Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

How to: get your plants drunk
Andrea Bellamy |

Now here’s a worthwhile study. A new Cornell University researcher has found a way to keep paperwhite narcissists from tipping over – by getting them tipsy.

The study finds that a touch of booze keeps certain houseplants from getting too tall by stunting their growth. “Dilute solutions of alcohol — though not beer or wine — are a simple and effective way to reduce stem and leaf growth,” said William Miller, professor of horticulture and director of the Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell.

“While solutions greater than 10 percent alcohol were toxic, solutions between four and six percent alcohol stunted the paperwhites effectively,” said Miller.

To control stem and leaf growth, he suggests waiting until paperwhites or other daffodil shoots are several inches long to drain the water and replace it with a solution of four to six percent alcohol — hard liquor or rubbing alcohol.

To get a five percent solution from 80-proof liquor, which is 40 percent alcohol (such as gin, vodka, whiskey, rum or tequila), add one part liquor to seven parts water. To use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), which is 70 percent alcohol, dilute one part with 10-11 parts water.

Read more here.


Recycle your Christmas tree

Penny makes herself at home under the tree

If, like mine, your Christmas tree is looking a little worse for wear (why do cats try to climb them when they never attempt tree-climbing outdoors?), it’s time to get rid of it.

Many cities allow you to put your tree, divested of trimmings, at the curb for recycling. Greater Vancouver has had a curbside yard waste collection program in place since 2001. Yard trimmings are collected bi-weekly and composted at the Vancouver Landfill. Once a year, Vancouver residents can pick up all the compost they can haul away – free! The rest of the year, it’s $10/yard.

There are alternatives to curbside recycling of trees: most cities operate chipping stations in January. Check with your municipality for locations. In Vancouver, call the Recycling Hotline at 604-732-9253.

I’ve also heard that many zoos offer free chipping; they use the mulch for bedding for many of their animals.


Merry Christmas!
Andrea Bellamy |

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to all my friends in the blogosphere. Wishing you the best and brightest for you and your gardens in 2006.


Gardening Gifts for Newsmakers
Andrea Bellamy |

Since, on this Friday before the Chrismmukah weekend, no one seems to be doing any work anyway, I thought I’d pass on this slightly-amusing celebrity “Gardening Gift Guide” by Wes Porter of Canada Free Press.

Pamela Anderson

The temptation to offer a perfect pair of Mammilaria cactus was almost overwhelming until the Weekly World News announced the discovery of a new Brazilian meat-growing tree. “Instead of fruit it grows beef in a hard shell” and could eliminate vegetarianism, says the tabloid. The very gift for one so gifted.

Conrad Black

The beleaguered sometime British media mogul finds himself financially embarrassed thanks to the FBI grabbing his gravy. We can only offer a planting of Lunaria biennis for his Bridalpath home in Toronto while noting that as an alternative to Moneywort it is also known as Common Honesty.

Jean Chretien

Surely Justice John Gomery will agree there could be a nothing more fitting gift even for a small-town boy, than a collection of Coryphantha vivipara aggregata, Golf Ball Cactus.

David Dingwall

A few pots of Mentha canadensis, Wild Mint, well known cure gas.

Chuck Guite

For that example of Ottawa bureaucracy, a specimen of Clusia, or Fat Pork Plant.

Paris Hilton

A nice specimen of the plant known as Herb Paris, Paris quadrifolia, claimed by some to be of medicinal value but known for its poisonous berries.


A nice big bunch of Equisetum arvense, or Horsetail plant, somewhat toxic it is true, but a reminder that she who takes up the sport of royalty should a mount with a long mane — if one wishes to remain in the saddle.

Stella McCartney

For that designing Brit, a nice big bag of all-natural bone fertilizer.

Dalton McGuinty

In salute to his fecundity, a copy of Alan Toogood’s concise tome, Propagation, or perhaps as an alternative, Lewis Hills’ Pruning Made Easy.

Kate Moss

A subscription to Rolling Stone magazine, a gift not to be sniffed at as it is a well-known fact that a rolling stone gathers no Bryophytes.

Mike Myers

One word: Bonsai!

Peter C. Newman

We can only offer the poor chap a cure for an unfortunate case of order Psocoptera, better known as booklice.

Olsen Sisters

A new perfume derived from extracts of Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla which, although possibly poisonous is believed efficacious for nervous excitability, diarrhea, spasms, urinary infections and sores.

Prince Charles

A hybrid Camellia, along with instructions he kindly refrain from talking it to death.

