I can really tell when it gets darkest around here. Something happens to gardeners. We get a little batty.
For example, perfectly smart summer gardeners ask if it makes a difference where you buy a Christmas tree. Isn't the tree dead anyhow, doomed to drop its needles in 30 days no matter how it is shipped, stored or sold?
Of course, those who believe so should consider the tree as he or she would a bouquet of summer flowers. It makes a difference if they have been clipped properly so they still take up water, are actually stored in water, kept in a refrigerated case or cool area, misted and the like. The same goes for that tree. A plant is a plant even if it is an evergreen used for holiday fare instead of dahlias from the garden.
Obviously, a well cared for tree is a tree that is going to look its best and hold needles longest. That rule applies to the tree before as well as after its sale. It doesn't do any good to buy a tree and then fail to keep it in water, mist it and pamper it through the season.
As for those trees, you may be wondering if there will be a tree recycling program this year? Absolutely. There are two things you can count on this time of year: Christmas trees will be sold and ALPAR and its generous partners will recycle them, as always. You will find details in one of my upcoming garden calendars.
Next, I know it is deep winter when folks panic because they didn't get tulips or daffodils in the ground and now want to know if it is too late to plant them indoors. Of course, it is never too late to plant anything if you care for it properly. As for tulips and daffodils, these bulbs need about 12 weeks of "cold treatment" before they can start flower. This means you better hurry and get them into pots if you don't want them competing with the real ones, outdoors. What good are they then?
And, I know it is deep winter when people ask about buying paper-whites? Some wonder if they are simply old daffodil bulbs that didn't get planted this fall and if they need the same 12 or more week dormancy in the crawl space.
Actually, paper-whites are perfect for planting indoors all winter. They have been pre-cooled and are ready to start growing as soon as you buy them. It is best to plant them as soon as possible after buying them as they want to get growing. Just suspend the bottom 1/4 inch of bulbs in water, provide support for the leaves and watch them take off. They should flower in four to six weeks.
Of course, there are always the last of the "winter deniers" this time of year. This year they were helped by that rogue bear wandering around. In fact, most of you have filled bird feeders and are attracting birds.
To all who have a feeder, consider joining this year's Annual Bird Count. This is an area census of the winter bird population. While this may invoke visions of traipsing around in the wee hours of a cold, Anchorage dawn, with a group of fanatic life-listers, you can actually just devote one hour observing your own feeders and reporting the results. This is a worthy effort, simple and fun. For more information check out the Anchorage Audubon Society's website, www.anchorageaudubon.org.
And, finally, the grumpy gardeners come out this time of year. I guess that was me last week regarding bad gardener gifts. Hey, I did mention giving a certificate from a local nursery or an offer of help in the garden this summer.
One other good gardener gift, would be something you gardener can read when he or she is not in the garden. There are three "magazines" worth getting. The first is a monthly, Green Prints (aka "The Weeders Digest"). This booklet is for those who just like well written, short, human stories about gardening instead of the other way around. Check it out at greenprints.com.
The Avant Gardener has been around for as long as this column and consists of short bits of news of all things horticultural. Always interesting, it has been published for 25 years. ($18 for 1 year, POB 489, New York, NY 10028 or amazon.com/Avant-Gardener/dp/B00006K51Y).
HortIdeas is a second newsletter, now only available via email, monthly. It is also full of the very latest stuff concerning gardening. The two never seem to overlap, by the way, so it is fun to get both. The web address is terrible, users.mikrotec.com/~gwill/hi-index.htm, so you might just want to Google "HortIdeas."
Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at teamingwithmicrobes.com or by calling 274-5297 during "The Garden Party" radio show from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KBYR AM-700.