Your Neck of the Woods Chat- Winter Solstice 2012

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

We came from here

Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

There is much to be said and much in our hearts but for now some deep reflection on the way forward and light to be restored and rekindled and returned to kindness and goodness and peace in the face of our fears and the loss of untold and untellable volumes of innocence..

My neighborly neighbors, let's keep in touch and chatting.

Blessings all.

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Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Judy, that's beautiful!! Both the words and sentiments, and the picture. Is that in front of your house? Just gorgeous!!

Today is my last day of work for the season, YIPPEEEE!!!! Hopefully (prayerfully!), the guys will (finally!!) come finish up those last few windows and the front door tomorrow (too many "oops, this thing happend, gotta reschedule" stories to tell, just want it done already before Spring!), then on to enjoy a long extended Christmas weekend at home with DH, and hopefully son as well. (working retail is the pits for getting to see family when they're not real close).

Here's to a HAPPY FRIDAY to all of you!!! I hope it is Peace-full and Joy-full!! < =)

Mount Bethel, PA(Zone 6a)

Yes, that's such a beautiful and unusual lighted display piece!! Tell us more about it. Today is such a windy and horrible rainy day that I might leave my last minute food shopping trip until tomorrow, even though I like to avoid the weekend crowds.

Hope everyone's Christmas Spirit is soaring now so that the universe gets loaded with Love, Kindness and Generosity which will be appreciated in these hard times.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Roses, the photo is of a handmade Scandanavian Welcome Star light. They are made out of very thin pine.

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Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

That is really beautiful. I saw something similar at Ikea it was made from paper. A heavy laminated type, I would have brought it home but I didn't like that it was made from paper. Thanks for the links, I see that the wood one is out of stock but I will keep the link maybe later I can get one. I love different types of stars.

Mount Bethel, PA(Zone 6a)

They are so beautiful. I can see why they're out of stock. I'll be checking back also. Thanks for the links, Judy.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the new thread coleup.

Wishing a season of peace for all of us.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

This site shows some of the welcome star lights available

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Did any of you get this offer in your inbox?

Brushwood Nursery is offering a FREE Clematis with any order.

here's the link.....G.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

I wanted to share with you some pictures to show you how proud i am of the cleanliness and
the well taken of Houseplants we have in my HD.
All the credit goes to Pam and some of the other "Bell Nursery" people that take care of out plants.

Granted--we are a low-volume store--so we do not get tons ofplants to start with.
Granted, also, that we are one of the four HD's in our area that are fortunate to have a Green House.
Only the first four HD's had them built. All the ones after that have their plants inside the store. NOT as good!

SO! Today I too my Camera and took some pictures to show you. Enjoy--
And, if your store does not look like this--complain...complain..complain! Take your business elsewhere....

Here are some pictures of grouped, larger plants inside our GH, and some-just outside of it--in the inside Garden area.

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Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

And--a few more......

Don't you just love good people that take good care of the plants for sale?

We ROCK!!!! Gita

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Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

They sure do look great Gita.
We had a small party here last night with family and some long time friends. Had such a great time. Heading out this morning to pick up just a few last minute things. Hopefully I will get in and out of the stores before they become a mad house.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Gosh Gita, those plants look wonderful! Some of the trees look so good they look fake... real ones can't possibly look that good. ;) Kudos to your Bell Ladies!

It's finally looking and feeling wintery around my neck o' the woods. Ran out to get the grocery shopping done a bit ago, and it was dry when I walked into the store, however it was pouring down rain/sleet/snow mix when I left the store, Yikes! Interestingly enough, it was as though someone flipped the switch "off" when I turned into my neighborhood. I guess we live right on that line...

The new front door is in!!!! (Needless to say, I forgot to take pics of the old one, DUH!). I'll get pics of the new one when it's not all wet and icky out... the rainy mixy stuff caught up with me after we got the truck unloaded. =) Merry Christmas to us, our front door and window fiasco is done!! < =D
But, most importantly, a VERY Merry Christmas to YOU ALL!! =)

Central, MD(Zone 7a)


That is very impressive. It is always pleasant to shop at stores that are well taken care of. I hope that everyone enjoys the holidays and has a great new year!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Gita- Kudos! It really looks good.
Warm wishes to all. ya need em with this wintry mix of wet we saw today!

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Hello, All!!!

Well--I am back from a horrendous drive home from NJ. Going up was a "breeze"!!!

