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Lewes, Delaware
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December 3, 1999     Cape Gazette
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December 3, 1999

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I CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, December 3 - December 9, 1999 - 65 -- GARDEN & F 00Rra Here's. some tips fo" choosing, caring fo:' your Christmas tree Corn syrup can help keep it rres. For many families, picking out that perfect holiday tree 6ften sig- nals the official start of the holi- day season. Yet selecting the per- fect tree can be quite overwhelm- ing with so many different vari- eties and sizes that it often seems that a horticultural expert is need- ed to pick the best tree on the lot. It doesn't have to be nearly so dif- ficult. Here are easy tips to make selecting and caring for your tree a truly joyful experience this year. Selecting Your Tree Freshness is the most important factor - and testing for it is easy. Tree needles should be resilient. Take hold of a branch and pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all, of the needles should stay on the tree. A helpful trick is to lift a cut tree a couple of inches off the ground and let it drop on the base. Only a few needles should fall off if the tree is fresh. The tree should also have a flagrance and rich green color. Bend the branches - they should be flexible and bend with- out much resistance. Once you have selected "the tree of all trees," it's important that you follow these helpful tips to keep your tree fresh, flagrant and fabulous throughout the entire holiday season. Caring for your tree Corn syrup can help keep your tree moist and fresh. Once you bring your tree home, leave it undecorated and upright - either outside or in a garage. Make a fresh cut across the trunk - about one inch above the existing base. Give your tree a fresh drink - a variation of its own holiday cocktail! To keep your tree moist and fresh you can easi- ly make your own tree preserva- tive by mixing a quart of fresh warm water with 1/2 cup of corn syrup and a teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach in a two-gallon bucket. This independently tested Continued on page 66 1 Seminar on garden design Submitted photo A Virginia pine Christmas tree is a popular choice among Christmas tree shoppers because of its symetrical shape and thick needles. slated Jan, 11 The Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) will sponsor a seminar on garden design at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11. Richard Dub6 will present "The Gardener and Design: Consulting the Genius of the Place," and examine how nature can Serve as an inspiration for design that cre- ates a greater sense of place. The program will take place at the Center for Horticulture, located at 1810 N. Dupont Street in Wilmington. Dub6 will discuss how to cap- ture the essence of a landscape and use it to evoke and enforce emotion. Through his years of observation and studies, Dub6 feels Japanese gardens are astute- ly aware of the dynamics of space and the effects they have on the human emotion. He'll explain the principle of "shakkei," which means to capture alive what is beyond. This, said Dub& will help gardeners to more fully understand their borrowed land- scape. Dub6 is the author Natural Pattern Forms A Practical Source Book for Landscape Design. A dessert reception and book signing will follow this lecture. Registration is $12 for DCH members and $17 for nonmem- bers. For more information, call 302-658-6262. From mummies to m00tstodon bones to chrysanthemums In Medieval times a bizarre health craze spread throughout Western Europe. To cure disease and restore health, people were eating ground up Egyptian mum- mies. When the market for edible mummies dried up, it was found that the mummies were chock full of resin and albumen. Indeed albumen gave us the modern word mummy. "Ihe resin and albumen made the mummies quite combustible. They were even burned as fuel in steam loco- motives. Eventually coal was found to be more suitable for powering locomotives, and the remaining mummies were crushed up and used for fertilizer. This was a fate shared with the mastodons. When early explorers came across mastodon bones they didn't treasure them as archeolog- ical relics but promptly crushed them into fertilizer. The same thing became of millions of bison bones left over from the near extinction of American bison. Their bones too were ground into GARDEN JOURNAL Paul Barbano fertilizer, which, of course, brings us to chrysanthemums. For all of these fertilizers from ground up mummies, mastodon bones and bison skeletons are basically a form of bone meal. Bone meal supplies the element phosphorous which is necessary for all plant growth, but especially important for flowers. And now that even the hardiest chrysanthe- mums have died back, it's a good time to apply bone meal for next year's blossoms, not just to the mums, but apply bone meal to all flowering plants on your grounds. Steamed bone meal is available wherever fertilizers are sold. Most commercial bone meal is steamed to remove fats which slightly reduces the nitrogen con- tent. You can also make your own bone meal by grinding dry bones in a heavy duty farm grade grinder. Small amounts of bone meal can be made by putting dry bones into a burlap bag and pounding with a hammer. Sprinkle about a half cup of bone meal around Your beds of daffodils, tulips and other spring flowering bulbs. Scratch it in with a rake and cover with leaves til spring. A big advantage of an organic fertilizer like bone meal is that it's very hard to damage plants with it even if you apply too much. J Bone meal should be mixed into the soil when starting seedlings indoors. While bone meal will supply phosphorus, it is not a complete fertilizer. The other major elements need- ed are nitrogen and potassium. That is why fertilizers are abbre- viated to "NPK," with potash sig- nified by its scientific symbol the letter K. Fertilizer is then listed by three numbers, such as 10-5-5. This would indicate a fertilizer with 10 units of nitrogen (N), five units of phosphorus (P) and five units of potash. The proportions of each would be adjusted depending upon the needs of your plants. A fertilizer such as 3-5-5 for corn will have more nitrogen and phos- phorus than the 2-4-5 fertilizer for garden beans. In fact, if garden beans get too much nitrogen they will produce lots of leaves and few flowers and beans. A general purpose organic fertilizer can be made up by mix- ing bone meal for phosphorus, cottonseed meal for nitrogen and rock potash or greensand for potassium. Alter the proportions depending upon how much of each element you need. For instance, for higher phos- phorus add more bone meal, but for higher nitrogen add more cot- tonseed meal. You can mix this up by the cupsful, bucketfuls or wheeelbarrowfulls depending upon the size of your garden. After applying bone meal to your beds and gardens there is not much else you need do until spring. The garden will slowly restore itself as the phosphorus leaches out of the bone meal into the soil over the winter. Now retire to the fireplace where you can snuggle in and contemplate throwing another mummy on the fire. Paul Barbano writes about gar- dening and farming from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Address questions or comments to him c/o the Cape Gazette.