University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article
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COOL CYCLAMEN AND OTHER DECEMBER GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist

Keeping cyclamen cool and evenly moist, poinsettias warm and away from drafts, and making gardening gift baskets are some of the garden-related activities for this month.
   
Cyclamen are a flowering holiday plant, most often seen during this time of year and winter.  The rounded dark leaves usually have silvery markings, and the unique flowers arise above the leaves.  Flowers come in reds, purples, pink or white, and last for weeks with proper care.  New buds then arise, so you can get months of bloom.
   
Cyclamen like it cool -- right next to the heater isn't an ideal location. Temperatures in the 60’s (F), even 50’s, are good.  The small tuber is susceptible to rotting so if you have the time, water by submerging the pot in bowl of water until the soil takes up enough moisture, then remove. Otherwise, water slowly so it seeps in and doesn't sit on the tuber. Make sure the pot doesn’t sit in a saucer filled with water. 
   
Give cyclamen bright light.  As flowers and foliage fade, you can give the plant a rest by withholding water and keeping it in a cool, dark location until new growth begins.
   
Poinsettias are the typical holiday plant all know and see and it, too, will last for months with proper care.  Poinsettias prefer to be more dry than wet, so if in doubt don’t water.  They like it warmer than cyclamen, but don’t like drafts near doors nor too near heat sources like woodstoves.  Keep away from pets or children that may chew on leaves.  Although not toxic, the white sticky sap may cause vomiting or mouth irritation. 
   
What gardener on your holiday gift list wouldn't appreciate a decorative basket or pot filled with handy gardening items? Plus, they're fun to put together. Some items to consider are pruners, an ergonomic trowel, fragrant soap, hand lotion, seeds, plant tags, paper white narcissus bulbs, rain gauge, decorative plant labels, and water-resistant gloves.  Use a large decorative pot, colorful plastic garden “trug”, or basket, and they’ll get use from this too.
   
There are many garden books to choose from for gift ideas, both instructive how-to ones and ones to inspire.  Consider a couple references by the authors—The Fruit Gardener’s Bible and Northeast Fruit and Vegetable Gardening.  
   
The faux clay pots made of insulated plastic are handy for adding a touch of greenery next to your front door, as are hanging baskets. Don’t use clay, as it will absorb water and crack in cold temperatures.  Use a 12- or 14-inch size pot or larger, and fill with old soil, peat moss, bark mulch, or whatever material you have on hand that will anchor branches. Prune some branches off evergreen trees and shrubs to use in the container, adding other greens and berries from local nurseries or florists, and some tiny white lights.
   
Branches of holly berries add color among greenery outside, until they freeze and turn black. Some faux branches of berries look remarkably real, and who's going to know when they are covered with a dusting of snow.  There are many other types of upright, glittery or decorative accessories to add that you can find at florists, craft and home stores.
   
Other garden-related activities for this month include buying some local fir swags or roping for decorating, cutting your own Christmas tree, keeping bird feeders replenished daily, potting some paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis bulbs, and checking houseplants for pests.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).

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