No products in the cart
Charlie’s Late November Newsletter
With Thanksgiving behind us, many are turning their attention to the end of the year holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. That often means gift giving. I’ve been making a list and receiving lists from family for the holidays. It’s often a tough decision to make between getting what people want versus the surprise gift. So hopefully, you can do a little of both this holiday season.
One of the gifts that many gardeners, and even non-gardeners, overlook, but really appreciate is amaryllis. This, along with poinsettia, have to be the flowers of the season and nothing beats having a beautiful amaryllis in full flower on your holiday table. I talk about different varieties of amaryllis here and how to get them to bloom at the right time. Read more in this newsletter.
For those that read this newsletter regularly, you know I’m offering two international garden tours next year. The Fall, 2023 trip to Puglia, Italy is already sold out with a waiting list only. It’s worth getting on the list because often traveler’s plans change and an opening occurs. But the Spring, 2023 trip to the Gardens of Ireland still has a few openings. I highlight one of the gardens we’ll tour while in Ireland. We often get to meet the garden owners and/or the head gardener so we get a behind the scenes tour of the landscape. Check it out here.
One of the quintessential lines from a holiday song is “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. In many parts of the world, it’s not just a line, but vendors offer roasted chestnuts around the holidays, often roasting them in their outdoor carts. For us, we need to grow the chestnut trees first. I have a small forest of American and American and Chinese hybrid chestnuts that are growing well, but have yet to produce nuts. Learn more about this historic American tree and how to grow it in your landscape.
While there are many holiday gifts you can get for the gardener in your family or friend circle, something they could use to make them a better gardener is always welcome. Gardeners are always learning. I’m offering 16 of my webinars for sale. These webinars range in topics from raised beds to pollinator gardens to growing berries. Check them out and consider gifting a set to your special gardening friend. I have them on-sale just for that purpose.
Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.
There’s no more stunning flower for the holidays than Amaryllis. This Southern Hemisphere bulb wants to bloom around the end of the year, making it a perfect holiday plant and gift. The large bulbs have all the energy they need to produce a single, double or even three flower stalks with multiple flowers on each. They are so packed with energy, you can even purchase amaryllis bulbs coated in wax with a pedestal on the bottom to keep them upright without any pot or soil and they still bloom.
But most people purchase amaryllis bulb kits (which includes the bulb, pot and soil) or individual amaryllis bulbs to pot up by themselves. There are lots of varieties of amaryllis with different flower colors and shapes. We can start with white. ‘Christmas Gift’ is a pure, snow white flower on a 2 foot tall flower stalk. It’s a classic color for the holidays. Speaking of classic colors, red is often associated with this time of year. Try growing a ‘Lagoon’ amaryllis with its pinkish-red flowers. ‘Barbados’ is another nice red variety, but it has white streaks in the center of the flower. ‘Cherry Nymph’ is another red flowered amaryllis, but it has double petals so is much fuller. For a salmon colored flower, try ‘Giant Amadeus‘ with its salmon and white colored, double blooms and huge flowers.
Once you have your amaryllis, it’s time to pot it up (unless you’re purchasing a wax coated one). Place the bulb in a pot slightly larger than the bulb and fill with potting soil. Water and place in a warm, sunny window. Generally it takes 6+ weeks from potting to blooming, but the warmer the room, the faster the growth. If you don’t have lots of light in that room and the flower stalks tend to bend towards the light, place sticks or supports in the pot to help keep the bloom upright.
Once a flower stalks emerges, start watering regularly. There’s no need for fertilizer. Rotate the pot so the flower stalk doesn’t lean too much towards the window. Then enjoy the flower show. The larger the bulbs, the more flower stalks and blooms you’ll get. On large bubs you can expect 2 to 3 flower stalks with 3 to 4 flowers per stalk. That’s a big show for weeks!
Once the flowers finish, cut back the flower stalk to the bulb, but leave the newly emerged leaves. Grow the amaryllis as a houseplant all winter and spring keeping it watered and fertilized. Place the bulb and pot outdoors in early summer in a part sun location and keep watering and feeding the bulb. By the end of September, cut all the foliage back to the bulb and place the bulb in cool, dark place to go dormant. Don’t water it. In 4- to 6-weeks bring it back to a warm, indoor room with lots of light and it should flower again for you next year.
Powerscourt Garden in Ireland
On our Gardens of Ireland Tour from June 2 to 11, 2023, we’ll be visiting a wide range of gardens. We’ll have a chance to see home gardens designed and grown by their owners, larger professionally groomed, private gardens and finally botanical gardens. It will be a good way to get garden inspired by the plants, plant combinations and layouts of these amazing gardens. Many of the plants they grow can be grown in the United States, too!
