Annie Calovich

December 30, 2011

Winter working out all right so far

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Your branches green delight us.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Your branches green delight us.

They’re green when summer days are bright;

They’re green when winter snow is white.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Your branches green delight us!

I have to admit I wasn’t dreaming of a white Christmas this year.

A warm sunny Christmas was fine with me. It put me closer in spirit to friends who live in Hawaii.

Santa visited me on Christmas Eve afternoon with a silver bowl of white hydrangea blooms snuggled up to red ornaments in a nest of holly and fir. I’d never had them before, but tender white hydrangea blossoms on Christmas Eve are heavenly. A springtime version of snow.

Another favorite but unusual vision of Christmas for me this year is a green frost-proof pot of red-leaved coral bells socked in with Christmas tree greens. Coral bells leaves stay “evergreen,” so that site should be good through the winter.

Joining the heuchera this week are pansies suddenly come to life, blooming perkily as the temperature beached, er, I mean, breached 60 degrees. A reader wrote that his jonquils were coming up, and would it hurt them? Actually, they should be fine. They’re meant to handle the cold. We run into problems when flower buds start appearing, and the cold kills the actual flower.

So this wintertime thing is working out all right so far this year. But I guess we’re moving on to a new year tomorrow, so we’ll see how that holds.

The green of the Christmas tree is still holding indoors. I won’t take the real one down until after the 12th day of Christmas (that’s Jan. 5) and the Epiphany (Jan. 6), unless noticeable parts of the tree dry out first. A real tree turned brown does not delight us.

The Christmas tree recycling sites in Sedgwick County are open, generously, until Jan. 23. I usually miss the boat on tree recycling because I like to put my tree in a corner of the backyard where birds can take shelter and where it looks, from a distance, as if I have an extra tree in the landscape. I regret it later if the tree is large, because taking apart a dry-needled, dead tree is not fun.

Extension forester Charles Barden also has these tips for recycling your tree:

“Place it in a corner of your deck, and spread some birdseed nearby, or tie it to a deciduous tree or post near a bird feeder. The birds benefit from having escape cover nearby when hawks or cats threaten, and the dense boughs reduce the wind chill on a cold night.”

If you clip off the branches, “use the boughs to add extra insulation around semi-hardy perennials or to trees and shrubs that were recently planted. The leftover trunk may be used as a garden stake next spring. Or cut and let it dry for a few weeks, and you will have some easy lighting firewood. Just beware that most conifer species tend to spark and pop more than hardwoods, as resin pockets in the wood make tiny explosions. This can delight the youngsters, but for safety’s sake keep an eye on the fire when burning Christmas tree logs!”

Whether you recycle a tree at one of the recycling sites or not, you can pick up mulch there for free as it is chipped. The mulch should be used on top of soil and not incorporated into the soil, as it is not a soil amendment. People are supposed to remove all decorations from trees they’re recycling, but a few shreds of silver tinsel are not unpleasing reminders of the mulch’s origins. (They’re also not good for the chipping machines, I know.)

The seed catalogs started arriving in December, and I had to set them aside for more pressing Christmastime preparations. But soon I will reach for them – maybe when (if?) the snow really flies.

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