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Edition 7.48
December 2007
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Thanks for taking the time to read the Grangetto's Garden Newsletter. If at any time there is a topic that you would like to see in the next newsletter or you have a gardening tip you would like to share, please feel free to email us.

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"Nature, at whose feet every one who does any gardening must sit and learn, settled the question ages and ages before mankind began to cultivate flowers, by creating the annual as the great filler-in of the vegetable world--the finishing touch to her handiwork."
  ~ Benjamin Goodrich

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Manager's Corner - December 2007

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Long ago and far away, the hills and flatlands of Southern California used to be covered with orange groves. One can almost hear Peter, Paul and Mary singing, “Where have all the orange groves gone? Long time passing. Where have all the orange groves gone? Long time ago. Where have all the orange groves gone? Gone to housing, every one. "

Article PictureAh, but you can have your very own “citrus grove,” right in your yard. Citrus trees are ornamentally beautiful, have fragrant blooms, are evergreen and boast colorful fruits all year long. Who could ask for more? Walk out into your yard and pluck an orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, kumquat or your citrus of choice - fresh and delicious.

Now, we don’t mean to imply you should add rows and rows of citrus trees. But you can select your favorite citrus trees and incorporate them into your landscape, front or back yard. Also, dwarf citrus grow great in containers. Include them in that container-designed area of your patio or deck. If you plan to plant a citrus tree in a container, use cactus mix as the planting soil. This will give your citrus tree the best drainage.

There are numerous varieties of citrus trees from which to make your selection. Many of these are available in either standard or dwarf.

Citrus trees love full sun and well-drained soil. They prefer sandy soils. If you have more clay-like soil, amend heavily or plant the tree on a slight mound to keep the roots elevated for good drainage. And don’t forget to mulch, mulch, mulch! Citrus trees like moist soil, but not saturated soil. If you have clay soil, take care not to over-water in the root areas of your citrus. It is also best not to under-plant these trees at all, especially with grass that needs lots of water. View our Citrus Irrigation Guide.

Grow More Citrus Grower Blend

Fertilizing is important for citrus. They are heavy feeders and need lots of nitrogen. That should make sense when you observe their continuous foliage-growing, flowering and fruiting cycle. They also need other minerals such as iron, manganese and zinc. Yellowing leaves with dark veins are a sign of chlorosis from iron deficiency. Yellow mottling or blotching on leaves can be characteristic of manganese and/or zinc deficiency. Fertilizing should not begin until February or when no possibility of frost will occur.  If you are uncertain of what is happening with your citrus, bring us a leaf or two and we’ll direct you to the correct fertilizer. View our Liquid Fertilizer Chart and Dry Fertilizer Chart.

Ortho Volck OilUnhealthy citrus can get pests such as aphids, mites, scale, mealybugs, sooty mold and/or whitefly. Remember that you cannot use most synthetic chemical treatments on an edible plant. Keep your citrus healthy with regular organic fertilizing, a full sun location, mulch, and regular water but not saturation. It also helps to mulch with worm castings from time to time.

If you do get one of - or a combination of - the above pests, the first type of treatment is spraying with water. You can knock off all of the listed insect pests with a hard blast of water. And you can clean foliage coated with black sooty mold with water and finger scrubbing.

If you are growing your citrus in a container, all of the above instructions are for you, too. However, you may need to water more often, because containers tend to dry out.

Citrus are excellent landscape plants that add to your gardens an attractive form, glossy green foliage, perfume fragrance, colorful fruits and above all, delectable eating! For more information on Citrus, view  the citrus variety information chart from Four Winds Growers

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If you are looking for a way to add some color to your garden in the winter, consider planting sasanqua camellias. They produce an attractive show of flowers from early autumn into late winter, blooming long before their better known (japonica) cousins.

Add to that, bright glossy green leaves and interesting growth habits and you have "a must" for your winter garden.

Sasanqua camellias can be planted in containers and in shrub and tree beds with equal success. This allows you to place them on patios, decks or near walkways for greater enjoyment. They can also be used for bonsai specimens, espaliers, informal hedges, screens or graceful focal points in the garden.