What should have been 3 hours max--turned out to be 6 1/2 hours of creeping behind red break lights--
snow and then hard rain. Can't see the lane markers--cars shifting lanes--trucks all over the place---
it was ridiculous!
After a while--going 10MPH on the Turnpike for 2 hours was very stressful. Later--30MPH seemed great!
It must have taken an hour or more total from when I came off the NJ Turnpike--then that stretch between that and the Bridge--
and then at least 1/2 hr. to get to the toll booths--and then the stupid "jockeying" to be in the right 2 lanes
so one can continue on I-95 South. I know about that--so I stay in the far lane--but many do not.

Luckily--I make it a point NOT to stress out--just take my time, listen to all kinds of CD's or Tapes
(yes! i can do that in my Subaru) eat all kinds of snacks, etc....Sing along--in different languages--whatever....
But staring at nothing but red break lights for 6+ hours was getting to me--like it was "hypnotic"....
One looses the sense of how fast/slow you are going....Then--I had to break so very often--as did everyone else.
Creep...break---creep...break---change lanes--cause that one is moving a bit better....
Creep---change lanes again...Hmmm--maybe the "fast" lane will be better--NO trucks!
Creep--b/c everyone had the same idea....etc...etc...etc.....

OK! Glad I AM back safe--and let me get on to better things here.....


Re the plants, above, looking GREAT!
Yes, they do! But after a while home--all the predictable things will appen.

--Eventually--they will drop a slew of lower leaves. It is hard to maintain the humidity they grew in in FL.
--The upper leaves, especially in the Fiddle Leaf Ficus with get brown, crusty edges. same reason.
--Someone will, absolutely, HAVE TO re-pot something, even if it does not need it--and do it wrong.
Especially the big Yucca and Corn Plants. You mess with them--and they will never stand up straight again.
I always suggest that, if they don't like the ugly, black pots, they can put the whole pot in a bigger, prettier pot
instead of transplanting. Some things just are better left alone.
--That gorgeous, Shefflera Amate (my fave. plant) will drop most of its leaves in a year or two and end up with bare stems.
I speaketh of experience. Yes--even mine is close to total demise.

These plants must have just come in for the Holidays. They DO look fresh and healthy.
A warning, though. Hiding in many of these large, beautiful plants, out of sight,
are Mealy Bugs or Scale. My Sheff. has had scale on it for a year+ now. Or--maybe I just noticed it?
I have done all i can--soap and water--alcohol---Systemic in the soil--etc.
but now i am contemplating cutting the whole plant back to, maybe, 12" stubs. It has 3 stems.
Do you think this plant will re-grow from such a hard cut-back???? Anyone?
What do i have to lose??? Last hopeless effort.

OK! Glad to be back and catch up with DG. Gita

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Glad you arrived home safely!!!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

phew, that kind of travel is exhausting. glad you are ok!

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Gita, Hope you had a good time. Nice to be home, sounds like you were in a real driving mess. I am venturing out today. Just up the road a half hour drive. We will see what the roads look like.

Mount Bethel, PA(Zone 6a)

We had a similar trip getting closer to home on route 80, Gita, but not nearly so long. It's a good thing that you have the energy to stay with it!!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

From farther away ,still snowing, this was cleaned off yesterday, see what an inch of snow became.

PIC says it , reflects my mood about all this also;

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Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Heya! Hope everybody had a Merry Christmas, Blessed Solstice, Happy Hanuka, and Joyful Holiday! :-)

Gita, we hit that same sort of creeping traffic on our way home from Pittsburgh on Thursday... conditions were OK; I think it was just jammed with all the people who had delayed their travels during the snow the day before.

I just posted a sign-up thread for the Feb. seed swap (Sat, 2/16)

Does anybody want something from Hazzard Seeds? I got an email from them, and since I'm sure I'll meet their minimum the deal will be 10% off list price and free shipping... mostly pretty big packets, but you can split them up at the swap! Joyanna is choosing a special flower seed again this year and wants something in "rainbow" colors. Maybe I'll let her do her own swapping this year instead of putting seeds from her in the goodie bags.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


I can provide Joyanna with plenty of "Broken Colors 4 O'Clocks" seeds. Talk about rainbow colors!
How many plants are there that bloom in such an assortment of colors--on the SAME plant????

