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December: what to do in Northern California.

Go shopping

Get bare-root roses Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14-17: They start arriving in nurseries this month (after purchase, soak them for 24 hours before planting). The largest possible choice of varieties is available from specialty rose nurseries such as Garden Valley Ranch ( or 707/795-0919). Garden Valley's bare-root roses--including all varieties distributed by Jackson & Perkins, Weeks Roses, Star Roses, and David Austin Roses--arrive next month, but you can order now.

Invest in pruners To prepare for winter pruning, treat yourself to the best-quality pruners you can afford, or put them on your gift list. For sharp, clean cuts, choose by pass pruners; Felco makes left-handed models (order from as well as ones for smaller hands. To learn how to use them well, watch Santa Clara County Master Gardeners demonstrate pruning techniques for ornamentals and fruit trees--including espaliered types--at their Palo Alto Demonstration Garden (10 a.m. Dec 6; free; Eleanor Pardee Park, 851 Center Dr.;

Plant now

Grow camellias Zones 7-9, 14-17: Plant in partial shade in soil that drains well, or in large containers such as half-barrels. Specialty grower Jim Nuccio of Nuccio's Nurseries ( or 626/794-3383) recommends light yellow camellias 'Kino Senritsu' and 'Senritsu-Ko', both new last year, and 'Nuccio's Bella Rossa', a Long-blooming, big-flowered red camellia Good choices for fragrance, he says, are 'High Fragrance', 'Minato-No-Akebono', and 'Koto-No-Kaori', all pink varieties. Look for these at well-stocked local nurseries, or mail-order from Nuccio's.

Set out holiday bloomers For a festive splash of color in containers or flower beds, plant white and red florists' cyclamen or winter-blooming heaths. Florists' cyclamen needs protection from frost, but most winter-blooming heaths are hardy enough and need no protection except in zones 1a-2b.


Care for indoor growers

Look after houseplants Many rest during the winter; water them less frequently, and only when the soil is dry. Brown leaf tips indicate low humidity levels; to raise them, place pots on a tray of pebbles and water (keep water level below top of pebbles). Move plants away from heating vents and cold drafts.

Tend your plot

Adjust irrigation Plants, even nondormant ones, require much less water in winter because the days are shorter and cooler, so cut back on how often you water. If you have a rain sensor attached to the timer of an irrigation system, it will automatically turn off the system during rainy periods; if not, turn off systems by hand.

Harvest greens Continue harvesting hardy leaf vegetables like collards, kale, leeks, and spinach. Keep them watered. They need no protection from frost.

Mulch edibles Zones 7-9: To continue harvesting beets, carrots, turnips, and other root crops through the winter months, cover them with a foot-deep mulch of hay or straw. This will prevent the ground from freezing.
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Title Annotation:Checklist
Author:White, Hazel
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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