December Gardening


By —— Bio and Archives December 2, 2012

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Want the best career for personal satisfaction? According to a British study, 90% of horticulturalists enjoy going to work. Research by City & Guilds found nine out of ten horticulturalists were happy in their job with 80 per cent saying it was because they were able to manage their own workload and have autonomy over their schedule and daily tasks. Florists were found to achieve similar satisfaction, closely followed by hairdressers and plumbers. At the other end of the scale, as the Daily Mail noted, they were in stark contrast – and perhaps not surprisingly – to those professionals who hated their jobs including bankers, IT and data processors, and human resources.

Diversion No. 1

Luke I Am Your Father Eat Your Vegetables: seen on an apron and noted by The New Zealand Herald

It’s final days in the garden for the season. Clean tools from caked soil, dirt and grime – old toothbrushes are great for the job. Lightly wipe down all metal parts with an oily rag. Those with treasured wooden handles should have them checked for splinters, sanded if so, and then rubbed with linseed oil. Store in a cool, dry place overwinter.

If you haven’t already done so, drain the outside faucets and hoses. Clean eaves troughs of fallen leaves and other debris.

Clean bird feeders regularly with a weak solution of bleach. Similarly scour birdbaths; both will prevent our feathered chums from spreading disease.

Diversion No. 2

Young birds can get ‘drunk’ on fermented berries and exhibit all the symptoms familiar to people with overindulgence, indicates a small study published in Veterinary Record.

Indoors, cease monthly fertilizing of all foliage plants. This will assist them to become dormant during short, low-light days of winter when growing conditions are poor. Those plants in bud or flower, however, should continue to be fed regularly.

Water with care: more houseplants die of poor – usually overwatering – than from any other single cause. Plants in large pots can go an amazingly long time between waterings, sometimes for weeks rather than days. And room temperature water is ne plus ultra for all plants. Cold water straight from the tap is liable to lead to many problems including an appointment with that great green compost heap in the sky. Regular spritzing with the same room temperature H2O will freshen foliage and discourage pests.
Overhead fans not only improve personal comfort but are beneficial for plants also. While not amenable to hurricane conditions, a gentle zephyr is an excellent conditioner.

Diversion No. 3

New Zealand’s blind beekeeper Bryce Hooton, 45, has been told to remove 60 of his hives from a Tauranga City Council reserve because some of the lawn mowing contractor’s staff are allergic to bee stings. Hooton started Golden Flow Apiaries 23 years ago – three years after he went totally blind from two separate dairy farm accidents. He can do every honey task by touch except disease inspection, and the company now exports to four countries. The Matamata-based business has 1500 hives, reported The New Zealand Herald

Coffea arabica heading for extinction? The report from venerable Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew caused coffee-lovers to collectively gulp. The world media, largely dependent as it is on coffee, got the jitters. “The last drop?” queried National Geographic, horrified that “Climate change may raise coffee prices, lower quality.” Out west, the Los Angeles Times shuddered at “Climate change: taking a toll on coffee?” Perhaps as early 2080, C. arabica would become 99.9 per cent extinct, predicted the ubiquitous experts. Just a moment though.

Coffee’s chief rival tea, Camellia sinensis, is already being raised not only in Alabama, near Charleston, South Carolina and an hour’s drive from San Francisco but as far north as Washington state’s Skagit Valley and – wait for it – on B.C.’s Vancouver Island, in the Cowichan Valley not far from Victoria. Surely with a warming world and enterprising horticulturists eager to experiment, it is only time before we see coffee estates become a fact in unexpected places. Perhaps Tim Hortons will in future years be able to proclaim, “There’s an awful lot of coffee in Canada.”

Diversion No. 4

The case of Toronto phantom stench has been solved, and, like most problems, you can blame the weather. Warm temperatures early last month helped release a funky smell across the city, Environment Canada spokesperson Kate Jordan told local media.

“The deck may be stacked for harsh outbreaks during the 2012-2013 winter in North America and Europe,” writes professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Charles Greene of Cornell University in the current edition of Scientific American. However, he notes, “We can never be sure what hand will be dealt in any given year. After all, forecasting the weather always entails some level of uncertainty.”

All this does not necessarily mean we will experience consistently cold, harsh conditions throughout this winter. It does mean we are likely to experience periods of intense snow, high winds and Arctic cold. It is after all, for the superstitious, the year 2013.

In fact, British research by AA Populus suggests that triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13 – is rife among motorists in the scepter’d isle. The Daily Mail raises the alarm, headlining: Will car sales drop next year as 1 in 3 motorists admits fear over ‘unlucky 13’ plates? But isn’t thirteen supposed to be a ‘baker’s dozen’?


Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Click to view Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

Wes can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)