One of the gems we’ll be visiting is Powerscourt Gardens. Located outside of Dublin, we’ll have plenty of time to explore this world renowned garden. Named the “third best garden in the world” by National Geographic Magazine, Powerscourt is a large and magnificent garden with sweeping vistas, large plantings and many structures that add balance and beauty.
Powerscourt is more than one garden, but a combination of multiple gardens all pulled together in the broad landscape. Marvel at the beautifully laid out Italian formal garden with views of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. The symmetry, formal plantings and statuary all hearken back to 18th century Italy. Delight in the Walled Garden with its herbaceous flower borders, fruit and vegetable plantings and ancient walls and gates. It’s one of the oldest gardens at Powerscourt.
Wander through the Japanese Garden. In June there still will be flowers galore in this meticulously designed garden. Its flowers are complimented by the pagodas, bridges and statuary all tucked in amongst palm trees for a wild look. Even the families’ Pet Cemetery has flowers and gardens featured including spring blooming shrubs.
These gardens combine with the Pepper Pot Tower that blends into the forest as if it has been there hundreds of years, statuary and fountains from around the world that gives the landscape a “Versailles-like” feel and ancient trees. Some of the trees are 100 to 150 years old, majestic and frame the whole landscape with a feeling of grandeur.
How to Grow: Chestnuts
I remember on one of our fall, garden tours to Sicily, Italy, we were driving up to the top of Mt. Etna and saw all these people walking into the surrounding forests with food, drink and small stoves. I asked our local guide what they were doing and he said they were going on a picnic to roast chestnuts from the native trees. Many areas in Europe have native and cultivated chestnut groves. It’s part of their culture to see vendors along busy streets selling freshly roasted chestnuts in fall. This scene is also well-known in northern Japan and China as well.
Chestnuts used to be part of our United States culture, too. We used to have millions of trees in the mountains from Georgia to Maine. Unfortunately they were wiped out by an imported chestnut blight. While those ancient, chestnut forests are gone, we still can grow chestnuts in our own landscapes. New hybrids crossing blight-free Asian varieties with American chestnuts are able to grow. There is still on-going research into finding a blight resistant, native, American chestnut as well.
American, European and Asian chestnuts are majestic trees. Often topping reaching to 100 feet at maturity (Asian varieties are shorter). These trees not only are great sources of nuts for our consumption, but they are great wildlife trees. They provide food, shelter and nesting locations for many birds, animals and insects. Chestnut wood is highly prized for its beauty, rot resistance and toughness.
The keys to growing chestnut trees in the home landscape are good soil and patience. Chestnuts are moderately fast growers and grow best in full sun on well-drained, moist soils. If you have room, plant a grove of trees 25 feet apart for best pollination. You should at least plant two different varieties of chestnuts that bloom around the same time for best pollination. Protect them from deer and mice. The trees may start bearing fruit within 5 to 8 years, but they won’t really mature until 15 years old. It’s a long term commitment, but think of your chestnuts as legacy trees that you, or the next owner, will enjoy for years.
In Our Garden: Gardening Webinar Sale!
It is the holiday giving season with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Each day seems to have a theme for giving presents. While I love to give and get gifts, it can be a bit much with all the advertisements on-line, on radio and on TV about what to give. So, I’ll make it simple for you if you’re looking for a gift for the gardener in the family, or budding gardener.
Education is key to being a successful gardener. Not only is hands-on learning important, but supplementing that experience with “book” learning is important, too. In colder climates with cold winters, learning more about gardening is a great past time for any gardener.
That’s why I put my gardening webinars on-sale this time of year. Over the last few years I have offered and recorded 16 different webinars on a variety of gardening subjects. Some of the webinars, such as Foodscaping and No-Dig Gardening, are based on books I have written. Others, such as Pollinator Gardens, Cottage Gardens, and Container Gardens, are based on many talks I’ve given around the country. There are new webinars, such as Houseplants and Flowering Vines, that I recently recorded.
As we all know, webinars are a great way to learn. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, you can watch and learn whenever you like and you can go back multiple times to pick up information you missed. We all got comfortable doing webinars via Zoom during the pandemic, and now it’s just part of our fabric of learning.
So, take a look at the webinars and consider some of them as a special gift this year. Hey, if you don’t have a gardener in the family, get them for yourself. You deserve a treat, too!