Gardner and Bloome Acid Planting Mix

Their natural growth is either upright or a graceful willow-like form. They have single, semi-double, or fully double flowers that can be small, medium or rather large, and they range in shades of pink, rose, red, white and combinations.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the sasanqua camellias is that they will tolerate more sun exposure than spring flowering types of camellias. Most varieties don't grow nearly as large as their cousins, enabling them to make perfect understory plants. Like all camellias, they need to be planted in locations with good drainage in a hole amended with an acid planting mix, such as Gardner & Bloome Acid Planting Mix.

We have a great selection of sasanqua camellias and invite you to visit us and see them in all of their full blooming glory.

Bow to the Bract

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By Tamara Galbraith

That holiday superstar, the poinsettia, actually has its own holiday. By an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day.

The date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant to the United States. During Poinsett's appointment in Mexico, he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species. In 1828, he discovered a beautiful shrub with large red bracts growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.

Years later, William Prescott, a historian and horticulturist, was asked to give 'Euphorbia pulcherrima' a new name as it became more popular. At that time Mr. Prescott had just published a book called the Conquest of Mexico in which he detailed Joel Poinsett’s discovery of the plant. So, Prescott named the plant the poinsettia in honor of Joel Poinsett’s discovery.

We're not sure what Mr. Poinsett would think of the latest trend in painting the colored bracts of his beloved plants with various shades of blue and layers of sparkles, but holiday shoppers certainly seem to dig them. Whatever the case, Poinsett's introduction is now a tradition that brightens the holidays every year.

Living Christmas Trees

Are you tired of purchasing a cut Christmas tree every year--just to throw it away after the holidays are over? Consider buying a living Christmas tree instead. Living Christmas trees are becoming more popular every year because of their many advantages over cut Christmas trees, which include a lower fire hazard, repeat use, and an increase in value once planted in the landscape, where they can become a yearly source of cut greens for each holiday season.

After the holidays, you can leave your tree outdoors in its original container for year-round beauty and bring it back in again for a second Christmas. However, because most living trees used for Christmas trees are fast growing, they should not remain in a container for more than two years. There are a few other things to consider when planning to use a living Christmas tree indoors.

Living trees can stay in the house for only a brief period, no more than 7 to 10 days. Prolonged exposure to warm household temperatures would force new growth to develop on the tree and this growth would be apt to suffer damage when the tree is transplanted outdoors after Christmas. Longer periods in a home can lead to death of the tree.

Be sure to water the tree regularly while it is being used in the home. Line the tub or container in which you place a living tree with plastic or place a larger saucer underneath the container to keep excess water from dripping through onto your floor or carpeting. One good way to water is to dump two trays of ice cubes on the soil--this waters the tree slowly and evenly--it also helps keep the roots cooler.

Cloud Cover

Use only the newer low watt lights on your tree to avoid burning or discoloring the needles, and do not spray your tree with colored Christmas paint or snow, even if the product says it is washable.

After Christmas, if the weather should happen to be very cold, place the living tree in the basement or garage where it is cool, but not below freezing, for a few days only: Then, when the weather improves, take the tree out of the container and plant it.

Make sure that the tree will fit into your landscape. Most trees used as Christmas trees will eventually reach heights of 40 to 60 feet. The tree will be inside for a very short time compared to the time that you will have it in your landscape.

We stock living Christmas trees that grow well in our local area. With care and planning, your Christmas tree will serve as a living memory for many years.

