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Practical Gardening Monthly

Hello Gardening Friends!  December has arrived and unlike gardeners who live in some southern and western states where the weather is consistently warm and the growing season is remarkably long ... gardeners in Zone 5 & 6 can be thankful for the repose that late autumn / early winter brings.

Time to take a break from weeding, watering, deadheading, digging, dividing, and fertilizing.  No more humidity or drought.  This is truly a time for reflection and gratitude for the bountiful gifts that nature provides us throughout the changing seasons.

Please keep reading for helpful monthly garden "to do's" listed below.  Check out the best gardening themed gifts for those with seasoned green thumbs and those just starting out. Plus discover what's new and blooming at for more gardening advice, tips, and inspiration for your gardens ...

Don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.

~ Rumi

Latest Flower Chick Posts
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Flower Chick's Favorite Perennials for Zone 5
How To Winterize Roses

You want to protect your roses not just from the cold, but from drying winds and from fluctuating temperatures, which can cause plants to freeze and thaw and then refreeze, and thaw again … a vicious cycle for plants.

Winterizing roses is very important to ensure they survive the cold months and vigorously grow from year to year. Not all roses need winter protection in Zone 5 ... read on for which ones and my top 3 tips to protect your cherished roses.

Get Your Roses Ready For Wintertime Step-By-Step
Garden Tool Winter Shape Up

The best thing you can do for your gardening implements is to clean, oil, and sharpen them before putting them away. 

Not only will it lift your spirits in the spring to find them raring to go … sharp tools are much easier to use and don’t put as much strain on your hands and body.

It’s way more efficient and fun to cut with something sharp than with something dull!  A little effort now will make your gardening life much less complicated when you're ready to plant again in May ...

Discover The Best Way To Clean Garden Tools Here

December Garden "To Do" List:

  • Craft A Winter Container Arrangement - using evergreens, colorful dogwood,  pinecones, ornamental grasses, willow,  berries & grapevine. Make sure to use containers that will not be damaged by frost/cold, such as plastic or stone.
  • Hold Off On Cutting Back Perennials - many perennials can be left in place to be cutback in the spring, especially those with plentiful seedheads such as coneflowers or rudbeckia, as the birds will enjoy their seeds throughout winter. I also like to leave those with winter interest like sedum, grasses & helleborus.
  • Plant Those Bulbs - you can still plant leftover spring-blooming bulbs until the ground freezes. (Yes, we’ve planted bulbs as late as Christmas!)
  • Mulch Tender Plants - if you have newly planted / especially tender plants, cover them with winter mulch once they go dormant. It’s better to wait until the ground freezes before applying this mulch.  It will help keep the ground frozen and prevents the freeze-thaw cycle from heaving plants out of the ground.
  • Protect Your Roses - mound up soil around the crown of your rosebush and cover its bud union for winter protection. Tie down the canes of climbing roses so that high winds do not whip them around.
  • Free Mulch - when shoveling or blowing snow, get more for your effort by spreading the fluffy white stuff onto your planting beds as free mulch. Just be careful & don't use snow pushed up from the street; it may contain plant-damaging salts.
  • Clean Your Garden Tools - before storing your garden tools for winter, take the time to clean, sand, and oil them so they are ready to go in spring.
  • Evaluate Your Landscape For Winter Interest - now's the time to note good places to plant native grasses, evergreens or shrubs with interesting bark. Then you'll be ready with a plan when you're itching to plant in the spring.
  • Be Careful When Using De-Icers - pay attention to ice-melt products you use to avoid damage to trees, shrubs, perennials, and your lawn. Most products contain salt (sodium chloride). Potassium chloride or sand is less harmful to plants. 
  • Recycle Your Christmas Tree - after the holidays, you can recycle your live Christmas tree by cutting off the branches and laying them around the base of roses and other less cold-tolerant plants. Also the boughs can be placed in window boxes and pots for outdoor winter decoration.
  • Keep Poinsettias Well-Watered - they dry out easily. Position them in a bright spot away from cold drafts and blasts of heat from a vent or fireplace so they continue to look good. While you're at it ... give all of your houseplants a little love.
  • Order New Seed Catalogs - a fun thing to peruse (and dream about) on a cold, wintry day. 

