What Happened to My Pretty Christmas Plant?

For the past few years, at Christmas time, The Home Depot here in Rome, Georgia (and I assume elsewhere) has been stocking some impressive Christmas plants. These come in the form of well-grown and healthy rosemary and “Stone pine” plants. Here’s a picture of the display

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

To my way of thinking, these plants are a bargain in that they will perform well in outdoor planters for the winter, they will give a Christmas feeling to their location, and with care, they will live for years.  But…But…They will not maintain their shape for years.

The plants that we bought at Home Depot have been carefully shaped as they grew so that they would end up looking like a Christmas tree. This doesn’t mean that they will always grow in that shape—that is, not unless they are properly pruned to maintain their shape. The process uses the principles developed in the growing of Bonsai plants.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients—I’ll call her Susan because that’s her name—asked me, “What happened to my Christmas plants that I put on the front porch last year?” I went around front to check them out and this is what I saw:

After a year the stone pine had lost it's Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

After a year the stone pine had lost it’s Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

Here’s the analysis: 1.The dead that you see in the tree is a natural replacement of needles that we see in any pine tree. 2. the wild looking growth coming from the top of the plant is the natural growth of the plant. I told Susan that with cleaning and pruning the trees could be brought back into shape within a year but with Christmas approaching she made me a gift of them. I’m going to have fun with those trees. I’ll guarantee it.

I was given a couple more of those trees about three years ago and I stuck them in the back of my “plant hospital”. I had gotten one of them out some time around the first of September after three years of total neglect. The stone pine was about five feet tall and strung out all over the place. I’m going to make a wild topiary out of it, so I cut the tips and cleaned it up. A month and a half later the tips look like this

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

I’m sure that the stone pine has to be one of the most bonsai-friendly plants ever and I’m going to work on my collection and report back next Christmas.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, your assignment is to read the following suggested articles on pruning and start your own plant-shaping experiment. What plant will you start with? Let me know

Turn overgrown plants into nice topiaries

Pruning For Betty, Japanese Maples, Topiaries, and Bonsai

Pruning an overgrown topiary

And one of my most popular articles:

Pruning as an Art Form—The Basics of Pruning

 

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

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