Episode 65 – Plant-based holiday decor, indoors and out

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

There are many things people love about the holidays, and not least among them are all the wonderful smells that we really only get to experience at this time of year. That includes the incredible scent of the greenery that we use for indoor and outdoor decor. Need some inspiration? Check out Rick’s video here, and definitely stick around for segment four, when we interview Deborah Silver of Detroit Garden Works. Catch our whole conversation at the YouTube link above or on your favorite podcast platform.

Here’s this week’s Lim-A-Rick:

I’m trying to holiday decorate
Create something festive, ornate
I’m throwing a bash
I don’t have much cash
My decor motif is “cheapskate.”

I need a really good price
And my neighbor’s landscape is nice
Under the cover of darkness
They won’t notice the starkness
If just a few branches I’ll splice.

Just a few branches I’ll take
My festive planter to make
Their bushes my shears chops
And if they don’t call the cops
I’ll have them over for fruitcake.

Why? As we’ll hear from our guest in this episode’s branching news segment, the classic choice for holiday decorating is the colorful stems of our native Cornus sericea, also known as red-twig dogwood (even when it’s yellow, as we learned when we featured Arctic Fire Yellow dogwood recently). But it’s far from the only option, and its far from the only option that’s commonly grown in backyards. An alternative for your consideration: Fluffy Western arborvitae. Though any arborvitae potentially makes a good candidate, thanks to their ability to generally hold good color in the cold and their delicious fruiting fragrance, we’re recommending Fluffy specifically today.

Fluffy is the plant’s name, and it also describes its appearance in the landscape. As a Western arborvitae (Thuja plicata), its foliage is much glossier than the more common Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), and it has a distinctive “braided” or seaweed-like appearance that makes it extra interesting. The foliage of Fluffy arborvitae also happens to be a bright, vivid yellow that glows in the landscape as much as it will in holiday arrangements – especially indoors. The bold foliage and bright color combine to give the plant a hearty “fluffiness” in the landscape. The foliage itself is smooth to touch.

Western arborvitae like Fluffy also aren’t as hardy as the Eastern species – it’s cold tolerant only to USDA zone 5, as opposed to USDA zone 3 for Eastern arbs. Aside from that, however, its cultural needs are similar. It prefers moist yet well-drained soil, a good layer of mulch to protect its shallow roots and conserve moisture to minimize water loss, especially in winter. It naturally grows in that fluffy, pyramidal shape, so needs little to no pruning, aside from any of those nice, soft foliage “fans” that you may cut to enjoy during the holidays. Fluffy arborvitae reaches 5-10′ tall and 3-6′ wide at the base. Count on the higher ends of those ranges in warmer climates and the lower end in cooler ones.

If you’d like to add Fluffy arborvitae – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

This is a great question – El Niño desert orchid is botanically a ×Chitalpa, a cross, or hybrid, between two North American native species: Chilopsis, also known as desert willow, and Catalpa, also known as bean tree or cigar tree. It was developed by Dr. Tom Ranney at NCSU, however, hybrids in nature happen all of the time. Hybrid really just means that two different parent plants had an exchange of pollen, and the resulting seed has genetic traits of both parents. Some plants are self-fruitful – they can pollinate themselves, in which case there is no exchange of genetic material and the resulting seed has just one parent. So El Niño is made up of North American native genetics, but whether that makes it “native enough” for native plant gardeners is really a question that each gardener needs to answer for themselves, as we discussed in our native plant episode a few weeks ago

Well, Thomas, the good news is that you needn’t do anything special to get cannas or caladiums through winter in your climate – they will be totally fine! Even if you have an occasional dip into cold temperatures, it won’t be enough to harm the plants or bulbs in any way. If you divide your cannas, you can just replant them or store them, as you prefer. Caladiums can be divided in spring if you wish.

As for your question about the browning foliage on the cannas: yes, that is definitely a water issue. Cannas grow so vigorously, especially in a warm climate like yours, and they will quickly fill out the container, displacing soil and competing with one another for water. That manifests as yellowing and browning and premature dormancy. In fact, in your climates, if they get enough water, they won’t go dormant at all! To prevent this from happening in the future, you could try installing drip irrigation, or just put fewer canna rhizomes in each container so they don’t compete with each other so  much.

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

In this episode, we’re joined by Deborah Silver, co-founder of Detroit Garden Works in Pontiac, Michigan, and one of the top twenty garden shops nationwide. Not only is her shop an incredible place to find something truly beautiful and unique for your garden, it’s also an incredible place to find gifts for gardening friends and family. In addition to the stores, Deborah also offers design services to clients in the Detroit area, including some amazing outdoor arrangements for winter. Listen in to hear how Deborah and her team do it, and check out her blog and Instagram page for more inspiration. 

A hydrangea in a low decorative container covered in pink and purple mophead flowers.

Episode 96 – Garden Regrets

Regrets? We’ve had a few, and maybe you have too, which is why we’re dedicating this episode to the things we wish we had – and hadn’t – done in the garden. Featured shrub: Let’s Dance Arriba reblooming hydrangea.

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