Even with our sophisticated modern intelligence, we hear that tiny despairing voice niggling deep in our subconscious linking us to soil people from some primitive time who feared the sun would never …
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Even with our sophisticated modern intelligence, we hear that tiny despairing voice niggling deep in our subconscious linking us to soil people from some primitive time who feared the sun would never return.
Imagine living in a northern European country centuries ago and watching the days dwindle until only a few hours of daylight occurred. No wonder celebrations honoring the sun arose. Bonfires, chanting, drumming and decorating with the ever green spruce, fir or pine tree all became part of winter solstice celebrations symbolizing life and growth.
S.Werner-Ney sonne_fleckl - stock.adobe.com
Feuer lagerfeuer Nacht Winter
Today, although our scientific knowledge enables us to know exact sunrise/sunset moments, we still find ourselves fighting depression during early December. However, our spirits suddenly arise on December 22 when the sun returns to warm the earth. The added evening moments of daylight are quickly apparent to our welcoming psyches.
Modern holiday excesses do little to lift gardeners’ flagging spirits, but earth connections do help. On snow-free days you can always find some laggard leaves to rake or some pine cones to gather. On mild days you can clean and oil your gardening tools so they’ll be ready to serve you in the spring.
Like it or not, December is also the month for gifting. Avoid the cacophony of malls. Rather, seek the serenity of nurseries. (Yes, they are still there.) Gone are the long lines of petunia-buying season. Instead, you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of whispering wind chimes, tickling water fountains and the comforting scent of living plants and moist earth.
Gift certificates from a nursery enable a friend or relative to happily splurge during spring’s planting frenzy or to just buy an extra sack of quality compost.
Nurseries also offer personal items costing only a few dollars or moving up the price range.
On a recent visit to my two favorite neighborhood nurseries, I discovered the following possible gift items: plant markers, hand tools, gloves, aprons, weeding/kneeling benches, note cards, watering cans, thermometers, aromatic herbs, waterfalls, statuary, decorative pots, wind chimes, bird seed, door mats, etc. etc. You get the picture.
Although the bright poinsettias abound now, there are many other satisfying plants for the season that won’t look so tired in January. Cyclamen, orchids and bromeliads can initiate an entirely new plant passion.
Q. Our hollyhocks have nearly a foot of green growth already. Will the plants be killed by winter? Should we do something now to protect them?
A. Don’t worry. The new growth is natural and your plants will survive winter just fine. If you go to the Denver Botanic Gardens and check out the perennial walk, you’ll see much new basal growth. However, leaf and/or evergreen mulch will help all of your plants survive our notorious winter freeze/thaw cycles.
Q. We moved here from the midwest last year so we’re still adapting to new gardening practices. A friend told my husband we must water our trees and shrubs in the winter. Is this true? Isn’t everything frozen?
A. The friend is correct. Last winter’s excessive snowfall was an aberration. We often have long, dry, brown winters accompanied by strong drying winds. That, plus our intense winter sunlight saps all moisture from our stressed trees.
Water with a soaker hose or slow sprinkler once or twice a month, depending on weather. Do this on sunny days when the temperature reaches at least 40 degrees, and give trees 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree’s trunk.
Q. My holiday cactus has never bloomed since I received it five years ago. The plant looks healthy and grows more each year, but it doesn’t bloom.
A. A variety of these cacti (Zygocactus) are light sensitive just as poinsettias are. In order to bloom, their exposure to light and darkness must equal natural daylight and darkness. Remembering to tuck your plants in and out of closets every day is impractical. I simply leave mine in a basement window and let nature do its thing. Putting them in a low-light, little-used room also works. In addition, they prefer cooler temperatures and being away from direct sunlight. Try the above suggestions now and your plant may still produce blossoms this winter.
Don’t let December’s darkness depress you. Focus on the new solstice and join with me in chanting, drumming and cheering the sun’s return – and I’ll see you also enjoying the tranquility of a neighborhood nursery.
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