  • Choose and plant sasanqua camellias and early long-blooming azaleas.
  • Purchase poinsettias early in the month.
  • Continue to plant winter vegetables.
  • Cut off flower spikes that have bloomed from dwarf foxgloves and delphiniums.
  • Don't prune tropicals.
  • Prune grapes, low-chill raspberries, and native plants.
  • Prune wisteria by cutting off unwanted long twiners. Prune roots of vines that fail to bloom.
  • Mow cool-season lawns, including bermuda that's overseeded with winter ryegrass.
  • Do not mow warm season lawns, except St. Augustine (if it continues to grow).
  • Continue fertilizing cymbidiums until flowers open.
  • Feed cool season flowers with a complete fertilizer for growth and bloom.
  • Feed shade plants for bloom; give adequate light.
  • Feed cool-season lawns, but don't feed warm season lawns (except for bermuda that's overseeded with winter ryegrass).
  • Don't water succulents growing in the ground.
  • Keep cymbidiums damp but not soggy.
  • Remember to keep all bulbs, especially potted ones, well watered.
  • Water dichondra if rains aren't adequate.
  • Turn off the irrigation systems of all other types of warm-season lawns once they have gone brown.
  • Spray peach and apricot trees for peach leaf curl if you didn't do so in November.
  • Protect cymbidiums' bloom spikes from snails.
  • Control rust on cool-season lawns by fertilizing and mowing them.
  • Control aphids with insecticidal soap and beneficial insects.
  • Prepare beds for planting bare-root roses next month.
  • Harvest winter vegetables as soon as they mature.
Designing a Drought Garden

When most people think about drought tolerant landscaping they conjure up images of rock, cactus and succulents. And while they can have a place in some drought tolerant gardens (if you live in the desert) most modern drought tolerant designs don't rely on them and are filled with the beauty and color of many favorite mainstream plants.

Most existing landscapes already have plants that can survive periods of drought. The key is to select plants for your particular growing conditions when planning and designing (or re-designing) your landscape and then placing these plants together according to their water needs.

Your goal should be to create three basic divisions of plant groupings: a very low water zone, a low water zone and a moderate water zone. Each area should be irrigated separately, according to specific water needs. In this way you can have one area that uses more water than the environment naturally provides and another area where you might need no extra water at all.

Gardner & Bloome Planting MixConsider foliage texture and color, bloom period and the shape of each plant when selecting plants for your garden. Also incorporate some plants with grayish foliage; these have a natural reflective quality that allows them to survive in low-moisture, high-heat situations.

Along with proper plant selection are a couple of other very important principles which should be incorporated into any drought tolerant garden:

• Make sure to use a soil amendment like Gardner & Bloome Planting Mix when planting.
• Cover open areas around plants and trees with a two inch layer of mulch, such as Sierra Bark, to reduce evaporation, keep the soil cool, and help prevent weeds.

Sierra BarkLast, a drought tolerant garden needs to be watered correctly in order for you to succeed in your water-saving goals. Each water zone should be on a separate station and timer. Make sure to irrigate in the early morning to help reduce evaporation. Be sure to pull weeds as needed to reduce competition for water, and feed your garden at least quarterly to help your plants stay healthy and strong.

With careful selection, planning and execution, drought-tolerant landscapes can be as pleasing as those needing heavy irrigation. We have a great selection of colorful drought tolerant plants, and our staff of garden experts is available to help you every step of the way.

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While the poinsettia remains the most popular of the holiday plants, a healthy Christmas cactus in full bloom is a great gift idea for that special gardener. It is easy to care for and can be grown indoors throughout the year. The flowers range in color from yellow, orange, red, salmon, pink, fuchsia and white or combinations of those colors. Its pendulous stems make it a great choice for hanging baskets

The common Christmas cactus grown commercially is composed of several closely related species of forest cacti that grow as epiphytes between 3,000 and 5,000 above sea level in the Organ Mountains north of Rio de Janeiro in southeast Brazil.

We typically think of cacti as being heat tolerant, but Christmas cactus will keep its blossoms longer in cooler temperatures. It is important to keep plants in a well-lit location away from drafts of heater vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. Drafts and temperature extremes can cause the flower buds to drop from the plant before they have a Miracle Gro All Purposechance to open.

The Christmas cactus is a tropical type plant, not quite as drought tolerant as its desert relatives and, in fact, may drop flower buds if the soil gets too dry. Water thoroughly when the top inch or so of soil feels dry to the touch. The soil should be kept evenly moist for best growth.

Christmas cactus will do best in bright indirect light. They don't need to be fertilized while in bloom, but most gardeners enjoy the challenge of keeping the plant after the holidays for re-bloom the following year. While plants are actively growing, use a blooming houseplant-type fertilizer , such as Miracle Gro All Purpose Plant Food and apply monthly until blooms set the following season. If taken care of properly, a single plant can last for years, providing many seasons of enjoyment.

Fabulous Flax

The New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) has become one of the most popular and versatile plants currently used in landscapes. With its wide range of color combinations, this beautiful grassy-type plant is not only tough but adaptable to many situations, including seashore plantings, wet or dry soils, hot windy situations and container plantings.

Flax was first discovered In New Zealand on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific in 1773, and new varieties have been discovered and propagated ever since. The toughness of this plant is evidenced by the variety of its habitats throughout the New Zealand landscape. From alpine lakes and river mouths to beaches and coastal cliffs with salt sea spray, this plant seems to have the ability to adapt almost anywhere.

Earlier selections, while attractive, were too large and bold for most average gardens. But beginning in the late '70s and '80s, a number of our growers have made available a colorful line of dwarf and intermediate selections, useful in a variety of garden settings. All have the compact, clumping habit and fans of narrow, folded leaves typical of this group.

Not only is the foliage attractive, but the flower stalks which form on older plants rise above the foliage, producing clusters of red to yellow tubular flowers which are very attractive to hummingbirds. Many people choose to remove them, however, to promote continual production of the more ornamental leaves.

Flax plants enjoy sunlight but can also tolerate light shade. They adapt well to most soils and need only moderate to occasional watering. Occasionally, reverting green or bronze shoots will grow out of clumps with the desired leaf pattern and can overwhelm the plant if not removed. But the plants are basically pest free, and you couldn't ask for a lower maintenance plant in the landscape.

Kumquats have been called "the little gems of the citrus family." These small fruit-bearing trees, native to China, are much hardier than other citrus plants, such as oranges. What makes them unique is not only their tiny size (1-1.5") but the fact that their ultra-thin skin is sweet and their flesh is tangy and sour, providing a rich contrast in flavor.

Kumquats don't need to be peeled to enjoy, but rather can be eaten whole (skin and all). This allows one to savor the contrast of flavors that include lime (limequats) and mandarin (mandarinquats). The fruit is considered ripe when it reaches a yellowish-orange stage.

In addition being eaten fresh, kumquats can also be preserved in sugar syrup; they are often served as dessert in Chinese restaurants. For candying, the fruits are soaked in hot water with baking soda, cut open the next day and cooked briefly each day for 3 days in heavy syrup, then dried and sugared. Kumquats are excellent for making marmalade, either alone or combined with other citrus. Kumquat sauce is made by cooking chopped, seeded fruits with honey, orange juice, salt and butter.

The kumquat tree is slow-growing, shrubby and compact, reaching a maximum height of 6-10 ft. The glossy dark green foliage produces white flowers that are sweetly fragrant before setting the oblong fruit that normally ripens from late fall through mid winter. The fruit is showy particularly in the winter months when there is so little color. They make excellent container plants in addition to being planted in the garden.

View kumquat varieties

About Cymbidiums

Grow More Orchid FoodCymbidiums are largely terrestrial orchids native to cool tropical jungles, from the Himalayas eastward through southern Asia. For at least two hundred years they were hybridized and grown in cool greenhouses by English collectors.

During World War II many varieties were sent to Santa Barbara, California to save them from the bombs. It soon became clear that cymbidiums flourish outdoors in Southern California. They multiplied so rapidly that when the loaned varieties were sent home after the war, more plants were left in Southern California than were sent home.

They've since become one of the country's best plants for winter and spring bloom, outdoors in warmer areas, and indoors in cooler areas.

Got Herbs? Give Them as Gifts

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By Tamara Galbraith

Fresh or dried, herbs can make wonderful gifts for both the craft-lovers and cooks on your holiday list.

