Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


Happy Fourth of July! Are you hosting a pool party or backyard cookout this year? Don’t forget to add a red, white, and blue container garden to your outdoor landscape. Here are a few suggestions for red, white, and blue plants to include: red caladiums, white euphorbia diamond frost, white petunias, and (a great blue stand-in!) purple scaevola. Plus, a blue container looks really nice with the bright green foliage.

Container design by The Collector’s Cottage in Roswell, GA and photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa

Winter Scenes 008Winter Scenes 002All was quiet inside the McKeon house as we slumbered through the predawn hours of Christmas day. While reindeer danced through our dreams, white-tail deer partied the night away in our backyard. We awoke to, not the sound of hooves on the roof, but to the sight of tracks in freshly fallen snow. And to our wondering surprise, four does were lingering in the garden—a flower border planted last summer for birds and butterflies, not grazers.

We had no eyewitness accounts of rabbits, but dozens of telltale hopper trails were all the evidence we needed to prove that a family of cottontails was spending the holiday sleeping off their midnight meal in the cozy warren of our brush pile.

In the wild, deer and rabbits survive cold winters by nibbling on the tender branches from the previous year’s growing season. Called browsing, this method of search-and-devour is Mother Nature’s way of providing food for her flock and pruning crowded vegetation. For gardeners, however, losing plants to hungry critters can be a lot harder on the pocketbook than window shopping, the more common definition of browsing. If left unprotected, young trees and shrubs can be nibbled to nubbins in no time.

I’m all for creating backyard wildlife habitats. Selfishly, though, I like to protect my landscaping investments. The secret to a landscape that caters to both people and wildlife is to reach a respectful balance. I figure if I can successfully keep deer and rabbits from dining on new plantings for the first few years, the trees and shrubs will grow big and strong enough to tolerate a chewed-off branch here and there.

Many gardeners use barriers, such as cages made of stakes and chicken wire, to keep winter browsers at bay. This method is very effective, especially if you have just a few specimens to protect. For large numbers of trees and shrubs, a good alternative is one of the natural wildlife deterrents, such as Liquid Fence and Messina Wildlife Products. These manufacturers offer formulations for just about every critter. The trick is to apply them regularly (every 30 days) when temperatures are above the freezing mark.

What Earth-kind methods do you use to protect your plants from wildlife damage? We would love to hear from you!

Looking for an easy way to give your yard an elegant holiday feel? Instead of going crazy with lights, inflatable figures, and some of the other holiday-landscape bling that’s so popular these days, try echoing nature.

One of my favorite holiday elements is snow…so look for ways to create the sense of snowflakes. For example, hang a few wire balls (such as the one shown here) from your trees. Or, make your own versions by cutting and painting snowflake-shape pieces of plastic from milk cartons, old CDs, or other objects.

While it’s not a new idea, you can also do a lot with branches and berries. For example, the bold color of red-twig dogwood really stands out against snow. And there are lots of trees and shrubs with beautiful berries. The fruits do double duty: They look good on their own and may also attract colorful birds.

This seems to be the year that a major shift is happening in Christmas decor. It’s the year that LED Christmas lights came of age. You see them everywhere this year — their appearance is strikingly different than incandescent lights so they’re hard to miss. Take a look down some well-lit street in your neighborhood this week and you’ll see. The jewel-like colors of LED lights are nothing at all like the old types. They’re “cooler”, more richly colored. They really jump out.


One thing I REALLY like about LED lights: They use so little power, you  can string many together. (Remember how incandescent lights can only have up to 3 strands in series?) That means a lot fewer extension cords laying all over the place. It’s safer, and much less hassle to put them up. In addition, they last much longer than incandescent bulbs.

Back to the lower power consumption: That’s a good thing, of course, but have no illusions this is a money saving strategy. They will never pay for themselves. Not at this year’s prices anyway. I expect the cost to come down soon. But this year, it was a little shocking to pay $7-$8 per strand, when I’ve been used to picking up a string of lights for next to nothing.

I saw on some website that a string of icicle lights consumes around 40 watts of power. That compares to about 2.5 watts for a string of LED lights. Big difference. I figured out that replacing my five strings of icicle lights on my house with LED lights will save me — drumroll please — $3.89.  That’s per month. And it cost me $50 to buy the new ones. Well, at least I’m trendy!

Samba amaryllis

Now that we’re well into November, I guess I have to face the fact that the holidays are coming. (There’s a part of me that really doesn’t want to think about Christmas until December starts.)

But amaryllis help me overcome my curmudgeon instincts. I delight in their ease of growth and rich colors.

Happily, there are more amaryllis than ever on the market — from the traditional reds and whites to pinks, oranges, and multicolors.

To show off the wide world of amaryllis, I’ve put up a slideshow here on BHG.com displaying 23 different varieties and links to be able to purchase many of them right now so you can enjoy their beautiful blooms at your holiday gatherings.

If you take a look, I’d love to hear which your favorites are! (My top two are ‘Benfica’, slide 6, and ‘Santos’, slide 17.)

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