In the Garden

Here in the Pacific Northwest, you never know when winter storms laden with heavy snow will damage trees and shrubs. Heavy snow can snap off branches, bend trees and shrubs to the ground and, in some cases, split whole trees in half where there is a “Y” in the branching.

The best defense is to use a long-handled broom to gently knock accumulated snow off the branches before it gets heavy enough to damage your favorite trees and shrubs. Some experts claim it is better not to, because knocking the snow off might break frozen, brittle branches, but I still prefer to knock it off cautiously.

If it’s snowing heavily around bedtime, it’s a good idea to set an alarm to wake you every few hours in case it’s necessary to head outside to remove snow from the branches before it can build up to damaging weight.

Admittedly, heading out in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures can be a real torture. One effective way to avoid this is to wake your partner from a deep sleep, informing her in a panicked voice that you just happened to notice her prized broadleaf evergreen is bent under heavy snow and about to break. Just make sure a warm coat and boots are conveniently located by her side of the bed, and that the broom is right outside the front door.

By the time she wakes up enough to wonder how she got out there, it should be relatively easy to talk her into knocking the snow off your plants as well. Of course, you’d better hope it stops snowing. This strategy generally only works one time per night!

Keep your Christmas tree looking good

One of my childhood memories is sifting through a blanket of fallen needles while searching for presents under our practically bare tree on Christmas morning. I suspect the premature needle drop had something to do with the fact that dad always asked for the cheapest tree on the lot.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a tree that will look great all through the holidays. The key is to pick out the tree with the darkest green needles of its type. Then, just to be sure it’s fresh, when no one is looking, do the “Ciscoe thump test.” Gently beat the living tweedle out of the tree by thumping the base on the ground. It’s no problem if some of the older needles in the center of the tree are dislodged, but if many of the ones at the end of the branches fall off, find another tree.

As soon as you get the tree home, cut a half-inch from the base, then move it into a cool, shady place and stand it in a pail of warm water. When you are ready to move the tree into the house, cut off another half inch, and put it right into a reservoir of warm water.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs weekly on KING 5; check local listings.