Rosemary is especially popular at this time of year, as many nurseries carry plants which have been clipped, topiary-style, into a Christmas tree shape. If you give this marvelous-smelling herb as a present, encourage the recipient to not only plant it in the ground, but to frequently take cuttings to cook with. After all, nothing wakes up a holiday chicken or turkey better than a nice rub of chopped fresh rosemary.

Lavender makes a fabulous gift as just a bunch of cut flower stems tied together with a pretty bow or sewn into a sachet. The lavender will eventually dry, but maintains its wonderful fragrance for a very long time.

A few culinary herbs that stay relatively small, like sage, fennel and cilantro, placed together in a decorative planter can make a great present for anybody who enjoys cooking.

Dried herb mixes in jars and wrapped with a nice ribbon are fantastic gifts too. Share your personalized BBQ rub, creole soup spice or poultry seasoning, with instructions and recipes printed on an accompanying card.

As for presentation, there are loads of great spice containers in all shapes and sizes to pick from. Glass jars with a sealed screw top and a removable plastic sifter are best. "Flapper" tops--those with a sifter on one side and an open hole for pouring--are good too.

Use your imagination with herbs, and remember...Emeril's got nothin' on you!

All About Pansies

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To some of us, the pansy/viola is a happy, smiling face reminding us of a gardener friend from long ago. The first sign of that special flower brings a smile to our face and warmth to our heart. After all, this flower is known as the "pixie" of the plant world. How perfect is that to have in your winter/spring gardens!

Sunset Western Garden Book tells us that botanically speaking, members of the genus Viola, which includes the pansy, viola and violets, are perennials. We just happen to treat them as annuals. The varieties that we grow are happiest in cool weather and have become known as one of our best winter bedding plants. Planting them now ensures wonderful color in your spring gardens.

There are many different cultivars of pansies and violas offering a wide range of colors and flower sizes: colors from white, yellow, apricot, violet, blue-purples, dusty rose and combinations of all of these colors! The flower sizes range from 1-4 inches.

Pansies like sun to light shade. If you plant them in deep shade, they will grow, but not reward you with as many flowers. Plant them toward the front of your flower beds along with your shrubs and other flowering bedding plants such as Iceland poppies, alyssum, lobelia, nemesia and all. You may not want to put them too close to the edge if your planter is next to your grass (scary weed whackers may chop off their heads!). But these plants love to trail and would be beautiful in raised beds, planters and window boxes!

Sometimes our pansies don't get a chance to grow up. Don't be too hard on yourself. This is not happening because you have a brown thumb. At times that six-pack coming from the grower has baby plants containing a fungal disease called Rhizoctonia which causes "damping off." In other words, the lower stem near the soil line with become constricted and dark brown. Usually, your little seedling pansy will die. That fungus thrives in wet soil. Knowing that this can be a problem, here are a few planting and care tips:

Plant the little root ball slightly high, or above soil level. This will keep the roots drier, especially after watering.

Water, but be careful to not to overwater.

Amend the soil with planting mix when planting to increase good drainage around the roots.

If you had a problem in one area of your garden with the fungus, switch and grow the pansies in another area for a year or so.

Once your pansies are getting established and blooming with smiling faces, don't forget to deadhead. Removing the finished blooms will increase the number of blooms and bloom time.

And here is the number one rule: start your morning with a stroll into your garden to gaze on all of these smiling faces. Oh sure, you can take your cup of coffee or tea along with you, too.

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No, we haven't gone mad! And we aren't turning our newsletter into a tabloid magazine. It's actually time to announce the new rose selections available for the 2008 season. We just wanted to make sure we had your attention! Some great new varieties of bush and miniature roses are out this year and we'd like to tell you about them.

Read about all of them here!

From All of Us to All of You

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you Happy Holidays
from your friends at Grangetto's!

Recipe of the Month: Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

Chef Mr. G

What You'll Need:

  • 4 medium peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/4 pounds)
  • 2 medium sweet onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Step by Step:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine all ingredients in a 13" x 9" baking dish, tossing to coat.

Bake for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 6 servings



Mr. G

'See you next month!'
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