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Planting for gifts or for your own garden, getting the jump on winter jobs.

With all the holiday goings-on, there may not be much time for gardening this month. But don't forget that nurseries and garden centers are great places to shop for Christmas gifts. Plants, seeds, pruning tools, pots, and many other items make wonderful presents and stocking-stuffers. And many nurseries also sell living and cut Christmas trees.

If you do have time to get outdoors (and the weather is obliging), see the check list on page 156 for this season's most pressing gardening needs.

All-America Selections for 1989

The newest crop of All Americas plants tested nationwide and cited for their excellence-consists of eight flowers; five performed particularly well in the Sunset test garden in Menlo Park, California.

'Early Sunrise' coreopsis is a low-growing variety (reaches about 18 inches high), which produces double yellow flowers over a long season.

'Golden Gate' marigold is a dwarf French marigold that reaches 10 inches high and yields orange flowers with mahogany red centers.

Two award-winning verbenas are especially colorful. Both have upright growth habits and reach about 10 inches tall.

'Novalis Deep Blue' has purple-blue flowers with white centers; 'Sandy White' produces white blossoms.

'Telstar Picotee' dianthas produces an abundance of white-trimmed red flowers on a compact plant about 10 inches high. If sheared back after each flush of bloom, it will rebloom through the summer.

Three flowers did not prove satisfactory in Sunset's test garden. Most of our 'Clown Mixture' torenia plants died before blooming. 'Tango', an orange-flowering New Guinea impatiens, had a rangy habit, which made it less attractive than other varieties, although it did bloom well. 'Orchid Daddy' petunia had pretty pinkish purple flowers, but, as with most petunias, it had to be sprayed regularly to keep the budworms away.

You'll find all 1989 award winners in mail-order catalogs and on nursery seed racks this winter.

For Christmas shopping or to view the proteas-visit the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

This month, the arboretum on the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California does double duty, making December an ideal time to make a visit.

If you're looking for an unusual gift for a gardening friend, stop by the small gift shop by the front entry. There you'll find wreaths made of dried proteas and living succulents (see picture at right), materials for making your own wreaths from the same ftesh-cut proteas, and a variety of unusual plants.

This is also a good month to just stroll through the arboretum. Pick up a map at the entry and head for the Southern Africa display area. Proteas should be in wonderful bloom, as will other drought-tolerant plants such as the grevilleas and banksias. From there, visit the Australian and California native gardens to see more water-conserving species.

The arboretum, located on the campus's southwest corner, is on Empire Grade (a continuation of High Street). If you want to buy something, sale hours are 2 to 4 Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Do antitranspirants really keep Christmas trees fresh?

Antitranspirants are designed to slow moisture loss when sprayed on plants. Made of various nontoxic materials, they leave a thin, clear, sometimes shiny or sticky film on the leaves.

The products have been used effectively on trees during transplanting, drought, and in winter when it's windy and the ground is frozen. They've also been tried as preservatives to extend the life of cut Christmas trees and greens but studies by researchers at Oregon State University have found that most antitranspirants are only minimally helpful.

In the test, Douglas firs were treated with one of five commercial products and stored either in a greenhouse at 65' during the day, 50' at night (cooler than most houses), or outdoors in humid conditions. Compared with untreated trees, the rate of moisture loss was not significantly reduced for trees stored indoors. Outdoors, one product was very effective at reducing moisture loss, but it left a sticky residue.

Still the best way to prolong the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is to trim a slice off the bottom of the trunk, place the tree in a stand with water, and keep the reservoir full. Also, use small Christmas lights, which give off a minimum of drying heat.

Be extra careful when mixing dormant oil with insecticides

Used by themselves, dormant oil sprays fit nicely among modern pest control techniques. Relatively harmless and environmentally safe, they are still quite effective in controlling many insects. Applied to leafless deciduous plants, they smother insect eggs and overwintering pests, including scale, mites, and aphids. Horticultural oils are often mixed with insecticides for more effective control of difficult pests. However, doing so can make an insecticide more hazardous to humans than it would be if it were used alone. Horticultural oils increase the rate at which an insecticide is absorbed through the skin.

When spraying any insecticide, wear waterproof clothing and rubber gloves and boots. Never spray on a windy day; if you do get spray on your skin or hair, wash immediately with soapy water.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1988
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