Top 5 Garden Gifts
View All The Best Gardening Gifts Here
Top Garden Gift # 1

Click & Grow Smart Garden

Experience the benefits of having your own garden indoors, no matter where you live. Grow 100% organic herbs, fruits, salads and flowers, free from GMOs and pesticides, fresher than any plants you'll find in stores.

This innovative system comes in various sizes and features automatic watering, pro-grow lights, a companion app to become a plant expert, and the choice of over 50+ plant pods.

The perfect gift for those with seasoned green thumbs, or those new to the wonderful world of gardening ...

Explore All The Smart Gardens Here
Top Garden Gift # 2

Raised Garden Beds

Love the idea of raised bed gardening! You can then grow anywhere! These beauties are handcrafted of sturdy cedar grown in the USA.

They are easy-to-assemble (less than 5 minutes and no tools required) . Available in many sizes and shapes plus stackable.

Raised garden beds are perfect for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers ... a great gift for gardeners everywhere.

Discover More About These Raised Beds
Top Garden Gift # 3

Garden Pocket Tool

How did we live without this gem?  Cut, clip, prune, and shear with this handy pocket tool. This compact, multi-functional device does it all. 

The sturdy garden pocket tool is crafted in stainless steel with an ash wood handle. 4½"w x 6"h, open; 1¾"w x 3½"h, closed so it doesn't take up a lot of space.

A very handy multi-purpose tool ...  makes a useful (and compact) gift for anyone who likes to garden!

View This Handy Gardening Helper Here
Top Garden Gift # 4

Indoor Fruit Trees

We’ve long been big fans of these prolific little trees and have been amazed at all the new and interesting varieties introduced in the past few years …

Indoor fruit trees are a great gift – they’re container plants bred to thrive indoors (or on a patio during warmer months). They yield full size fruit and are surprisingly easy care ...

Most of these cute trees top off at 3-4 feet, so this is an ideal gift for small space gardeners. They bring such joy and a sense of accomplishment! Choose from Meyer lemons, Bearss limes, Calamondin oranges and more dwarf fruit trees.

See The Complete Line of Indoor Citrus Trees
Top Garden Gift # 5

2-in-1 Cordless Trimmer / Hedger

These cordless shears trim grass and hedges effortlessly! No more tangled or cut extension cords. A powerful 7.2 volt lithium-ion battery allows these cordless helpers to run up to 30 minutes on a 3-hour charge. 

Easily trim small gardens, hedges, and hard-to-reach places a mower can't fit.  Features a comfort-grip handle and instant start. Also Includes 4" grass shear blade, 6" hedge blade, and battery charger.

Make someone's garden chores much easier and hassle free today!

Click Here For More Info
Vibrant Celosia in Bloom by

Helpful Tips For Designing Winter Container Arrangements:

  • Use three different-height materials (thriller, filler and spiller)
  • Three different textures
  • Three different colors, as a rule of thumb
  • Break the pot down in sections, design one section and then repeat it
  • Step back and admire your handiwork!  : )

Did you know ... 10 Fun Facts About Poinsettias:

Red, naturally, is the most popular poinsettia color accounting for roughly three-quarters of all sales nationwide, followed by white and pink.  

For all of the airbrushed / glitter shenanigans taking place (Flower Chick can't stand this) — 80 percent of the poinsettias sold are the classic color red.

The more than 100 varieties of poinsettias come in a range of colors from red, salmon, apricot to yellow, cream, and white. There are also unusual speckled or marbled types with several colors blended together. New varieties are introduced yearly.

Learn more about the top-selling holiday plant ...

