The Diversity of December’s Celebrations

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward to the upcoming winter holidays that make this time of year so special.

Of course, when we say holidays, most minds turn to Christmas. Christians account for about 64% of the U.S. population, and according to the Pew Research Center, most people who don’t affiliate with any religion plan to celebrate Christmas as a cultural event.

But there is a wonderful wealth of other holidays and cultural observances that occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Probably the best known of these is Hannukah, the eight-day festival of lights that will begin this year on the evening of December 18. Hannukah (which can also be spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Hanuka) means “dedication” in Hebrew and the holiday commemorates the recapture and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE.

When the Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees defeated the Greek army that occupied Jerusalem, they went to light the Temple’s menorah, only to find that most of the purified ritual oil used for the menorah had been ruined. The story goes that although there was only enough purified oil to keep the menorah lit for one day, it miraculously burned for 8 days. This is the inspiration of the tradition of lighting menorah candles each night. Much of the food associated with the holiday, like potato latkes, are fried in oil as another reminder of the Hannukah miracle.

Earlier this month, Buddhists will observe Bodhi Day, also known as Rohatsu. Celebrated each year on December 8, it commemorates the day that the Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, achieved enlightenment or spiritual awakening (bodhi) after meditating for 49 days straight under a Banyan fig tree. Buddhists honor the day by meditating, chanting Buddhist texts known as sutras, and performing kind acts towards others.

Many cultures will mark the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, which is also the first day of winter. From Iran to China to England to here in the States, many societies in the northern hemisphere celebrate the solstice as the return of the sun, since the days begin to get longer.

In fact, there is one solstice celebration that is right in our back yard. On December 21, the Hopi begin the Soyal ceremony. Hopi tradition says that on this day, the Kachinas (or Katsinam), the spirits that guard over the Hopi, come down from their home in the San Francisco Peaks to bring the sun back to the world. Gift-giving to children, prayers for the coming year, singing, and storytelling are all part of the festivities and kachina dolls are often made in preparation for the celebration.

A relatively new holiday is commonly celebrated in the days between Christmas and New Years. Kwanzaa (the Swahili word for “first fruits” of the harvest) is a weeklong celebration first held in 1966 to honor African heritage in African-American culture. Central to Kwanzaa is its seven principles, known as the Nguzo Saba: unity of family and community; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith. Among the symbols of the holiday are the seven candles (three green, three red and one black) lit on a kinara; fruit and nuts to symbolize work; and an ear of corn to represent fertility and the idea that, through children, the future hopes of a family are brought to life.

Whether you are celebrating a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa or any of the other winter observances that make this season so special, all of us at Warner’s wish you the happiest of holiday for you and your family.

This Week’s Specials

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These specials are good through Sunday, Nov. 27th
  • 10% off any fresh wreath or garland
  • 30% off outdoor pottery (12-inch and larger, excludes Tala Vera)
  • 30-50% off all shrubs

All specials while supplies lasts.

Houseplant of the Week: Rosemary Cone

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A perfect hostess gift for the holiday parties on your calendar, the rosemary cone plant adds festive cheer (and an amazing fragrance) to any Christmas decor.

Rosemary is a perennial herb with fragrant needle-like leaves that’s easy to grow. But it’s also super useful as a herb with its flavorful silvery gray-green leaves.

You can arrange rosemary cone trees for table centerpieces or in your foyer. You can also have it in containers by the front door.

Caring for your Rosemary plant:

  • During the winter, place your rosemary in a sunny spot, like a bright window. Remember to turn the plant periodically so it gets sun on all sides.
  • Water your rosemary every other day – you want to make sure the soil never dries out.
  • The soil in the pot needs to be well draining, but you can have water remain in the saucer to provide humidity for the plant.

Propogating Indoor Plants

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One of the joys of houseplants is that often if you have one, you can easily turn it into two. It’s the magic of propagation.

