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Dish gardens: plant one for a friend--or treat yourself.

Even if you don't have a patch of ground, you can quickly create an indoor dish garden to brighten your home or give as a living gift. Small specimens of cactus and succulents are ideal for these tabletop gardens, and many plants can coexist happily in the same container.

Part of the fun in designing a miniature garden is choosing among myriad plants, pots, and textured mulches. Cactus and succulents have shallow roots and don't need deep containers. We used rectangular ceramic pots 3 inches deep, 6 1/2 to 8 inches wide, and 9 to 11 inches long. One dish takes about 20 minutes. Cost starts at about $20.

Make it yourself

MATERIALS

* Container with drainage hole

* Potting mix for cactus

* Gloves

* Assorted cactus and succulents

* Small trowel

* Mulch (decomposed granite, gravel, or coarse sand)

DIRECTIONS

1. Partially cover the hole in bottom of pot with a pottery shard to prevent soil from spilling out. Fill the container with potting mix to 1/2 inch below the rim.

2. Wearing gloves to protect against spines, arrange potted plants on the soil until you like the design. Place shorter or trailing plants around the perimeter of the container.

With a small trowel or your lingers, scoop out planting holes as deep as rootballs, then slip plants out of their nursery pots and set them in the holes. Gently tamp the soil around the base of each plant.

3. Spread mulch evenly over the soil surface. Water thoroughly but infrequently, letting the soil dry out between waterings.

Good choices for dish gardens

Look for specimens of the cactus and succulents listed below in 2-inch pots at garden centers and nurseries. Determine where the dish garden will be displayed, then choose plants suited to the light conditions in that location. Containers situated near windows should be placed several inches away from the glass to avoid foliage burn.

CACTUS

Bright light

* Echinopsis

* Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus)

* Parodia

* Any with a lot of wool or hair

Low light

* Chin cactus (Gymnocalycium)

* Wickerware cactus (Rhipsalis)

* Any with a lot of skin showing

SUCCULENTS

Bright light

* Aeonium

* Agave

* Aichryson

* Aloe

* Crassula

* Echeveria

* Sedum

* Sempervivum

Low light

* Haworthia

Poinsettias with fresh looks

Although red poinsettias are still big sellers (70 percent of the market), varieties in other colors and patterns are gaining in popularity. Soft colors such as pale coral and salmon give people more decorating options, says Lauric Scullin of premier poinsettia grower Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California. Here's a sampling

Lauren Bonar Swezey

Colorful poinsettias in stores now

'Marblestar'. Clearly defined salmon and white markings on the bracts (modified leaves that look like flower petals) make this variety, pictured at left, one of the best of the "marble" types.

'Strawberries and Cream'. A reversed pink and white bicolor (dark pink on the outside and cream in the center) with unique oak leaf-shaped leaves. (Supply is limited this year.)

'Plum Pudding'. The first true purple poinsettia. Its unique color attracted attention last year, when it was first introduced in small numbers; this year 'Plum Pudding' is widely available. Display it on its own in a decorative pot, or pair it with a pink or white poinsettia.

'Winter Rose Red'. Incurved red bracts give this variety the look of an old-fashioned rose. A similar variety now comes in pink.

Big trees in small packages

Now you can send somebody the world's biggest tree--Sequoiadendron giganteum--in the mail for only $25, including shipping. The giant sequoia is just one of the trees sold as 1- to 2-foot-tall seedlings by an Oregon nursery. The nursery offers other conifers, including Colorado blue spruce, deodar cedar, Douglas fir, and coast redwood. The gift-boxed trees come in 3-inch pots with a card and planting instructions.

Most of these conifers grow to be quite large. If space is an issue, choose another favorite whose ultimate size will be more manageable.

Order from New Growth: www.newgrowth.com or (800) 605-7457

Jim McCausland

Garden shoes

Every gardener needs waterproof shoes. Two types are available: clogs (open-heeled) and slip-ons. Shoes come in men's and women's sizes unless noted.

CLOGS

Best for quick trips outdoors, not for heavy yard work. Open heel is good for aeration, but dirt can enter here. All brands can be hosed off after removing insoles, which (except for Birkenstock's) are washable.

Pictured: Anywears (A) are made from polyurethane, with 1/2-inch-thick cushioned insole and wide toe box. About $42.

Everywears (B) are more streamlined, accommodate higher arches. Women's sizes only. About $45. Anywear Shoe Company; www.anywears.com or (888) 425-0077.

Other choices:

* Outdoor Clog, from Baffin. Flexible rubber with 1/8-inch-thick insole, slip-resistant outsole. About $20. www.baffin.com or (888) 223-3467.

