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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of November 27, 2017

Let’s talk about simple things to do to help your beautiful plants get through winter!

  • When the ground freezes, plant roots are unable to take up water from the soil.  They quickly begin to use up all the water stored in their leaves and stems.  This is very damaging, particularly to evergreen trees and shrubs that don’t protect themselves by dropping their leaves in the winter.  Now is an excellent time of year to consider applying an anti-desiccant to protect against winter desiccation.  An anti-desiccant will help to retain moisture in the leaf/needles.  An anti-desiccant means it acts as a protective coating of the leaf or needle of the plant, substantially reducing water loss during high periods of stress which include drying winds and above-normal temperatures.
  • Young rhododendrons tend to be leggy.  Encourage branching by pinching off terminal growth buds just before growth begins and by pinching growing shoots before their leaves fully expand.  You can recognize terminal growth buds by their slenderness in contrast to the fat stubbiness of flower buds.
  • Protect roses for the winter by applying composted or dehydrated manure at the base of the plant.  Cover the manure with straw, leaves or other organic matter approximately 1/3 way up the canes of the plant.  The manure and straw act as an insulator as well as a rodent deterrent.  In the spring, when the temperatures warm up, remove the straw or other material used and work the manure into the soil.  It will act as an early spring feed for the rose plant and the plant will love it!
  • When shopping for plant gifts for the people on your holiday list, don’t forget the favorite Christmas Cactus or zygocactus truncatus.  A plant with slightly smaller flowers than its often look-alike Easter Cactus or rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, its flowers are 1” across and its stems are made up of distinctly tooth-edged segments.   Choose a plant in bud and the plant will bloom white, pink, red or purple between mid-November and late January.  If you would like flowers again next year, allow the plant to rest with water and warmth decreased and a spell outdoors will help to produce next year’s flowers.

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