As the holiday season comes upon us, many folks will be spending their weekends scouring tree farms and mall parking lots for the perfect Christmas tree. There are many very realistic-looking options for artificial trees these days, and they are a great way for families to reduce waste by reusing the same tree year after year. However, a live Christmas tree brings greenery inside, smells wonderful, and provides a central focus for many of our holiday traditions. Many cut trees will last over a month with good watering, but when the holidays are over, what do you do with your tree?
Many cities and counties offer a Christmas tree recycling program, in which trees can be left at drop-off sites or on the curb for pickup. Most municipalities turn the trees into mulch and use it at public facilities. Many individuals reuse trees by placing them in lakes or other water bodies as fish habitats, creating reefs for hiding and nesting. However, be sure and check with local environmental agencies before placing trees under water. If you own a good bit of land or a wooded area, you can lay your old tree out for small mammals and birds to use as shelter. It will eventually biodegrade and add nutrients to the soil. Be sure that if you take advantage of any of these recycling options that you remove all ornaments, tinsel, or other decorations which could be hazardous to animals and/or wood-chipping machines.
There is an option to truly keep your tree evergreen—a live Christmas tree! Many retailers sell potted trees that can be brought inside and decorated, then planted outside after the season is over. One of the plants often associated with this festive time of year is holly, which is an excellent choice for evergreen color throughout the year. There are many native varieties, such as yaupon holly for drier areas and myrtle-leaved holly for wetlands. Hollies are typically used as shrubs in the landscape, although many species can grow into small trees if allowed; the East Palatka holly can be as tall as 45 feet at maturity! Hollies are also an excellent food choice for attracting birds, and the shrubs work wonderfully as a natural screen. While their branches aren’t quite as sturdy as some of the northern varieties, native Atlantic white or Eastern red cedar–or even some local pines–are also excellent evergreen species that can be used.
A live tree or one planted and decorated outdoors is a wonderful way to commemorate a special Christmas and help provide wildlife habitat year-round.
Gardens of the Big Bend is a new botanical and teaching garden located on the grounds of the University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. The goals of these gardens are to evaluate new plants, promote garden plants adapted to the region, demonstrate environmentally sound principles of landscaping and provide a beautiful and educational environment for students, visitors, gardeners and Green Industry professionals.Located just 10 miles south of the Georgia-Florida border in Florida’s “Big Bend,” the Gardens are in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 8b and have sandy-clay soils more typical of continental conditions than those of peninsular Florida.
Gardens of the Big Bend is a series of gardens, each with a theme or plant focus:
- The Discovery Garden contains over 170 species or cultivars of new, improved or underutilized trees, shrubs and perennials. The garden’s purpose is to help gardeners, landscapers and nursery growers “discover” new plants.
- The Magnolia Garden is part of the National Collection of Magnolia in recognition of its’ more than 200 species and cultivars, including some of the rarest magnolias in the world.
- The Crapemyrtle Garden includes six species and over 100 cultivars.
- Conifers can be found throughout the Gardens but are featured in the new “Jurassic” garden. More than just pines and junipers, the Gardens contain over 50 conifer species and cultivars, many of which are rare. In recognition, the American Conifer Society has designated the Gardens as a “Conifer Reference Garden”, the only one in Florida, and the southernmost in the U.S.
- The Dry Garden is the newest addition and contains about 140 different types of agave, aloe, cactus, dyckia, sedum, yucca, bulbs and other dry-adapted plants. It consists of a south-facing berm of boulders, gravel and sand about 160 feet long, 35 feet wide and 6 feet tall.
- Other gardens feature native, shade, Southern heritage, and weeping plants as well as collections of Japanese hydrangea and shrub roses. Additional gardens will be installed as time and funding permit.
Gardens of the Big Bend formally began in 2008 thanks to the happy marriage of a new volunteer organization coupled with this University of Florida off-campus facility and plant collections I developed as part of research and extension projects. The volunteer organization, Gardening Friends of the Big Bend, Inc., formed in 2007 to support horticulture research and education. This group quickly seized on the idea of transplanting these existing plant collections into a series of gardens. Accordingly, its members hold fundraisers, provide volunteer labor and sponsor extension programs to raise awareness, provide funds and support garden development and maintenance.
Gardens of the Big Bend is located in Quincy at I-10 Exit 181, just 1/8 mile north on Pat Thomas Highway (SR 267). The gardens are free and open to the public during daylight hours year-round; professional staff are only available during normal business hours. To make a gift to the Gardens, please go to this website! Come visit us and watch the Gardens grow!
Often in Extension we are asked to look at unhealthy plants in the landscape. We see every problem under the sun. Whether it is diseases, insects, or cultural problems we run into them all. One problem that seems to be a trend, when clients show us a declining tree, is signs of improper tree installation. Though the tree may survive for 10 or 15 years after planting, it never thrives and it experiences a slow death. Here are 11 easy steps to follow for tree installation.
- Look Up
- Dig a shallow planting hole as wide as possible
- Find the point where the top-most root emerges from the trunk
- Slide the tree carefully into the planting hole
- Position the point where the top-most root emerges from the trunk slightly above the landscape soil surface
- Straighten the tree in the hole
- Remove synthetic materials from around trunk and root ball
- Slice a shovel down in to the backfill
- Cover the exposed sides of the root ball with mulch
- Stake the tree if necessary
- Come back to remove hardware
For more detailed information visit this UF/IFAS website.
Also remember that fall is a great time to plant a tree because of the way trees grow. As you can see on the image above, roots tend to grow in the winter. This is a good thing so that the root system will be well established when spring comes and a new flush of growth will begin on the top of the tree.
Many homeowners and gardeners think of mothballs as a quick fix when trying to control indoor pest problems or wildlife incursions. There are problems with using mothballs for this purpose.
Mothballs are made up of Naphthalene. The EPA has the following statement about Naphthalene, the active ingredient in mothballs:
[notice]”Naphthalene is associated with hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, and neurological damage. Cataracts have also been reported in workers acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation and ingestion. Chronic (long-term) exposure of workers and rodents to naphthalene has been reported to cause cataracts and damage to the retina. Hemolytic anemia has been reported in infants born to mothers who “sniffed” and ingested naphthalene (as mothballs) during pregnancy. Available data are inadequate to establish a causal relationship between exposure to naphthalene and cancer in humans. EPA has classified naphthalene as a Group C, possible human carcinogen.” Source: epa.gov website [/notice]
The use of mothballs in gardens or around the house to deter nuisance wildlife is problematic at best; harmful to pets, children and adults at worst. When mothballs are placed outdoors they can contaminate edible garden crops, runoff into ponds, streams and lakes and leach into ground water as a pollutant.
Here are a few things to consider when using moth balls:
Outside use of these products is prohibited
Applications are limited to an airtight space or well sealed container such as a garment bag.
Application locations not listed on the label, and therefore not allowed, include
plastic garbage bags.
Moth balls are a pesticide and regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Contact information: FDACS (850) 617-7882, National Pesticide Information Center (800) 858-7378, Poison Control Center (800) 222-1222, Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Pesticide Surveillance Program (800) 606-5810.