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  • December garden tips & tasks

    It’s a good time to plant trees and shrubs. After you plant, mulch the ground around the tree, but don’t mound the much up around the trunk.

    Did you plant pansies? They need water. Give the soil a good soaking during dry weather.

    Discourage deer from browsing your garden by using strong-smelling repellents – either commercial products or homemade.

    Water houseplants regularly, but don’t allow the plants to sit in water. Most houseplants do well if you let he soil dry out slightly between waterings.

    Trees planted in fall require moisture, even if the weather is cold. If it hasn’t rained, check to see if the soil is dry, and provide water if it is.

    Keep bird feeders filled, and provide water for the birds that visit your garden.

    Houseplants that require a lot of light may need to be shifted to a sunnier location.

    A balled-and-burlapped evergreen that you use indoors as a Christmas tree should be planted as soon as possible after the holidays. Keep it in a heated room five days or less.

    Start several amaryllis bulbs at weekly intervals to have a continuous show of flowers in your home through the winter.

    Update your garden journal. Make notes on this year’s successes and challenges, and on changes that you want to make in your garden next year.

    Save the date

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

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Banish the Bradford pear

QUESTION: When should Bradford pear trees be pruned? Is now a good time? How far back should you prune them?

Bradford pear trees are the first to flower in spring, but they are not a good choice for landscape trees.

I’ll answer the last question first, and echo the thoughts of many landscape and forestry experts who believe that these trees should get just one pruning cut – about an inch above the ground.

Seriously, Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana Bradford’) are not good landscape trees, no matter how lovely they are this time of year. They live fast and die young – a 25-year-old Bradford pear is probably near the end of its life. Because their heavy limbs grow at narrow angles, they tend to split apart. And because they shoot up so quickly and easily, this import from China has been placed on alert as a possible threat by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. So, is it time to reconsider?

But back to the question: It’s good to prune trees in late winter, while they’re still dormant. As you are no doubt aware if you’re in Middle Tennessee, “late winter” now seems to mean the same as “spring,” and most things are no longer dormant. So if you need to prune, do it now, before the tree leafs out fully and you can still see the branch structure easily.

Really, though, wouldn’t you rather have something else? Landscape professionals suggest a couple of good native alternatives to the Bradford pear: downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arboria), which has white flowers in spring, dark green foliage in summer and red berries in the fall; and Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), white flowers, green leaves, small blue-black fruit enjoyed by birds in the fall.

Either would be better than a Bradford pear, guaranteed.

 

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