December 2016
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Some hybrid amaryllis may surprise you by how well they do after being transplanted in the garden.

Amaryllis Moves to the Garden

After your Christmas amaryllis blooms, it may have a second life in the garden. Our mild climate allows many of the hybrid amaryllis bulbs to be planted in the garden, where they often thrive for several years. After the blooms fade, keep the foliage alive indoors through winter by putting it in a window and keeping it watered. In the spring, transplant it to a spot in the garden with good drainage and where it gets four to six hours of sun. Don’t bury it too deeply; keep the neck of the bulb an inch or two below the surface. Next winter, place mulch over it with pine straw to protect the bulb from freezing and uncover it in the spring. It should bloom again the next spring. Place it in a flowerbed where it can bloom among other plants and the foliage will be camouflaged. Fertilize with bulb booster fertilizer and leave the foliage all summer (it will die back naturally) to provide energy for the bulb to bloom again next year.


Coping with Drought

It is best to wait until spring to evaluate damage to landscape plants from drought. Sometimes a plant will drop leaves in response, but won’t die. Or only a portion of the plant dies. In the exceptional drought of 2007, our native Alabama azalea completely died back, but the roots survived. The next spring the plant sent up new shoots in the original location and several others to form three separate plants, so now we have three Azalea alabamense. When selecting new plants, consider if they can survive with infrequent watering after they are established. A few with exceptional drought tolerance include yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Check with the Alabama Extension Smart Yards program for more recommended plants that best tolerate periods of drought.


Suet is a Winter Buffet for Birds

In winter, when sources of fat and calories are sparse for birds because fewer insects are active, suet can be a big source of nutrition for your local bird population. Woodpeckers in particular love suet, but so do many other birds including warblers, nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals. My mother-in-law always kept a pan of suet in her freezer to refill the feeder daily if needed. This is the recipe she used that originally came from her Audubon birding group.



2 cups (2 sticks) Crisco
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup plain white flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sugar

In saucepan over low heat, melt Crisco and peanut butter together. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When Crisco and peanut butter are melted, add combined ingredients. Stir until well mixed. Spread into a cake pan. Freeze or refrigerate. After it hardens, cut into squares to fit your basket or, better yet, freeze in containers the same size as your feeder.

With a little care, your poinsettias will survive through the holiday season.




Christmas poinsettias do not like a chill. Be careful how you bring them home from your shopping trip or they could shed their leaves prematurely. Make the poinsettias your last stop and keep them inside a car or truck cab where they are protected. When inside the car or house, put them in a spot where the air is still – not where heating vents will blow on them. Water enough to keep the soil moist and they should last you through the season.



Beautiful foliage for making decorative garland may be growing in your yard or that of a friend who will share.

Make Your Own Garland

Garland made from a mix of foliage, berries and fruits offer an elegant welcome into your home during the holidays. You can make your own or purchase evergreen garland and embellish it with foliage cut from your own garden. The key is using fresh foliage that holds well after being cut. What is fresher than what you just cut? This one includes Southern magnolia, juniper, nandina, pomegranate and citrus. While time-consuming, it is not difficult to wire bunches of foliage together and attach to a longer wire or rope to create a length of color and texture. Or you can make a smaller swag to hang on the front door. Look for easy step-by-step instructions in books or instantly on YouTube. You’ll need just a few materials: clippers, wire, wire cutters, rope and maybe some florists’ tape or twine. If you choose to wear garden gloves, choose the tight-fitting type with rubber-coated palms and fingertips for easy gripping.


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