December 2012
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


P. Allen Smith’s espalier decoration is an interesting inspiration idea for less-than-live plants from your property.

Callaway Gardening Symposium

Want to give a gardener a really nice Christmas gift? How about two days of gardening talks by well-known gardeners and experts? It happens January 25-27 at the 27th Annual Southern Gardening Symposium at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. One of the high points of the Symposium is the silent auction and the marketplace where there is always a surprise and something you’ve been looking for. This is an event I look forward to also for seeing old friends and for the mealtime garden chatter. Read more event details at; look under educational programs in the main menu.

An Old Espalier

How do you like this decoration in P. Allen Smith’s barn? What a great way to celebrate the art of espalier while making the best of one that didn’t make it! This big espalier fills a large wall in a rustic but sophisticated "barn" that is not an animal house but a barn-like building providing a large space for events and social gatherings. Use this interior espalier as inspiration to do the same with less-than-live items from your property.

A Great Indoor Tree

The weeping podocarpos makes a good houseplant outside its natural tropical habitat.

Weeping podocarpus (Podocarpus gracilior) is a beautiful, soft, weeping evergreen that makes a great street tree in frost-free climates like Southern California and South Florida. Elsewhere, the same thick, shade-tolerant leaves and the plant’s ability to withstand constricted roots also makes it a good houseplant. This photo shows a small tree inside the main building at the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. Your best bet to find a weeping podocarpus is in the foliage plant section of a garden center that offers a good selection of houseplants or they can order what you want. You can also check nurseries on a car trip to Florida. The tree needs a bright location indoors, just like most houseplants.

Homemade Suet

This recipe for suet is easy to make and won’t melt on a warm day. A good source of protein for birds, suet provides much of the same nutrition in winter that birds would get from eating insects in the warm months.

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups Crisco® (2 sticks butter)
1 cup plain white flour (avoid self-rising)
1/3 cup sugar

Melt Crisco and peanut butter together over low heat. In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. After the Crisco and peanut butter are melted, combine with mixture. Stir until well mixed. Pour into plastic containers the same size as your suet basket. Store in freezer or refrigerator.

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

Gardeners love to get special items at Christmas they might not buy for themselves, or items that will help them get started in the garden as soon as the holidays are past. Here are some ideas for the gardener on your list: a truckload of compost; a pop-up style greenhouse they can put away in summer; a raised bed for vegetables and herbs; a beautiful, glazed, outdoor pot; a wish list of garden books; a blueberry hedge (complete with planting labor); pruners; or a nice compost tumbler. Of course, the gardener in your life may have already given you a list. Either way, there is always plenty to choose from to give a gardener.


Bring simple flowers into the house for the holidays with paperwhite bulbs.


Bring simple flowers into the house for the holidays with paperwhite bulbs. They can be found in packages or already planted and ready for the windowsill. As the plants grow, tie the stems to a thin bamboo or florist stake with a pretty raffia tie to keep them upright. There is also a little trick you can use to dwarf their growth. When the shoots are an inch or taller, add a little alcohol to their water (one part rubbing alcohol to 10 parts water) and continue watering with the same. This stunts growth in a good way to help keep the stems from getting too lanky.

TLC for Your Christmas Tree

Here are a couple of tips to help keep a fresh tree from drying out too quickly. Cut an inch or two from the end of the stump before putting it into the treestand. This will make it easier for the tree to take up water. If possible, shield your tree from wind when bringing it home. Trees tied to the top of a moving car are subjected to a lot of wind that pulls moisture from the needles. Wrap it securely in a blanket or tarp to help deflect the wind.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.