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SHARING SECRETS: Decorate Your Garden For December?

Edited by Cathy Tylka.

November’s Question Was:

What do you do to make your garden ready for Christmas, Hanukkah or the Winter Solstice? Or, do you use items from your garden for these celebrations?

Gerald D. Stewart, zip code 92084, replied:

"For years I've been working toward getting back to holiday yard decorating like I used to take for granted. Much of it is designed for how it is seen looking out from windows in the house, which create 'frames' for each mini-light tableau. Thousands of mini-lights: purple and orange for Halloween; yellow, amber, and brown (clear lights dipped in transparent brown glass paint) for Thanksgiving; and green, red, and clear for Christmas. The North Deck and North Patio have an artificial tree decorated with sparkly plastic ornaments (water proof), lots of Black Friday poinsettias, dollar store and other stuff. They are particularly effective seen through the dining room patio door while sitting at the table, with a fire dancing in the chimenea. Ten years of 24/7 caregiving for my parents, both of whom had different forms of dementia, eliminated the ability to spend scores of hours decorating outside the house. When Mom died, my knees had deteriorated to the point I wasn't able to climb ladders, kneel, and other activities necessary to put up and take down extensive decorations. Last year my knees were replaced, so I figured this year would be a return to the good old days of hellacious decorating. In preparation, I grew specialty poinsettias (ones with unusual colored and/or patterned bracts, and variegated leaves) in 5-gallon pots to line the walk to the front door (Weidner's grows multitudes of specialty poinsettia cultivars, available directly and at the best of our local garden centers). My 'knee budget' isn't big enough yet to do the decorating this year, but next year for sure. One thing in anticipation for next year: the entrance to the front yard is banked year-round with colorfully-foliaged begonias (silver-leaf, polka-dotted leaves, leaves with pink, others going toward lavender-purple, and chartreuse.) This year's specialty poinsettias from Weidner's, Green Thumb, and Walter Andersen will go into pots that fit the size of the cache pots in the Begonia Bungalow, so that the entrance to the front yard will be banked in a calliope of colors of poinsettias. I was able to get 'Autumn Leaves' and 'Golden Glo' this year from Weidner's in October. I'll get more autumn colors as they are available, so that someday I'll be able to bank the entrance for Halloween and Thanksgiving too. Once the pandemic is under control, it will be nice to get back to entertaining, so friends will also be able to enjoy the Disneyland-esque landscape."


And Karen England from 92084, shared:

"Many years back I saw this idea - to put ornaments on the ends of succulent spikes - in a magazine or on social media, I don’t remember which, and have done the same at my home and garden ever since. I keep the ornaments from year to year and chose different succulents around my home to decorate each season.

And . . .

. . . here is a treasured photo of my late husband just 12 days after brain surgery in 2013, back home on Christmas Day with our decorated agaves on our porch waving 'merry Christmas' and 'thank you' to his sister in Australia who gave him the shirt he’s wearing as a present.

And one more thing . . .

Even communities decorate their surroundings. A store in Vista, CA facilitates the locals in decorating a “Wishing Tree”. They provide the tags and the community provides the wishes. The living tree growing in a parking lot downtown is decorated with wishes until the new year.


Cathy Tylka in 92026, states that Winter Solstice Season helped decorate her yard: December 31. 2013…

The plant in the foreground is the Agave 'Blue Glow' is a slow-growing evergreen succulent which produces elegant rosettes of blue-green, chalky leaves with finely toothed margins adorned with a golden and red ribbon. A striking beauty which is particularly stunning when backlit by the sun with its glowing red and golden margin. It will take over 10 years for this Agave to flower.

And on the other side of the Garden:

Here are some poorly trimmed eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptus trees have a stunning architectural look to them, with unusually shaped branches which sometimes have a twisting habit, or are covered with colorful, patterned bark. These trees are easy to care for and have a long life span; many are drought-tolerant and can cope with a wide range of soils. They are rarely the victim of pests and require little to no maintenance.

And this year, my Garden is helping me celebrate again…

California grape is a deciduous vine to 30'. If this grape has no support it will make a nice groundcover and can cover a large greenhouse in 4-5 years. It has clusters of small edible grapes. Bees love flowers. It grows along streams and it seeps throughout much of central and northern California. We've seen it in the Sacramento River bed, along the Sierra foothills and on I-5 at the Grapevine. It has done fine here and in coastal gardens. It likes regular moisture but not to be wet and full sun or a way for it to get to full sun. Will grow under Umbellularia californica. Sometimes Vitis californica Rogers Red grape hybrid is available upon request. Vitis californica tolerates sand, clay and seasonal flooding. Vitis californica's foliage turns a different color in the fall and type is deciduous.

And last but not least, this is here all year around to bless me and my work:

I would love more responses from my questions, and if you do not see your response, let me know…I live in a black hole and have satellite service.

Thanks, and have a wonderful Winter Season,

Cathy Tylka


Cathy Tylka, RN, retired Emergency Nurse, found her love of plants and the SDHS merge many years ago. Cathy acted as Treasurer for the organization and volunteer for many activities. Now, more than happy to assist in gathering questions to ask you in the Sharing Secrets area of the Newsletter.


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