I will be coming to the seed swap--for sure. I have started getting the "itch" to start organizing and
bagging up all the seeds I have--plus all the ones i collected this summer.
Now that the Holidays are over--this is my next "must do" chore....
Was thinking of doing it today--but then got the itch to go shopping for X-mas 50% off deals--
went to Boscovs---got some wrapping paper. Wanted to get some cards--but their original prices
were so bizarrely outrageous ($15 and $20 a box) that even at 75% off it seemed ridiculous.

So I went to Tuesday Morning and got a bunch of boxed cards--their reg. price is about $4-$6. a box.
So--59% off--can't beat it! Got all kinds of other things as well.....
Blew $100 there! So many things 50% off THEIR LOW prices. Plus--All their yellow tagged, clearance items
were an additional 50% off.
I have to stop doing this! Everything is going up this coming year. Self discipline needed here.......

Ask Joyanna if she likes these flowers. (the 4's).
Miss Gita

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Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Predictably, Joyanna LOVES those photos! She says, yes please, she would like to grow those this year. She has also chosen her seeds to give away for Valentines, but they will be a surprise. :-)

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

OK! They are and will be available at the seed swap.
If you like--I can put some in a pot and leave them outsside so they get the striation.

They always come up on their own in the spring if left o Mother nature.

I think it would be fun if Joyanna does her own swapping...Live and learn in DG....


Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Thanks! We've got some winter sowing containers ready to go for her... she'll like planting the 4 o'clocks, because they're big enough to be easy to handle and easy to spot when they sprout! I'm sure they'll get plenty of freeze-thaw in Feb/March.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Good morning everyone, What a beautiful sunrise to start off the last day of the year.

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Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

It was a gorgeous sunrise!

Looking forward to meeting ' little miss' someday

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Holly you are the sunrise / sunset queen of this forum. So pretty. Do you snow on the ground? Our bit has melted or blown off already.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

It's pretty easy to notice those gorgeous sunrises and sunsets with the view from my living room. Not to mention that in the fall and winter I don't even have to get up really early to see them. LOL
Yes, we still have snow, got about 4-5 inches just a few days ago. Not looking quite a pristine as it did but most of it is still on the ground. We had some heavy winds yesterday so a lot of it blew away.

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Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Picture perfect--Holly and Ric!

Best wishes in the New Year! Gita

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

please see

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Hey, all of you know-it-alls! All of you wise ones! See if you can solve this one!

There is a REAL mystery going on on the "Plant Identification" Forum.
It is getting to be a lot of fun trying to solve the "What is this" question going on now for about a week.

Lots of suggestions...Lots of wild guesses--Lots of NOT so wild guesses.....Hmmmmmmmmm.....????

See what YOU can contribute! Maybe someone will have the answer......OOOohhhh.....the mystery!


Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Cool Gita, thank you for the re-direct. I posted my teeny little thought there. =)

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


You are missing in this funny mystery of this plant. We are having a ball trying to ID it.

Come on over and join the far, we still don't know....

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I went to Meadows Farm in Chantilly yesterday (the only local one still open for the winter) to buy some pine bark mulch -- ssgardener told me that their Kambark mulch is really pine bark fines, and at $3.99 for 2 cu. ft it is a terrific price. I need a lot of soil amendment for my awful front hill.

My awful hill has really been quite an education. I am fearful that we didn't add enough soil amendment to the part of the hill we planted first (that is, the bulk of it). We probably added 2" of compost throughout. The soil is predominantly clay. It was quite dry when we were working it, so I think I was deceived into thinking it wasn't so bad. The soil was more workable than I had expected -- I had expected it to be more like hardpan than it was, and I didn't "respect" the clay sufficiently. But the last few "columns" I worked on (I've been working on it as if it were an Excel spreadsheet, with columns and rows, starting on the far right of the hill and gradually working my way over) -- I worked on those last columns about two days after the last heavy rain, just before Christmas. The clay was still very sticky, heavy and awful. It would grab my shoes as if it were quicksand. So I realize now, with the benefit of hindsight, that I need to increase the amount of soil amendments for the columns I haven't yet planted (hence the Meadows Farm trip -- I finally ran out of compost). I tried to only plant plants that are ok in clay, but I strayed from core principles, of course. I'm really worried now that I didn't do enough to improve the soil, and so I'm determined to add a lot more amendments to the final columns.