Martha Stewart

A Windsor, Nova Scotia pumpkin carved into a boat along with a gourd baler, a souvenir of her much-hyped non-visit this past fall to participate in the passage of pumpkins across the local lake.


How to: make an evergreen wreath
Andrea Bellamy |

Perhaps the only thing better than the scent of fresh-cut evergreen boughs is having that scent come from a wreath you’ve made yourself.

My mom and some friends did just that last weekend and I played photojournalist. And so, may I present:

A step-by-step guide to wreath making

You will need:

  • A wreath frame (available at your local craft store).

  • Green florist wire (or just plain silver wire – it’s not really going to show)
  • Secateurs (pruners or clippers)
  • Moss (available at the nursery or some craft stores) soaked in water for at least an hour
  • A variety of fresh materials. Along with Western Larch and Cedar, we used:

Seeded eucalyptus




How To

1. Gather an assortment of 12-20cm (5″-8″) stems into small bunches (between 2-4 stems per bunch), and wrap the ends tightly with florist wire.

2. Wrap the cut end of the bunch with damp moss. Lay the bundle on your wreath frame and secure with more wire.

3. Place your next moss-wrapped bunch on the frame, facing the same direction so that the tips of the second bunch overlap the first, covering the wire. Secure.

4. Proceed as above, overlapping the bundles and wrapping the whole thing with wire. Once your frame is entirely covered, step back and assess. Add extra stems where needed, and affix extras like bows if desired.

Voila! You’ve got yourself a wreath.


Upside down Christmas tree
Andrea Bellamy |

Honestly, what is the deal with these upside-down Christmas trees I’m seeing everywhere? More room for presents? A way to differentiate oneself from the neighbours? I suppose I can’t argue against them on the basis of being contrary to nature – your basic Christmas tree does that already – but really: an upside-down tree. I know someone’s going to tell me that it’s a throwback to a 12th century European tradition, but so were the Crusades. Let’s not get carried away.

I prefer to think of my tree in less commercial terms (even if it does end up covered in gobs of spray-painted macaroni ornaments):

For centuries, evergreens have played an important role in Winter celebrations. Carried into homes and adorned with apples and other fruits, they were set up as symbolic idols. Such decorations were intended as food offerings to the tree and may be where the modern custom of placing gifts beneath the Christmas tree originated. According to some sources, the Christmas tree is actually a throwback to “Yggdrasil,” the Great Tree of Life mentioned in Norse mythology.

Many pagan festivals used trees to honor their gods and spirits. In Northern Europe the Vikings considered the evergreen as symbol and a reminder that the darkness and cold of Winter would end and the green of Spring would return. (Emphasis mine.)

But to each their own. If you must, you can buy your upside-down tree here.


Christmas-season houseplants
Andrea Bellamy |

Around this time of year, the number of plants inside my house nearly doubles. Succulent planters come indoors for the winter, as do the houseplants that live outdoors during the summers. Then there are the seasonal plants: amaryllis, paperwhites, poinsettia.

I’m more of an outdoor-plant person, so I get kind of nervous when I’m charged with keeping indoor plants alive and well. Alive I can usually handle, but well – not so much. So I turned to the Royal Horticultural Society, and lo and behold, an article on “Christmas” houseplants: Cyclamen persicum hybrids, Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia), Rhododendron simsii (indoor or Indian azalea), and Solanum capsicastrum. Better keep that bookmarked.


To do: Coax Paperwhites

There’s something untoward about the term, “forcing bulbs.” I always feel for the poor mistreated bulb: was it bullied? Terrorized? Coerced? That’s why I prefer coaxing.

Whatever you choose to call it, forcing bulbs refers to the act of creating conditions that mimic nature’s springtime, confusing the bulb in winter. My favourite bulb to coax is the paperwhite, or, Narcissus tazetta ssp papyraceus.

Paperwhites are so easy to grow and require only four-six weeks to bloom. And that makes now the time to plant for beautiful blooms (and that fragrance!) just in time for Christmas and Hannukah. You can plant them almost anywhere: in potting soil in a container, or in rocks in the bottom of any vase, bowl or container. The important thing to keep in mind is that the top third of these bulbs always needs to be above the soil/growing medium. My experience has been that the stems eventually require some staking to keep from flopping over, so this year I am going to try growing them in a tall, clear hurricane vase in dark, coarse sand. My hope is that the vase will support the stems as they grow while still displaying the blooms to advantage. I’ll let you know how it works out.


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