There are three basic ways to propagate your houseplants – by literally dividing them at the root, by cutting off a stem, or by transforming a single leaf from your “parent” plant and using it to grow a whole new one.


The best time to divide your houseplants is spring because that’s when plants emerge from their winter rest and start growing again.

You’ll start by gently removing your plant from its pot and taking a look at the root ball. Determine the best area to divide – essentially an area with a nice, healthy section of roots.

With a sharp, clean knife, cut a section off the original plant. Make sure that the roots stay intact during this process.

Replant the divided plant as soon as possible into new potting soil and make sure to water and place the plants in a warm location with bright, indirect light.

Good plants to propagate by dividing: Sansevieria, ZZ Plant and Peace Lily.

Leaf Cutting

Rooting a new plant from a leaf requires that you get a clean cut from the parent plant. You’ll need to let the leaf dry out and scab over, otherwise it will absorb too much moisture, leading to root rot.

Take the leaf and dip the “raw” tip of it – where you separated it from the main plant – in a rooting hormone. You’ll want to place about two thirds of the leaf into fresh potting soil. You’ll also want to make sure you are planting it in the same direction it was growing in before it was cut.

Again, keep your new plant warm and water according to the plant’s normal requirements.

Good plants to propagate by leaf cutting: Jade, Snake Plant and Pepermonia.

Stem Cuttings

You can typically grow a new plant from stem cuttings in either soil or water. You’ll see the progress your plant is making more easily if you propagate in water and that can be fun!

This is probably the most common method of propagation, using a healthy shoot of new growth about five to 10 inches long as the starting point of your new plant.

You can cut it off with shears or scissors at an angle, preferably just below a leaf joint. Clear away young foliage at the bottom that could inhibit the stem from actually developing roots. If you are propagating succulents, let them dry for a few hours to seal off the edge and reduce the likelihood of rotting.

After your cutting(s) have grown an adequate root system (usually a couple of months) you can repot.

Good plants to propagate by stem rooting: Dracaena, Pothos, Monstera

If you have any questions about caring for your houseplants, or using propagation to increase how many you have, please stop by and ask – we’d be glad to help.

Happy Gardening!

Houseplant of the Week: Christmas Cactus

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The Christmas Cactus, part of the genus Schlumbergera (which we think is just a fun word to say), is a staple of the holidays with its festive color popping during the season. The plant comes in pink, white, a rusty orange/red, yellow and purple.

There’s only a few species within this group of colorful cacti, and they all  are native to the coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil. Fun fact: while the Christmas Cactus blooms around the winter holidays in the U.S., it is known as the “May Flower” in Brazil, because that’s when it blossoms in the southern hemisphere.

Christmas Cacti are different from other succulents because they are looking for humidity as opposed to their desert counterparts.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Schlumbergera comes from Frederick Schlumberg, an enthusiast for the plant, who had a collection of them in his home in France in the 1800s.

Caring for Your Christmas Cactus

Water: While it is blooming, keep it evenly moist and mist frequently (remember, this plant loves humidity). You might also want to place a tray of pebbles filled with water beneath your plant container to introduce more humidity. That being said, you never want to water it so heavily that its roots become water logged.

Food: Once buds appear, give it some high-potassium fertilizer every couple of weeks.

Light: While the Christmas Cactus will tolerate lower light, it really prefers bright sunshine and even a little direct sunlight (but not too much; you don’t want to burn the leaves). This will encourage it to bloom.

Temperature: About 65 degrees is perfect for your Christmas Cactus.

Encouraging More Blooms

Your Christmas Cactus might have several blooming cycles during the year, but will usually stop flowering by fall. At that point, you should encourage its brief dormancy cycle by reducing water, light and temperature. About six to eight weeks before you want to see it bloom again, make sure the plant gets 12 to 14 hours of darkness in temperatures around 55 degrees.

Once you start seeing buds again on the plant start reintroducing it into warmer temperatures and watering it more frequently. You’ll see blooms again in about six weeks.