* Premium Garden Clog, from Sloggers. Flexible polyvinylchloride with 1/4-inch-thick cushioned insole. Women's sizes only. About $25. www.sloggers.com or (877) 750-4437.

* Super Birki Clog, from Birkenstock. Polyurethane with a removable cork-and-latex insert. About $60. www.birkenstock.com or (800) 761-1404.

FULL-COVERAGE SLIP-ONS

These provide full support and are more useful for heavy jobs. Insulated liners provide warmth. Made of waterproof rubber with reinforced heels and toes.

Pictured: Edgewater Camp Shoe (C) is foam-insulated for warmth and has air-mesh lining for breathability. About $50. Muck Boot Company www.landscapeusa.com or (800) 248-1981.

Another great choice:

* All Weather Shoe, from Sloggers. Neoprene liner. $40. www.sloggers.com or (877) 750-4437.

Seasonal scents in a basket

Few greens bring the fragrances of the season indoors like fir, pine, or redwood. Such prunings are festive enough when displayed alone, but arranged around potted narcissus plants, they're elegant.

This basket, lined with black plastic, contains three pots of narcissus (each 3 inches in diameter). If you don't have conifers to fill in around them, buy prunings at a nursery or use other long-lasting evergreens such as holly or juniper.

Kathleen N. Brenzel

WHAT TO DO IN YOUR GARDEN IN DECEMBER

SHOPPING

* LIVING CHRISTMAS TREES. Good choices include alpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens glauca), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), and white fir (A. concolor). Keep the tree in its nursery container and try to limit its indoor stay to 10 days. Water regularly. If you don't have space to plant your tree in the garden after the holidays, consider the subtropical Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), which can be grown as a houseplant.

MAINTENANCE

* CARE FOR POINSETTIAS. Poinsettias with brightly colored bracts and dark green foliage, like the one pictured on page 65, will keep their lovely hues over a long season if you treat them right. Set the poinsettia in a brightly lit, cool room with indirect sunlight, away from cold drafts and heater vents, for six hours a day. Water when the soil's surface feels dry; never let soil get soggy or let water pool up in the saucer.

* COAX CHRISTMAS CACTUS TO REBLOOM. So-called Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi, also sold as S. bridgesii) are actually able to flower several times a year. Place blooming plants near a sunny window, water just enough to keep the soil evenly moist, and fertilize every 7 to 10 days. When bloom ceases, rest the plants for six to eight weeks in a cool, darker room and water very little. Then move the plants back to a sunny window, water more frequently, and within a few weeks they will bloom again.

* HARVEST GREENS. Prune conifers now so you can use the cut boughs for holiday garlands and wreaths. Don't leave stubs; cut just above side branches that you want to grow. Prune evenly for shape.

* INSULATE ROSES. After temperatures drop below freezing for a few weeks, mound soil over the plant's base; if it's a grafted rose, be sure the soil covers the bud union (the enlarged knob from which canes emerge). Once the soil surface freezes, set a cylinder of chicken wire or a tomato cage around each plant and fill with a mulch of leaves, pine boughs, or straw. Postpone pruning until spring.

* PROPAGATE HOUSEPLANTS. It's easy to start new plants by propagating them from existing parents. For ivy, snip tip cuttings from the parent plant, dip cut ends in rooting hormone, and place them in moist potting soil. For pothos, snip off elongated stems and immerse cut ends in water until roots form, then transplant to potting soil. For spider plant, snip off runners, dip cut ends in rooting hormone, and place them in potting soil.

* TRIM A TREE FOR WILD BIRDS. Decorate a small conifer or other evergreen tree with garlands of unsalted popcorn and cranberries and grapes strung on heavy-duty thread.

BACK TO BASICS

Keep cut trees fresh longer. Warm, dry houses are hard on cut Christmas trees. The longer they're indoors, the quicker their needles turn brittle. Slow down the process by following these guidelines.

1. Cut an inch off the bottom of the trunk, then store the tree outdoors in a bucket of water until you're ready to decorate it.

2. Spray the foliage with an antitranspirant (available at nurseries). Add ornaments of oranges and grapefruits sliced into wedges, dried corn on the cob, and pinecones slathered with a mix of 1/2 cup peanut butter and 2 1/2 cups cornmeal or oatmeal. Tie ornaments to the tree with heavy-duty thread.

--Marcia Tatroe

3. Before bringing the tree indoors, cut another inch or more off the trunk and place it in a water-filled stand; refill as needed.

--L. B. S.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Ellingson, Ann E.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:1568
Previous Article:The season of light: botanical gardens invite you to celebrate the holidays. (Garden & Outdoor Living).
Next Article:Simple, elegant wreaths & garlands: use purchased evergreens, colorful berries, and fall leaves to bring the season home. (Holiday Project).


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