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Thank you to Carol Skinger for the artwork.
Fox Chapel Garden Club prides itself on creating holiday arrangements crafted with the same quality greens used at local floral shops and nurseries. We harvest evergreen boughs and bare branches from our own gardens, and we have a team of members who scour estate sales and retail sources for unusual containers making our offerings truly one-of-a-kind. You will note an important change in our arrangements this year. We are transitioning away from the use of floral foam, a plastic product that will never biodegrade. Additionally, the smaller particles that break off from the product can contaminate our waterways- and our drinking water- with microplastics.
In keeping with our mission advocating “sound environmental stewardship” we will be using several safer and more sustainable options including a medium made of fibers derived from natural volcanic basalt rock. A few items may contain the last of our inventory of floral foam.
Some of our larger arrangements may utilize chicken wire to create an armature to hold stems. Items lined with chicken wire will have a minimum amount of water in the vessel allowing for the bottom of stems to be submerged without creating a mess during transport.
There is no change in caring for arrangements- the key is to keep water in the vessel or liner that contains your greens. Be sure to top off the water when you get your arrangement home.
We choose evergreens that will stay green (or gold, or silver-y blue) until Christmas if properly cared for. Greens that shed needles quickly are not used in our arrangements. Just as a cut Christmas tree stops taking up water after spending time indoors, so too will our arrangements. But you can still enjoy their color and texture for weeks after purchase.
Some important tips to assure that your arrangement holds through the holidays:
When you get your plant home take a look at the container. We strive to make all of our containers watertight. Ceramic containers generally are waterproof unless they have a drainage hole. Baskets and metal containers are not. We always provide a liner, whether poly-lined florist foil or a plastic liner, however, it is still advisable to use a cork mat or trivet under the container to protect your furniture.
Lift up the moss topping the plants and locate the type of liner we’ve provided. Be sure water stays within the waterproof liner. Move the container to a sink to ensure that water is not leaking from the container. Let it sit for a bit after watering to ensure it isn’t leaking.
Provide water to each pot within the container. We nestle separate pots, each holding a different plant within each container. They may be held in place with bubble wrap or moss. Paperwhite narcissus may not be planted in a separate pot. We have had good luck providing well-rooted paperwhites in a little wrapping of moss, which needs to be moistened whenever you are watering the pots in the container.
Be sure to add water to each pot in the container based on the plant’s cultural needs. Water plants judiciously and allow excess water to run out of the pot’s drainage hole. A little leakage from the pot is of no concern, as the water will simply remain within the container’s liner. If you go overboard and lots of water runs out of the pot, pull the pot out to drain thoroughly. Don’t let large puddles of water stand within the liner of the pot.
Water these plants when the soil at the top of the pot feels dry: Amaryllis (note- provide water along the edge, not into the center, of the bulb), succulents, kalanchoe, and poinsettia.
Plants that like a bit more water include ferns, Selaginella or “Frosty Fern”, paperwhite narcissus, and cypress trees. These plants can be watered when the soil surface is barely damp. Don’t panic if the frosty ferns get droopy. It will perk up with additional water unless you’ve let it completely dry out.
The frequency of watering is determined by the temperature and humidity levels in your home.
The most finicky plant is probably the dramatic cyclamen. If you have purchased a cyclamen, keep it in a cool location. We have provided a special care sheet for this gorgeous holiday plant.
We pride ourselves on selecting the most unusual and healthy holiday houseplants and hope you enjoy them for weeks and months to come!
2023 FCGC Holiday Houseplants.pdf
Right on cue, as the calendar flips from October to November, Halloween is displaced by Christmas in the world of retail. The chrysanthemums and gourds found at florists and garden centers are replaced by tiny Alberta spruce trees and poinsettias. Meanwhile, the abrupt shift from colorful fall foliage and brilliant blue skies to bare branches and slate gray clouds can wear on gardeners and non-gardeners alike. One of the bright spots of the late fall and winter season are live plants, which can bring a burst of color and life to a time when the outside world is going dormant. Poinsettias may be the quintessential Christmas plant, but florist cyclamen are a terrific alternative available during the winter months.
Florist cyclamen feature heart shaped green leaves overlaid with lacy patterns of gray and white. The foliage alone makes them an appealing choice as a winter houseplant. The flowers are held gracefully above the foliage and are available in shades of white, pink, red and purple. The petals of cyclamen are reflexed, or swept back, from the contrasting center, or eye, of the flower. Some cultivars sport petals that are fringed or ruffled. While poinsettias evoke a traditional Christmas vibe, cyclamen are an elegant option less closely aligned with a specific holiday or faith.
The cyclamen you find at this time of year are most likely hybrids of Cyclamen persicum, native to the Mediterranean. Cyclamen are tubers, a type of geophyte or underground storage unit, part of a group of plants which also includes bulbs and corms. Cyclamen tubers are planted close to the surface of the soil and if their growing needs are met, they will bloom indoors for months.
When selecting a cyclamen plant look for healthy green foliage, with no signs of yellowing. Push the foliage away to inspect the point where the flower stems are emerging from the soil. There should be ample buds visible at various stages of development ensuring that you will have a long period of bloom.
Cyclamen, above all other cultural requirements, require temperatures between 55-68 degrees to thrive. If your thermostat is consistently set above 72 degrees, cyclamen will struggle to do well in your home. Cyclamen have bloomed for 2-3 months in my home at a reasonable 67-69 degrees. Some in my family have would love a warmer house, but I have my priorities! If you’re really serious about coddling your cyclamen you can further decrease the temperatures in your home at night. Turn the temperature down to 65 degrees or lower and throw an extra blanket on your bed.
Beyond the temperature, cyclamen like bright light, near a window if possible. Many sources recommend keeping cyclamen out of direct sunlight, but in Pittsburgh I have had success with cyclamen on a windowsill with western exposure. Perhaps that is a reflection of the lower number of clear sunny days in our area.
Cyclamen require a nice deep watering when the surface soil is dry. Be sure to allow the water to run out of the bottom of the pot. Cyclamen are forgiving plants; I have been late to water at times and noticed the stems of the cyclamen flowers lying limply on the top of the leaves, but they have perked up immediately after watering.
Pinch or cut off spent flowers and yellow leaves at the soil level when watering the plant. I also provide a half-strength dose of water soluble fertilizer every 3-4 weeks while the plant is in bloom.
As the cyclamen approaches dormancy you will notice reduced flowering and more yellowing of the leaves. Stop fertilizing at this time. Plants in cooler environments will stay green longer, but cyclamen, like most geophytes, are programmed to go dormant once their main flush of flowering occurs.
Many gardeners will discard their cyclamen after enjoying the months of bloom. If you’re a thrifty gardener or enjoy seeing plants come back to life after dormancy you can move your plant into a less prominent spot and allow it to rest. Water sparingly during the dormant period. When the soil is pulling away from the sides of the pot, give the plant a good drink.
Once the plant is fully dormant repot into a slightly larger container. When new growth appears care for the plant as you did during its active growing period.
For more information on the care of cyclamen go to www.cylamen.org
FCGC Cyclamen 2023.pdf