|CHOOSE MINIATURE, LONG-LASTING
December 10, 2010
by Carmen Price & Brynn Lee, Victoria County Master Gardeners
edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
MASTER GARDENER ASSOCIATION
|LEFT: PHOTO BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Pruned rosemary plants in holiday presentation are available at local nurseries, home improvement centers and grocery stores. This selection was on display at H-E-B the past couple of weeks.
RIGHT: PHOTO BY BRYNN LEE/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
A small Norfolk pine can add dimension to Christmas decorations. It provides natural color and height to this mantle decorated with poinsettias.
|ABOVE: PHOTO BY DICK NOLEN/VCMGA
Rosemary can grow year-round in a container in direct sunlight with adequate watering and drainage. It can be pruned to a conical Christmas tree shape with the needles from the cuttings used in various cooking recipes.
RIGHT: PHOTO BY BRYNN LEE/VCMGA
The Norfolk pine grows well inside and can be the perfect miniature tree for small corner locations, in an apartment or even as an additional Christmas tree.
|This year, you may wish to use a miniature-type Christmas tree that is also long-lasting. Rosemary topiaries and Norfolk pines are available at your local nursery, home improvement or grocery store. You can find them most everywhere . potted rosemary herb shrubs that have been trimmed to look like the traditional, cone-shaped Christmas tree or Norfolk pines naturally shaped for inside your home.
ROSEMARY HOLIDAY CARE
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) smells terrific, but can you keep the plant alive during and after the holidays? Sure, and here are some tips to keep it alive, even until next Christmas.
Rosemary won't survive if it's allowed to sit in water, so make sure that its pot is draining well. Remove the decorative-colored wrapper that often comes with the plant, as it can trap water around the plant roots.
This half-hardy perennial likes to be a little dry between waterings. If the tips of the needles start to turn brown, and the soil feels dry, you are not watering the plant enough. This is an indication that the plant requires more humidity. Use a dish filled with water and pebbles along with a handheld mister to provide moisture to the foliage.
Rosemary loves sun. Place it in a sun-filled room facing the South, making sure there are no drafts or hot air vents near. If needles start to drop, the plant needs a better light source, or place it closer to the window, but not actually touching the glass. To maintain even growth on all sides of the plant, turn your rosemary Christmas tree often.
To maintain the conical Christmas tree shape, you will need to prune your topiary. The more you trim the new growth, the more the tips will branch out. You can then use the trimmings in your favorite recipes calling for fresh rosemary.
You can keep your topiary potted all year, ready for next Christmas. In the spring, put it on your patio, and bring it back in before the next frost. A container plant quickly loses moisture in hot weather, both indoors and out, so check it often. Rosemary does not recover well after being completely dried out.
So, consider rosemary for a Christmas tree this year. It's probably the first Christmas tree you've ever had that you can eat, as well as admire.
Here is another alternative for a living Christmas tree for your holiday decorating - the Norfolk pine. The Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), is native to the South Pacific. Unlike other cold-tolerant pines, this tree requires the milder temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees and lots of humidity. Norfolk pines are in abundant supply in November and December at most nurseries or grocery stores at a reasonable price.
INDOOR USE, DECORATING
You can keep the Norfolk indoors, 4 to 5 feet from a sun-lit window, all year long. Decorate with small, light-weight ornaments to add charm to your home. It is ideal for a home with smaller rooms, for apartment dwellers or just as an additional Christmas tree. This living tree makes a beautiful tabletop centerpiece or mantel decoration nestled among a bouquet of poinsettias.
Think about using this tree to display your special-theme ornaments or other holidays, such as Easter. Remember not to leave the decorations in place any longer than necessary as this will cause the branches to droop.
Even though this tree can be easily grown indoors, you can move it outdoors, and it will maintain its size according to the container. They can be planted in the ground, but need to be protected from temperatures below 50 degrees. The only pruning needed is snipping off the brown tips or dead branches.
GROW A TRADITION
Most Norfolk pines and even rosemary are destined to die or be thrown out soon after the holidays, but with proper care, they can be kept healthy and last for many holiday seasons, almost becoming a part of the family and your holiday tradition. This season, try a miniature, long-lasting Christmas tree.
|CARING FOR ROSEMARY TOPIARY
Requires 6 to 8 hours sunlight daily.
Rotate occasionally if placed in window.
Water well, but provide good drainage.
Let soil dry between waterings.
Mist with distilled water occasionally.
Can be pruned to conical Christmas tree shape.
Use pruned needles in kitchen recipes.
Move plant outdoors in sunny location after the frosty weather.
Consider planting rosemary in your yard, makes good dense shrub.
CARING FOR NORFOLK PINE
Prefers direct sunlight but not extreme, hot, sunny days.
Requires cold protection below 50 degrees.
Can be moved outdoors if desired.
Same watering and misting required.
Minimal or no pruning required.
Makes excellent indoor, seasonal decorating tree.
Master Gardener Cookbooks Available
106 Tropical Drive
Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, 9 a.m. to noon
Contact: Charlie Boren, 361-935-9023
|The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.|