Houseplant of the Week: Watermelon Vine

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A bit of a hidden gem in the houseplant world, the trailing Pellionia pulchra (better known as watermelon vine) has oval-shaped variegated leaves with dark stems. One of the best ways to enjoy this beauty is to put it in a hanging basket or a high shelf to show off its cascading vines.

This lush plant can be a little finicky, so it’s a good idea to be attentive about its light, water and feeding.

Watermelon vine houseplant

Light: The watermelon vine likes plenty of bright, indirect light, which will help it grow. Can it survive lower light levels? Yes, but more light ensures that this plant will thrive instead of just survive.

Water: This is a plant that originated in southeast Asia, so it’s used to having moist soil. You’ll want to water when the top inch of its soil dries out. Don’t let it go completely dry!

When you water, saturate the soil until it runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Remove any excess water from the drainage plate. This plant likes moisture, but not sitting in water.

Temperature and Humidity – The sweet spot for this plant, temperature wise, is in the mid-70s. Keep them away from drafts that would come from exterior doors or cooling/heating vents. They also love their humidity, so a humidifier or pebble tray with water is highly recommended.

Here’s another tip for humidity loving plants – group them with other plants. It will boost the “collective humidity” and benefit all the plants.

Feeding Time – Your watermelon vine prefers diluted fertilizer every other week during growing season in the spring and summer. You don’t need to feed in the fall and winter when the plant is dormant.

Holiday Paperwhites

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There are so many things to look forward to as we get ready to celebrate the holidays. Obviously the look and amazing smell of a real Christmas tree, but also vibrant poinsettias and the holiday blooms of Christmas cactus.

And then there’s the timeless delicate look of gorgeous “forced” Paperwhites, which you can get now and have bloom in time to be the centerpiece of your holiday table.

Although the common terms is to “force” these bulbs, I prefer to think of it as coaxing this plant; essentially, you are encouraging it to bloom out of season.

Most spring flowering bulbs need 12 to 15 weeks at temperatures between 41 and 48 degrees in order to produce a good root system essential to “force” them to flower. 

Narcissus tazetta – which in addition to Paperwhites also includes the Soleil d’Or and Chinese Sacred Lily  – are among the most popular flowers that do not require this 12-week rooting period. They are easy to start and can give wonderfully scented, white trumpeted flowers until late March.

Paperwhites are most often (and most easily) potted in shallow containers of gravel or decorative stones. Place bulbs on a layer of gravel and carefully fill in enough gravel to hold bulbs but not cover them, or place them onto the stones, pushing them down just far enough so the bulbs are supported in an upright position. Put several of them together, and don’t worry about crowding them; those tighter groupings are actually the most attractive when they bloom.

Add water to the container. It should just reach the base of the bulbs, but not touch the bulbs. If the water covers too much of the bulb, it will rot. Now put them in a cool dark place for one to two weeks. When the roots have begun to take hold, and the plant has sprung from the bulb, take the pot out into a brightly lit room. In about a month, your Paperwhites will be in bloom.

Here’s another tip: Plant your Paperwhites in succession so you have pots of them blooming all winter! After blooming, cut the flower and stem off. Do not cut back the leaves. Put them in a sunny window and transplant them outdoors when the weather permits. It will take 2 to 3 years before they will bloom again. 

Happy Gardening,


Houseplant of the Week: Goldfish Plant

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It’s interesting how many plants have common names that remind you of creatures that live in the water. Heliconias are known as “lobster claws” because their flowers have that shape. Then there’s the String of Dolphins. Today’s fish-as-a-plant is the Goldfish Plant.

Columnea gloriosa features dark green leaves and flowers of red, orange and gold that do look a lot like goldfish.

They are an easy plant to grow and care for and are also great for propagating. Plus, they make quite a splash (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves) with their colorful flowers.

