tend to.

Need fresh tree stuff? Now’s the time to buy

Hope you had a Merry Christmas — now it’s Merry “90 percent off after Christmas sale” time! Hoe, hoe!

Tired of your old tree stand? Pick up a new one for next year.

Still watering your cut tree on your hands and knees? Pick up one of the clever devices that allows you to water the tree while you stand up, such as Santa’s Magic Water Spout, a long tube with a funnel at the top (shaped like an ornament) that feeds the water down into the stand. There are also fake gift-wrapped presents that are actually large waterproof troughs that feed water to the tree through clear plastic tubing.

It’s all on sale this weekend — as are the LED lights that provide lots of illumination without much electricity or the dangerous branch-drying heat of old incandescent lights.


Amaryllis at half off blooms just as bright

There are lots of Christmas closeout sales this weekend, and thing I always look for in the discount rack are amaryllis.

  • If the plants are already potted up and in bloom, keep them warm on the way home, but then display them in a cool spot indoors with just ambient light to keep the blooms around the longest.
  • When the flowers start to fade, clip off the top of the stalk and move the plant into the brightest light you have. Turn the plant regularly, water very lightly and provide a gentle feeding after the green leaves emerge.
  • In the spring, put it outside around the middle of May. Now you can give it a strong (but still natural) feeding. (Worm castings, compost tea, a nice fish and seaweed mix…)
  • Then leave it out all summer, so the leaves can have time to collect enough solar energy to grow another great round of flowers. Bring it back inside in September and give it a good long rest before you ask it to bloom again. That’s no food, no water, no light; just a rest in a cool dark spot. Three months is the minimum, but four is even better.


An after-Christmas score — bulbs still in the box

If you’re lucky, you may find some leftover holiday amaryllis on sale still in their ‘kit’ form; you know, a colorful box that holds a big bulb, a little pot and enough soil-free mix to cover about half the bulb.

Buy all of these that you can (especially if the discount is irresistible), take them home and examine them. If the bulbs haven’t yet sprouted — or the sprouts are very small — store them as is (in their box, un-potted) in a cool, dark spot. Then bring them out and pot them up as directed in March. You should get a nice run of flowers about six weeks later.

Why are we waiting so long? Because now you can move these tropical beauties outside right after the flowers fade; no more subjecting the poor plant’s sun-hungry leaves to the very un-merry months and dim windows of January and February.

Follow this timing in the future — all summer outside, rest all winter, revive in March — and re-bloom is almost guaranteed!


When closeout amaryllis are in-between

Time to shop this weekend’s Christmas clearance sales for cheap lights, a new tree stand and leftover amaryllis!

If you find some amaryllis on sale still in their ‘kit’ form, buy ‘em all, take ‘em home and open ‘em up. If the bulbs are still dormant, store them until March, as instructed above.

But if the main stalk is already growing and has gotten more than a few inches tall inside the box, pot the bulbs up right away (remember to always keep half the bulb above the soil line; don’t bury the entire bulb!), water them well and place them in a warm bright spot.

With any luck, the distinctive big blooms should appear right around Valentine’s Day!

And if they show up a little later, well…love never dies, right? (Yeah — That’s what guys say. Women will just give you The Look that strongly implies their old high school boyfriend would have gotten it right.)

Anyway, enjoy the flowers whenever they appear. (Hey — maybe her birthday’s in March; it’s not MY problem, dude.)


Clean and jerk: how to get that old tree out of the house

I know you’re probably not ready to take your Christmas tree down just yet, but here’s how to do it to minimize that dreaded last-minute needle drop!

  • Use a turkey baster followed by a final ‘blot’ of paper towels to completely empty out the water holder under the tree.
  • Remove all the ornaments and lights.
  • Lay a clean tarp or old sheet on the floor.
  • Quickly turn the tree sideways onto the tarp.
  • Carry the tarp outside, rear end of the tree out the door first.
  • And that’s it. Any dropped needles should be on the tarp, not the carpet!
  • Then recycle the tree at the curb if your community offers such a service. Or prune off all the branches and use them as mulch around acid-loving plants. Or stand the whole shmegegge up un-pruned in the backyard and hang suet and peanut butter feeders on it for the birds. Such ‘decorated’ trees offer food and protection for our finest feathered friends!

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