Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

Undoubtedly the most important decoration you will put into your home this holiday season is the tree! Picking the perfect one should be a pleasant and stress-free experience. Here are a few tips to help keep it that way.

Rule number one- a Christmas tree looks smaller outside than it will in your home. That tree you think might fit will suddenly grow enormous in your home, causing major furniture rearranging. Always take a yard stick with you when tree shopping and know your ceiling height- most are 8’. Measure also the width of the tree, keep in mind that the branches will fall, and be bigger when placed upright. Look for a tree with a straight trunk and rule number two; bring your tree stand so you can have the tree custom fitted.

The other rules for tree shopping are easy. Shop if you can in the daytime- this allows you to judge tree color. Once you and those involved in the decision have decided on the tree, check it for good needle retention. Pull the needles- they should not fall off easily. Some may, however, fall from the inside. These were going to fall off anyway, don’t worry about that. Ask where the trees are from and when they were cut. Hopefully they were cut recently and from a place not too distant from your home. There are exceptions of course and certain areas are known for the particular trees that grow well there. Fraser fir, for example, hails from the Carolinas, and certain other firs from the west coast.

Finally, ask about home delivery and set up for a nominal fee you might save yourself, not to mention your back, a lot of trouble! In conclusion, tree shopping should be fun but be prepared for your new addition and your holidays will be a little merrier.

Camellias: A Winter Star

The best remedy to a cold dark winter is the promise of late winter/early spring’s first blooms. No other flowering shrub quite does that with such panache as the genus Camellia. With its double, single, semi-double, peony flowered, anemone flowered, rose form double or formal double flowers, who cares that there may still be snow on the ground when they bloom!   

Camellia japonica is the common bloomer we see in the beginning of the year. There are countless varieties in shades of pink, red, white and even lavender and yellow! They tend to bloom from February to May depending on the variety and siting in the garden. C. sasanqua is the fall blooming species that will emerge in flower starting in September. There are also multiple hybrids that include the above mentioned species in their lineage. Pick varieties that are hardy to Maryland and bloom at the time you want. Read more

When to Prune Your Hydrangeas


The showy blooms of the genus Hydrangea are hard to beat for reliable color in the garden, but when do you trim?  We get this question a lot! There are basically old wood bloomers (bloom on last year’s wood) and new wood bloomers (bloom on wood produced this season).  For the old wood bloomers, I would only prune to control size or shape. Also don’t forget to remove spent flowers from your plants. This will keep them tidy looking. Read more

Redbuds, Whitebuds


Redbuds are an attractive native tree that blooms in early spring alongside dogwoods. They are quite showy with fuschia colored flowers displayed tightly against the branches in late April or early May. Cercis canadensis is the most common species and is a Maryland native.  There are several non-native varieties and hybrids that are also available. All Cercis have distinctive cordate (heart-shaped) leaveswith that turn bright yellow in the autumn. Read more

Wisteria: A Bloom Above the Rest


Wisteria is a genus of plants that stirs feelings of both love and hate among those that know it. The detractors see an invasive plant that grows rapidly, spreads its seeds and seems to never leave once planted. Fans of the genus love its fragrant pendulous racemes loaded with bloom each spring. The common varieties include W. floribunda or Japanese Wisteria and W. sinensis or Chinese Wisteria.  Both vigorous vines quickly reach up to 30’ or more and need a strong support system. Careful siting is important to insure their success in the landscape. Read more

Beating Winter Blues

I love my houseplants all year long yet I especially appreciate their presence in the fall and winter! The majority of my plants spend summer outside in various locations around my yard. I bring them in by mid-October and they instantly enliven my house once again. I grow a variety of plants including large leaf tropicals, cacti, and even some tropical cacti! Many have been with me for decades. Read more