The photos are a few weeks old. I started on the far right side of the hill back in October (you can see the edge in the second photo -- the big grasses are on my neighbor's property). The outline of the columns and rows are still very visible. We used tracking tape to mark them (each square is about a yard long on each side). Then I wrote the names of the plants on a paper spreadsheet (I'll transfer it to Excel down-the-road). I tried to design it so the plants would appear in "drifts." Pippi pointed me towards a really helpful article in Fine Gardening that suggested "drifts." The plants barely show in the photos - most are so tiny! There are about 30 columns in all (only a few show in the photos -- I'm sparing you!). I'm now working on column 23 -- but the columns get very short so there isn't much left to do. (The first columns had about 10 rows; the final one has maybe 2). I may just let it go until the spring, unless there is a warm stretch (it is supposed to hit 50 degrees on Wednesday, so I have a fighting chance). The photo on the left shows the area I'm working on now -- I hadn't planted that area when I took the photo. I've now planted a few of those "columns" (again, working from right to left). You can see the front door way to the right on the first photo, and that same front door is way to the left on the second photo. The hill is very very steep - the photos are deceptive.

Every time I work on it, I think of you all. Pippi's Magnus is in there, and Gita's Pacificum, Ruby's Aster, Jill's Biokovo, just to name a very few of your contributions for which I am very grateful. I'll probably add some of Holly's Aquilegia.

But back to Meadows Farms. They have put all their remaining perennials under large pieces of fairly heavy clear plastic tarps with a few slashes in them. I asked why - they said it helps avoid damage to the roots due to wet winter soil I wonder if I should do that to the container plants I overwinter. I always lose some due to wet winter soil -- plants like Gaura that don't like wet winter feet. But I'm surprised the plants wouldn't burn under the clear plastic. Alternately, in the past I have turned potted hostas on their side for the winter, especially if a winter storm is due. I wonder if I should do that to all the container plants? Maybe I should do whichever seems easier? Maybe just for the plants that are fully dormant? What do you do?

Last comment: I have completely fallen in love with Sarcococcas. I was able to get 4 Sarcococca hookeriana var. 'Humilis' plants half price at Meadows Farms at the end of the season (so, less than $7 a pot). They had been sitting in their large pots all season, clearly, so I was able to divide them each into 3 or 4 plants. They are very very slow growing, but I am patient (or more accurately, cheap). Lazy S's website says they "are without peer for growing, blooming and fruiting in deep shade." And, Chantell, they are fragrant! Now I want to hunt down Sarcococca confusa. It grows to 6' (the Humilis is more of a ground cover). Lazy S says: "S. confusa has a lot of things going for it: It blooms in winter and when you walk by, the fragrance is wonderful in a season when you expect to smell nothing in the garden. It's much more fragrant than the more common, S. hookeriana. The white bloom is small and is on the bush at the same time as the glossy black berries which is just maturing from red from the previous year's blooms! How cool! It was introduced in 1916 so it's stood the test of time. It will take deep shade! Spreads by underground shoots." Look at this photo -- is this gorgeous or what?

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Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Happy---Happy New Year to you!

Hope you accomplish everything you plan to do in the new year!

This may be an impossible job--but have you ever considered terracing the hill?

That hill must be H--- to work on! I would be so afraid of slipping and falling....but that is only because
I cannot trust my knees (they are both replaced) on a hillside. Very, very scary!

I am sure you know how great day lilies are for hillsides. They tend to form strong roots that hold the soil in place.
I think this refers to the average "Ditch Lilies"....maybe not--maybe they all do it?

Someone, a while ago, was offering a lot of these-like, come and get them....Who was it????

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 7a)

WOW, Happy, this must be exhausting! Did you really use up all that compost you had in your back yard? There must have been 3-4 cubic yards there, at least. How did you end up diverting the pipes from the top of the hill?

That sarcococcas sweetbox looks fantastic. I have the perfect spot for that dwarf variety in my back yard...

Is this the fine gardening article?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Happy, maybe you can continue to improve the rest of the soil by throwing leaf-gro around as a mulching layer. Greenthumb says he's been putting down leaf gro (compost amendment) instead of mulch, and it works its way into the soil relatively quickly. I "mulched" with compost last year, and I think I'm going to keep doing so where feasible. You can get it in bulk like mulch (extra shoveling compared to getting it in bags, but cheaper).

Your hill looks amazing! Just think of those roots growing all through the winter, plants waiting to take off in spring!

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

WOW Happy, that is a lot of work. Looks really good can't wait till spring to see it start growing. Could take a couple of years before it looks like you want it too. I remember how bare my front gardens looked that first year I planted them. Filling in with a lot of annuals, now I can barely fit a few in. Love the Sarcococca hookeriana such a pretty plant.

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