  1. The main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves. The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center (termed “cyathia”). The colored leafy parts are actually bracts or modified leaves, that turn color in response to the plant forming flowers.
  2. A native of southern Mexico, the poinsettia blooms in December and has been used in that country to decorate churches for centuries. The poinsettia is also known as the Christmas Star, Christmas Flower, Mexican Flame Leaf, Lobster Flower, Winter Rose, and Flores de Nochebuena (“Flowers of the Holy Night").
  3. In the US, California is the top poinsettia producer with over 6 million pots grown, followed by North Carolina with 4.4 million pots sold, and Texas with about 3.7 million.
  4. Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician, and the first United States ambassador to Mexico.
  5. December 12 is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
  6. More than 35 million potted poinsettias are sold every year in the US, accounting for almost one quarter of all flowering potted plants sold.
  7. In the wild or planted in tropical climates, the poinsettia can reach heights of 12 - 15 feet with leaves measuring six to eight inches across. It is actually a small tropical tree (Euphorbia pulcherrima) belonging to the Euphorbia plant family.
  8. The poinsettia is December’s birth flower.
  9. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous.  The sticky white sap can cause a skin rash, so gloves are recommended when working with these plants.
  10. The best way to prolong the life of this Christmas plant is to avoid hot or cold drafts, keep the soil moist not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light and temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees F.
Containers of Vinca, Begonias, New Guinea Impatiens, and Geraniums by
Travel To Midwestern Gardens

Need a little gardening inspiration? Looking for some good cheer and vicarious travel?  Get inspired by the Midwest’s beautiful botanical gardens, arboretums, and other stunning natural attractions! Join us as we visit these wonderful Zone 5 & Zone 6 sites.  

Flower Chick was busy this fall ... we travelled to several gardens in Illinois:  Decatur, Mahomet, plus revisited Springfield and Bloomington to add more can't miss horticultural spots. 

Follow along with us and plan your own trips … you’ll even find a guide of fun, local attractions to enjoy in the various towns and cities. Come back often as we keep adding new posts to our Illinois Gardens , Indiana Gardens, Iowa GardensMichigan Gardens & Wisconsin Gardens categories.

Visit Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens

In this “Visiting Midwest Gardens” feature, Flower Chick spotlights the beautiful Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens in Mahomet, Illinois. Join us to discover what makes this picturesque setting so special ...

In 2019, the entire pond and waterfall area underwent a complete renovation. The pond was completely drained and repaired along with removal of six million pounds of silt and debris. The results are spectacular!

You’ll Love These 4 Decatur Gardens

Join us as Flower Chick travels to central Illinois to spotlight four scenic Decatur gardens!  

Decatur is a fairly easy city to get around, so these four gardens can be easily explored in the course of a day. 

Decatur’s most prominent natural feature is Lake Decatur, a man made lake created in the early 1920’s. Two of Decatur’s best known parks, Nelson Park (north shore) and Scovill Park (south shore) are adjacent to the lake.

10 Reasons To Visit Washington Park Botanical Garden

As part of our “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series, we’re pleased to spotlight one of Springfield’s notable attractions. It’s the Washington Park Botanical Garden, located on the city’s west side.

On this most recent visit, we also explored the picturesque Lincoln Memorial Garden. You’ll find this expansive 63 acre site on the city’s far southeast side along the shores of Lake Springfield …

Visiting Bloomington IL Garden Sites

On our recent visit to the area, we stopped at the impressive Illinois State University Horticulture Center in Normal. The Center is located on Raab Road, north of the University Golf Course, and across the street from Heartland Community College.

The Center encompasses 18 acres, including several display gardens, a Children’s Garden, restored prairie area, a large vegetable plot, and more ... an amazing feast for the senses!

Dear Gardening Friends, Thanks so much for reading!!  I hope you enjoyed the December newsletter and it inspired you to get some late fall / early winter chores done in your own gardens. 

I'll be back in early January with more gardening fun and advice. Looking forward to visiting more botanical gardens in 2021 and sharing the details with you.  Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan .... you're next up for our garden-themed adventures!

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

~ Laura a.k.a. Flower Chick

P.S. Click on the social icons below to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest!

Washington Park Springfield IL by
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Is there a botanical garden, arboretum, or nature area you love and would like to see us feature in a future issue?  Please share below ...

Tell Us About Your Favorite Garden in Zone 5 / 6
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