Taking care of your holiday rosemary plant

Although nowhere near as popular as poinsettias, rosemary plants are becoming a favorite holiday plant.

Rosemary trimmed to a conical shape bears a striking resemblance to a miniature Christmas tree. Though it may look like it, rosemary is not related to pine, spruce or any other evergreen trees. It belongs to the mint family of plants which includes basil, thyme, mint and sage.

Just brushing against the leaves of  a potted rosemary releases its signature fragrance that can fill a room.

In most cases, fresh sprigs can be cut from a potted rosemary and be used in recipes calling for this herb. I say in most cases because sometimes plant growers apply systemic pesticides to their rosemary crop. In that case the rosemary is intended for ornamental use only and not for consumption. Always read the plant tag before assuming your plant is OK to use in the kitchen.

 

Plant tags often contain more information than just the name of the plant.
Plant tags often contain more information than just the name of the plant.

Don’t be tempted to water your plant and let water stand in the saucer or wrapper thinking that will supply even moisture. Standing water will drown and kill rosemary roots and eventually the entire plant.

On the other hand, don’t let the plant dry out. The stiff foliage doesn’t appear to wilt much when the plant gets dry, but damage can happen pretty quickly from lack of water.

Place your rosemary into a container of water and allow the entire root ball absorb water.
Place your rosemary into a container of water and allow the entire root ball absorb water.

Try this little trick: try to gauge how much your rosemary weighs before you water it. After the plant has drained in the sink, note how much heavier it feels when you pick it up. After a few times you’ll be able to have a good guess at how dry the plant is. If you’re not comfortable doing that, use a moisture meter — they’re relatively inexpensive and make a great Christmas gift!

Finally, be sure your plant gets as much direct sun as possible — a south window is almost mandatory. We’ve been setting ours outside during these mild days to help the plant get more sunshine.

Bob

Warm Winter Days

This last day in January is the warmest we’ve had in a series of unseasonably warm days.  I hesitated to write about taking advantage of these kind of days because when they happen, they only happen once — then it’s winter again.  The way this winter is going we may well get a few more of these.

Days like this give us a chance to take care of our plants.

Take today for example, it’s nearly 60 degrees outside.  That gave me a chance to haul out all of the plants I’ve been overwintering indoors.

A few of my indoor plants getting a much needed shower outside -- on January 31.

When plants stay inside all winter the insect and mite population can get out of hand.  Also, household dust can collect and clog stomata, the microscopic pores on the leaves. It’s through the stomata that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  If those pores become clogged, photosynthesis slows down which weakens the plant.

So, in the winter, plants are subjected to a double whammy.  They are weakened by clogged stomata and then attacked by a growing pest problem.

The best thing you can do for your plants is to take them outside on mild winter days and hose them off with water. That’s exactly what I did today.

I also had a chance to moisten the tubers and geraniums that I have in winter storage.  It’s a lot easier to do this job outside where I don’t have to worry about getting water all over the place.

Plan to take advantage of the next warm day – if we have one—to help out your plants.

Bob

 

Overwintering Potted Trees

The gardens outside are buttoned up for winter.  I took advantage of the cold temperatures a couple of weeks ago to heel in the last of the plants I wanted to save over winter. Usually I like to get this job done by the first week of December.

The only plants left were some of the potted trees that I’m saving for some bonsai and other projects.  In addition to my 15 years old bonsai, I tucked away a fewAlbertaspruce, some maples, a couple of tamarack and a small assortment of other potted trees.

There’s a nice sheltered area in our yard under some pine trees where the plants spend the winter.

I start out preparing an overwintering spot by digging a shallow hole that is about half the diameter of the pot. The pot goes into the hole sideways so that the plant is lying right on the ground.  I take the soil dug from the hole and cover the pot.

Next, I cover the buried pot and the top of the plant with mulch.  Usually I can rake up enough pine needles to do the job.  This year I decided to use wheat straw because of the number of plants I had.

Some old garden fence keeps the straw mulch from blowing away.

My success rate has been quite high using this method.  Placing the pot on its side keeps out excess water that may freeze and damage the pot. Laying the trees on the ground protects the branches from extreme temperatures.  The mulch protects the plants from exposure to the winter sun, which can dry out small branches.  Moreover, it serves as blanket to protect the plants in case we don’t get snow cover.

The soil hasn’t frozen yet and the plants haven’t been exposed to really cold temperatures so there is still time to get those valuable plants tucked in for winter.

This year it looks like I could have waited until the first week of January. I wouldn’t want to bet on it happening again next year.

Bob

 

 

Potted Olive

One of my favorite potted plants is our Olive Tree.  We have two of these trees in pots and they seem to be quite happy living in their containers.

They don’t have big showy flowers or give off a sweet scent. What I like is their graceful form.

The branches grow in sweeping curves that support delicate silvery-green leaves that compliment surrounding plants. Olive leaves also make a refreshing tea which I drink from time to time.

Our Olive Trees are about five years old and are nearly three feet tall in the pots and do produce actual olives.

They have to be over wintered indoors because they are not hardy enough to withstand our winters. You can just bring them into a dimly lit, cool storage area (45F-55F) when the autumn temperatures start to fall  and reduce watering to a minimum. Or, keep them going all winter in your greenhouse, they’re not all that picky.

Ah-luv those Olives!

Bob