It's Thanksgiving time and we still have planting weather

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Here we are, ordering stock for the new season and we're still planting. The ground is mellow and the weather is fine. The hardy azaleas, bred for the far north, still have their leaves and the autumn color is bright. Sitka roses are yellow. The white-flowered Washington hawthorns are even green and our old favorite, Wentworth highbush cranberry, is still bright red.

David Lendrum is a master gardener and owner of Landscape Alaska. Responses or questions can be sent to

I have been planting every day for the last two months, thinking that this will be the last week, but it looks nice for the foreseeable future. I realize that nice is a relative term. It's cold and rainy and the wind is blowing, but the ground is still open and these hardy plants are glad to go into new homes. The tree committee just planted a ceremonial tree in the Millenium Grove next to Fireweed Place and we're still planting at the Valley Wells Fargo Branch.

Homeowners continue making appointments to meet at the nursery. The tough perennials that will burst out into spring color, rock cress and primroses, violets and irises, fleshy-leaved berginia and golden flowering leopard's bane are still actively growing roots.

Potted evergreens as living Christmas trees are being sought. Some of the more unusual trees are selected for eventual planting in the yard. Several people have just gone ahead and planted their holiday trees outside their windows, pot and all. They will move it in the spring to another place in the yard, but for the winter season they will have the decorated specimen right outside their living room.

Golden tipped Alaskan cedar, one of the most beautiful trees we can grow, makes a great addition to the holiday season, and the dramatic "Thundercloud" Japanese black pine with it's 6-inch long deep green needles looks like a warrior prince all muscles and pride. My own favorite is the Eastern white pine, soft needles with tiny white lines along their length sway with the wind, subtly displaying and hiding the smooth green bark. Most years it's been too cold to think of planting this late. The ground would have frozen long ago and the dark season settled in for the next months, but here we are, so we may as well take advantage of it. We can even put the lights on the trees before we plant them.

The only special protection we might consider for these members of our landscapes is watching that they don't dehydrate. Remember what happened to all our rhododendrons last spring. The ground stayed frozen long into May and no rain. Rhody leaves burnt off, and newly planted conifers suffered too. Their needles turned brown and dropped like hail. There was nothing wrong with the plants. They look nice now, but they couldn't replace the moisture that was being pulled out of their foliage by the bright dry days.

Prepare the new plantings for being covered if we get another spring like that. Put in a few stakes and lay in some burlap so you can make a tent around them if the need arises. They won't have any trouble with the cold, but until they have a chance to root out into the soil, they will be dependent on the moisture in their root balls. Give them some water during the thawed times, and if it freezes hard and stays dry, wrap some burlap around their tops so that they get some shelter from the dry air.

Protecting newly planted or especially favorite plants is a good practice. Some of these specimens are members of our families, and some are massive investments in our homes. We would no more leave a newly planted Japanese maple or tender variety of rhododendron vulnerable than we would neglect anti- freeze in our car or frost protection for our exposed plumbing.

So here we are, poised for the beginning of the holiday season, Christmas lights ready and still planting. Happy Thanksgiving.

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