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Playing with Christmas greenery an extension of gardening

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at 7:18 a.m.

More than any Christmas before, I’ve been thinking of which causes I want to help and which businesses I want to see stay in business while doing my Christmas shopping.

Amazon is easy, and Amazon may be cheaper, but Amazon doesn’t feel right. The delight of finding a gift in person – where you can rifle the book and judge the packaging – and buying it on the spot from your friendly proprietor completes the circle of the joy of giving.

Last week, for example, I thrilled to see greens cut fresh from the gardens of Botanica and arranged in a fragrant dish garden of blue juniper berries, red holly berries and gold incense-cedar berries. It’s what I’d love to create from my own garden – if I had those particular plants, and if I could bear to cut them. The fact that I have some greens from Botanica sitting on the desk, and that the purchase helps the gardens, makes it a win-win.

I guess that particular Christmas arrangement was a present to me. That’s OK. Moving right along.

There’s a winter market on Dec. 15 at the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road (indoors). It’s from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; see more details in The Grapevine on Page 1C.

Playing with Christmas greens is an extension of gardening. You can find them at garden centers, florist shops, Christmas tree lots. Pot them up in sand arrayed around a spruce top for a porch pot, or buy a small cut tree from a tree lot or garden center, plop it in a garden pot where your annuals used to be, and enjoy it all winter – removing the red bows at the appropriate time, of course.

The indoor landscape for Christmas can take on many forms beyond the Christmas tree, from poinsettias to Christmas cactus to amaryllis to a rosemary topiary.

At Botanica last week, Rachel Westmoreland of Dutch’s Greenhouse gave a talk on poinsettias. Dutch’s grows its own poinsettias – it can grow them bigger and fuller that way, Rachel says, because it doesn’t have to worry about packing and shipping them.

Poinsettias should be kept in bright light, at 65 to 75 degrees during the day, a bit cooler at night. I always pick up a new tip or two on poinsettias every year. This year I learned that while colors remain more vibrant on most poinsettias if they are kept in the cooler-temperature range, white and pink poinsettias stay truer if kept warmer.

Water a poinsettia when it is dry to the touch, then water it thoroughly, Rachel said, letting water run out the bottom of the pot, then draining the water from the saucer so the plant doesn’t sit in water.

If the pot is covered in foil, you don’t have to remove the foil when watering, Rachel said – just put a hole in the bottom of the foil so that the water drains out. Dutch’s does that on its plants already.

One audience member wanted to know how long a poinsettia would last in a room with no natural light. A week and a half to two weeks, Rachel said – so in that case she recommends buying your poinsettia and then letting Dutch’s keep it until the days draw near to Christmas to enjoy it on the holiday.

A new variety this year is Sparkling Punch, with light pink and white bracts.

The color that drew the most oohs and ahs from the crowd was the burgundy.

Dutch’s also takes orders and delivers poinsettias – older customers often have them delivered to their homes, Rachel says – and it has a website now, where poinsettias also can be ordered: www.dutchsgreenhouse.com.

That sounds better than amazon.com this Christmas.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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