Potted plants make bright and long-lasting gifts at Christmas. Seedlings that are planted out now into attractive pots will make good growth during the coming weeks.
Herbs used in this way will provide an attractive, as well as most useful gift. Parsley, basil, sage, oregano and different varieties of thyme will provide different leaf shapes, colours and textures. Pots that have been developed specially for use with herbs will allow the plants to spread over the edges.
Pots containing brightly-coloured annuals such as petunias are also ideal to use in this way and would be most suitable for well-lit porches, courtyards or front verandahs. Dwarf marigolds or impatiens would also be suitable choices for growing in pots. They would provide a welcome bright patch of colour.
Elderly relatives and friends, including those in hostels and nursing homes, will appreciate the efforts you have made.
Potting up a bay tree may also be a welcome gift.
Pots should eventually be placed in a position of almost full sun.
Bronze-orange bugs are beginning to appear on citrus trees, particularly those with tender, new growth. Their characteristic repulsive smell is an indication of their presence. It is often evident when walking past the tree and brushing against a branch. Further evidence of the bugs being present may come from the soft, new growth that may appear to be wilting. This is because the bugs suck on the tender growth.
The trees can be sprayed with horticultural spray or, alternatively, the pests can be vacuumed from the leaves. The bag should then be emptied into a container of boiling water. It is advisable to wear some form of eye protection when dealing with these bugs as they can squirt an irritating, smelly fluid when they have been disturbed.
This pest appears first in late winter as a light green nymph, making it hard to spot. Spraying trees in late winter will reduce the numbers of the pests later in the year. The spray should be applied to the undersides of leaves. The bugs initially emerge in a green format, and then, as they develop, they change colour into the more familiar orange to bronze.
Allowing the bugs to remain on the tree will lead to disfigurement of the branches and stems and eventually may cause part of the tree to die away.
They will appear as small, shiny rather plump insects that cover new plant growth and flower buds. Their numbers will often be quite extensive.
Aphids prefer milder temperatures. They come in a range of colours, all feeding in the same way. The damage they cause occurs when they pierce the young, tender plant material that is prevalent at this time of the year. Then they proceed to suck out the juices from the plant, leaving young stems very wilted. They also produce a sweet, sugary substance that creates a film over parts of the plant. This sticky film is the breeding ground for black sooty mould, which also soon makes an appearance on the young plant growth.
Because of their movement from one plant to another, aphids can be responsible for transferring virus diseases from diseased plants to healthy ones.
Gardening Tips: Placing a container under a pot plant in dry periods will allow it to absorb moisture as required, as long as the plant doesn't remain in water for long periods of time.
Tip prune chrysanthemum plants to encourage more flowers in early autumn.
Oregano, thyme, marjoram, dill, chives and basil all grow well in warmer weather.
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