Give your to-do list one more glance. Are there any "last chance" projects you can handle before the deep freeze sets in? I was nagged all summer by one of my lavenders (Lavandula x intermedia 'Fred Boutin'), which grew much larger than expected when I planted it a few years ago. It positively loomed over other plants in our rock garden. Rather than disturbing its second bloom, I waited until Hurricane Sandy's drenching rain made the ground perfect for digging. After I pruned a few low branches that were in the way, I dug six inches beyond the plant's three-foot diameter and the roots came up easily from the moist, sandy soil. Because I haven't decided where to put it in the garden, I temporarily planted it in a nursery pot large enough to fit the roots and watered thoroughly. Come spring, I'll find a new location where 'Fred Boutin' will live comfortably, without overshadowing his neighbors.
Care for your water garden. Whether yours is an in-ground pond or in a container, be sure to remove leaves covering the water's surface. This reduces the buildup of organic debris at the bottom, a source of methane that kills fish if the water surface freezes solid. Shut off the pump if you have a waterfall. Strong winter winds can easily blow the falling water away from the pond or container, eventually lowering the water level to expose the pump, the plants, and fish to freezing temperatures.
Add color to your indoor garden. Two of the easiest bulbs to grow indoors requiring no preliminary cold treatment are amaryllis and paperwhite (Narcissus) bulbs. If you start them soon, these colorful blossoms will brighten many a winter day. Although you can find quite a variety by searching the Internet, it's always good to support the local economy by buying at a nearby garden center or hardware store.
Choose long-lasting greens for holiday decorations. Whether you're buying ready-made wreaths, swags and table arrangements or making your own, look for live needled evergreen material from false cypress (Chamaecyparis species), arborvitae (Thuja species), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and pine (Pinus species). Although varieties of English and American holly (Ilex), filled with colorful berries, stay fresh for only a short time, you can extend the freshness of these cut branches by applying an anti-transpirant product. An Internet search will offer you a number of options.
For holiday greens sales and workshops at a number of locations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, check the Greater Philadelphia Gardens website at greaterphiladelphiagardens.org. To find out what's happening in South Jersey, go to njaes.rutgers.edu/mastergardeners/helplines. It lists the office phone numbers for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension master gardeners in every county.
Patricia Schrieber is director of education for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (www.phsonline.org), and co-owner of Valentine Gardens (www.valentine-gardens.com). Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org