Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - December 3, 2010

Garden tips for December

Get in the holiday spirit with lights, colorful plants, animals

by Jack McKinnon

More and more people are doubting the importance of the Holidays. The truth be told, I think they are full of it. I have no doubts about the value of celebrating and cherishing this special season of the year.

I haven't always been that way. There was a time in my life when I wanted to pull the covers up and hide when asked to put up a tree. Are there myths surrounding these cold dark days? Is it the biggest commercial endeavor of the year? No doubt.

This is all secondary or even tertiary to the importance of "holiday spirit" and that is why we need to devote extra time in our gardens. This month's tips will be spirit-building through plantings, decoration, festivities and tradition — that all-important human factor that converts a yard into a dream land.

Here are the tips:

1. Watch the three best movies for the spirit of the season, "A Christmas Carol," "It's a Good Life" and "The Polar Express." If you want to have a movie night in your yard (after it is decorated of course) then save this tip to the last.

2. Put up lights everywhere. Put them around your roof, in your trees, over your porch and on your pathways. Put out strings of lights, solar lights, battery-operated candles, real candles (careful of fire hazards) and flashing-lights earrings.

3. Plant cyclamen in all your beds in red and white. The green foliage makes for a great trio of colors (always a good idea in bedding plants).

4. Get some fake animals to stage in your yard. Of course the traditional are reindeer (with sleigh), white bunnies, doves, a donkey, pony, sheep (three is a good number to represent a flock) and a cow. If by chance you can get real ones, be sure to tie them up and bring them in at night. They will eat your flowers otherwise.

5. Decorate one special tree more than all the rest. This is really fun and will truly convey that you have the right spirit.

6. Clean up all the debris and dead branches from your garden. Detail the beds with mulch, and be sure to get all of the clutter out of view.

7. Play holiday music to passers-by by setting up a motion detector to turn on a stereo that plays your favorite tunes. Be considerate and turn it off by 10 p.m.

8. Go out caroling in the neighborhood with friends. This is traditional in many parts of the country still. If it isn't in your neighborhood, maybe it is time to start. Usually one leader who exudes the holiday spirit and a reward of a potluck with warm drinks at the end will get participants.

9. Make sure everybody gets gifts. They don't have to be expensive or fancy. Remember that it is the thought that counts. Include a card with a special note with each gift. Toothbrushes make great stocking stuffers.

10. Wear a hat. This shows panache. A hat for every season and every weather condition signifies character. Wear a hat that is unique to you and people will know that you have the secret message of the Holidays. The message of Joy.

Good Gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-879-3261 or 650-455-0687 (cell), by e-mail at jack@jackthegardencoach.com. Visit his website at www.jackthegardencoach.com.

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