Caring for Your Goldfish Plant

Goldfish plants want a lot of light, but direct sun will burn them so make sure it’s indirect. They also grow well under artificial light in the winter.

These plants love humidity, so make sure that their soil never fully dries out and if you have them in a hanger, mist them on a pretty regular basis. (And mist them with room temperature water, not cold, which can damage the leaves). If you want a really happy Goldfish plant, you might want to consider the bathroom, where they’ll thrive on the steam from the shower!

You’ll want to fertilize on a regular basis during the growing season (spring and summer). Controlled release pellets are a good choice.

Other tips

  • This is a long-living plant, and will thrive if you repot it every couple of years.
  • You can easily propagate this plant. Pick a stem a few inches long without a flower bud and they will take root very easily.
  • Also look out for aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs as these are common pests on this tropical plant.

You can check out all of our Houseplants of the Week in our gallery here.

Houseplant of the Week: Rex Begonia

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This “king” of begonias, also often known as the “painted leaf” begonia, is famous for its beautiful variegated leaves that can grow up to six inches long and are available is shades of green, red, silver and purple.

This is a plant that you want for its leaves. In fact, it’s not uncommon that people pinch off the not-that-impressive blooms so as to not distract from the dramatic foliage.

To encourage the most beautiful leaf color, you need to give your plant plenty of (indirect) light and pretty high humidity. Here are the basics to giving your Rex begonia the royal treatment it deserves.

Caring for Your Rex Begonia

  • Plant your rex begonia in light, fast draining soil.
  • Rex begonias thrive with bright, indirect light year round. You don’t want to burn those gorgeous leaves, so no direct light. You also want to rotate the plant frequently to give it equal light on all sides.
  • This plant requires regular watering but be careful not to overwater. Let the soil surface become dry to the touch before watering. 
  • They also love humidity, but be careful if you decide to mist the leaves; if they stay wet, you might find yourself seeing powdery mildew. 
  • Rex begonias like moderate temperatures in the 60-70 degree range.

Time for Winter Prep

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It’s tempting to think that once that first frost starts to arrive in fall, you are done with gardening for the year. Your bulbs are planted for next spring, you’ve harvested the last of your veggies, there’s nothing to do until it gets warm again, right? Wrong.

Although you may have to bundle up while outside in the cooler months of October and November, a little ground work – including cleaning, maintenance and planning – will save you a great deal of time and effort when gardening season rolls around next spring.

Here’s an end of year gardening check list to prepare your garden for its winter snooze and allow you to enjoy a little more time outdoors.

  1. Rake up debris. In addition to making your yard and garden look tidy, removing fallen leaves and pine needles from around the base of trees and shrubs lessens the chance of their spreading damaging fungus and disease to next year’s garden. For that reason, don’t use fallen leaves or pine needles as mulch. We recommend bark mulch instead.
  2. Add winterizer to trees, shrubs, perennials, flower beds, and lawn.
  3. Have your irrigation system winterized by a professional. (Warner’s Landscape Company would be happy to help! Call them at 928-774-5911.)
  4. If you have ponds or water features, give any fish you have the vitamins they need for hibernation; bring pumps and filters indoors; drain the excess water out of lines and clean up any debris. Protect or bring in other water features, such as bird baths and fountains, draining and cleaning them prior to storing.
  5. Outside potted plants should be brought in if they are susceptible to cold weather. Pots remaining outside should be insulated. Make sure that you keep watering during the winter.
  6. After you’ve cleaned out your vegetable garden, apply a layer of compost, which will break down over the winter, making your spring preparation much simpler.
  7. For your garden beds, remove annuals and debris and cut back unsightly perennials to slightly above ground level.
  8. Add mulch around trees (leaving some space around the trunks) and up to the cane on roses and shrubs.
  9. Last but not least, give your tools some love. Clean and oil them and bring them indoors for the winter.

I hope this checklist helps as you wind down the season and this year’s garden.

Happy Gardening,