Annie Calovich

November 24, 2012

Holiday potpourri: trees, Illuminations, feeding the birds

It’s a little early for the Christmas tree for me, but even if you aren’t getting your tree this weekend, you probably are planning where you will buy it.

It’s a little early for the Christmas tree for me, but even if you aren’t getting your tree this weekend, you probably are planning where you will buy it.

You’ll be happy to know that our area Christmas tree farms have survived the second summer of drought, though we can only imagine their battle when we think of ours in our relatively tiny gardens. They lost a few big trees that couldn’t handle the stress, but the vast majority of trees are there for our choosing.

Trees cut from the farm are your freshest choice for a real tree, since they’re cut whenever you want them.

Next up are fresh trees that you find at garden centers and at Christmas-tree lots where the proceeds go to charity. It’s best to buy these trees sooner rather than later, while they’re at their freshest, even if you don’t plan to put up the tree yet. You can make a fresh cut to the base as soon as you get the tree home, then keep it in a bucket of water on the north side of the house, out of the sun, until you’re ready to bring it in the house. The key is to keep that base, once it’s freshly cut, continually in water until you’re ready to pitch it after Christmas.


Illuminations has begun at Botanica, and the gardens will be alight nightly through Dec. 30 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas night). I saw the preview last week, and I especially love a new laser light that plays over the Project Beauty Shakespeare Garden, worthy of a midsummer night’s dream, twinkling in the trees like fireflies.

More of the trees throughout Botanica are lighted this year, along with the treehouse in the Downing Children’s Garden.

I always love catching the live Christmas music that’s featured indoors each night of Illuminations, and Santa Claus is in his cottage through Dec. 23. Refreshments are available for a small fee in the Terrace Room and in the children’s garden Party Barn, as are s’mores for melting over an open fire for $1.

This year I also managed to get in a workout during the light show at the entrance to the children’s garden. The music to that light show wafts its way over to the other light show, in the Meadow. There, Mannheim Steamroller’s “Silent Night” lulls me into nostalgia. The children’s garden music, on the other hand, is pounding enough to send me into a version of holiday aerobics, marching in that exaggerated aerobics-class way that is catching (a couple of other people joined me). Just an idea, Botanica.

Illuminations runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for Botanica members, and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at area QuikTrips and Botanica, online at, or by calling Kathy Osler at 316-264-0448, ext. 107, or via e-mail at

The event won’t be open this year on Dec. 31, even though a crowd of almost 1,000 people showed up last New Year’s Eve, Kristin Marlett of Botanica said. Finding volunteers and staff to work that night was a problem, she said.


A reader called recently wondering where the birds were.

The apparent absence at feeders happened when food was readily available for the birds from natural sources, said Nick Clausen of the Backyard Nature Center.

“Even with a drought, there’s more food available than any other time of year,” he said. In addition, birds’ energy requirements are not high because of the moderate temperatures, and because birds are not nesting.

But already bird activity is picking up. Nick hadn’t seen any goldfinches for two months, and he saw 25 at his feeders last week.

“The best thing is to keep food available and have water available – that’s more important this time of year, especially considering how dry it’s been.” Have an electric birdbath heater ready for when the water starts freezing. If you’re not able to have a heater (solar ones don’t work, he says), put fresh water out more often, Nick suggests. While the freezing of water can break a concrete or pottery birdbath (they should be stored out of the elements or their bowl turned upside down for the winter), plastic birdbaths don’t break. Plant saucers can also stand in as birdbaths.


The Eagle will have its holiday open house on a Thursday this year, from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 6. I will be caroling with some of my co-workers in the lobby as you arrive at the newspaper, where you can take a tour of the building, have your picture taken with Santa, enter to win prizes, have refreshments and see a new gallery of photographs. Hope to see you there – maybe you can join us and heaven and nature in singing!

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