I think I’m officially ready for winter. I put the bubblers into the ponds and shut down the waterfall. Although it is 5̊C here today and the water is still running freely, that is quite unusual. It has been cold enough to make me chop a hole in the ice to get the bubbler stones into the ponds. That is about all I do to winterize my ponds. The fish just settle themselves into the bottom of the pond and the vast majority of them emerge looking bigger and hungry in the spring. The pump needs to be taken out and cleaned as do its intakes. There is noticeably less water flowing just now but that is a job that I will tackle in the spring. The whole bottom pond, where the pump is, needs to be cleaned and to have its plants reorganized.

The gutters are all cleaned and the heating cable is inserted and ready to plug in for the solarium down spout. We need to keep it open and running so that we don’t get a big ice build up on the glass roof. That’s not good for the seals and it stops what little light there is in the winter, from providing its maximum benefit. Inside the solarium the hibiscus is still flowering and the various Orchids are pushing up large flower stalks.

Last summer I was seduced by a gorgeous Oncidium Orchid that had a large spray of unusual yellow/red flowers. The flowers lasted for many weeks and I eventually cut down the yellowing flower stalk and allowed as how, I had received my money’s worth. Having done nothing special except to keep it watered and sitting on the edge of the kitchen counter, in the bright light of the solarium, I was amazed to discover a new flower stalk developing. As I continued to watch it and stake it up, a second and now a third flower stalk is emerging. We should be dazzled by these Orchid blooms for most of the winter. I must so some research and found out what I was, inadvertently, doing so correctly.

The snowblower has been tuned. The skis where tested last week at Silver Star near Vernon B.C. where we went to have an early Christmas with three of the granddaughters. Their parents had decided to give Amaryllis to all of the teachers, clients etc. so I was recruited to carry some 20 large bulbs in my luggage and then the girls and I had a planting party one afternoon. They also each got one of my extra large bulbs for part of their Christmas present. It was great fun and the rapid growth and massive blooms of these amazing flowers helps to indoctrinate another generation of gardeners.

The seed catalogues have been pouring through the mail slot and I have tucked them into a corner to be poured over and dreamed through in the depths of the winter after the new year.

To all my readers a very joyous Merry Christmas and dreams of great gardens in the New Year. I will take a break from writing for a few weeks and should be ready to think about gardening sometime later in January. May Orchids, Amaryllis and seed catalogues brighten your holidays and may the snow blanket our gardens and cover the ski hill and stay off the roads.

Time to answer a few questions. If you have a gardening question just ‘reply’ to this newsletter and send me your query. I try to answer most of the questions and the ones that I answer here are those that I think will have the widest interest. You can also find the latest garden updates on the front page of gardening-enjoyed.com .

Joyce Asks ? This summer, an area of very large, brown coloured and hard textured fungus appeared on my front lawn. They are not typical mushrooms that appear after heavy wet spells. I've dug them up a number of times, but they returned. Any suggestions? What causes them to grow?

Ken Answers I wish I knew! There are so many species of fungus that can invade our lawns and produce some form of toadstools. Each has their own life cycle and I’m certainly no mycologist. They all have a significant mass of underground growth that eventually puts up the fruiting body that we see. That’s why simply digging up the toadstool has minimal effect. You would have to excavate a big section of your lawn to eradicate them. If you can identify them and from that, determine their ideal growing conditions, then you might be able to adjust something in your soil so that it becomes inhospitable to them.

Jone Asks? I have a question for you about my crown of thorns plant. I received a planted cutting about three years ago. It has thrived and grown to about 2 feet tall, after semi-annual prunings, however it has not bloomed for me. I water it regularly, feed it periodically (every 6 weeks or so) but have it in a low light location. Do some cuttings never bloom? Will mine never bloom since it has not done so to date? What can I do to get flowers?

Ken Answers! Crown of Thorns Euphorbia splendens is a succulent and closely related to the Poinsettia. It should bloom freely almost all year but being a desert native is used to living in a high light environment. You note that yours is in a low light location. Move it to a bright window and only water it when the soil is quite dry and it should readily bloom for you. You may also be fertilizing a bit to frequently. Killing it with kindness. No fertilizer from November to March and then go back to your six week schedule.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON