Volume 8, No.1, February 2018
"There's a piercing blast from the lonely hills,
And the frost has bound the rivers and rills;
The snow has made white both forest and lea,
And icicles hang from the old elm tree."
      - From an old Almanac, Harvard Historical Society collection

Hello Everyone!

The weather this winter has certainly been frightful at times, followed by periods of mildness!  Thank goodness we have prepared in advance:  anti-desiccant on broadleaf evergreens, salt marsh hay on exposed beds, and winter mulch on tender roses.  If only we knew the winter weather forecast in advance!  Guess we'll just have to roll with the punches, as usual.

Remember that February 1st marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  I can see a few signs of spring already.  Buds on my witch hazel tree are swelling, and the birds are singing in the mornings now.
Changes are Afoot...
Here at Pumpkin Brook we have been busy behind the scenes to get ready for the 2018 gardening season.  We leased an additional room of office space at Phoenix Park in Shirley to accommodate additional staff.  

Kim Kuliesis has assumed the newly cast role of Operations Manager and will be based in the office.  She will be your single point of contact for scheduling, horticultural matters, and billing questions.  Kim will be in the field about 20% of the time once the season starts, gathering information for estimates and proposals.  Not only does Kim have superb horticultural knowledge, she is also adept at financial analysis and all the back office work that goes with it.  
Deanna Jayne

Our new Executive Assistant, Deanna Jayne, began work this week.  Deanna brings with  her a lifetime of gardening experience, having run her own design and maintenance firm in Santa Cruz, California.  More recently in this area, she has worked in medicinal plant growing, natural foods preparation, spiritual coaching, sales and office management.  We look forward to her contributions to our enterprise.  Doris Huxley will continue with the team, as our Bookkeeper.
I am planning to spend more time on site visits in 2018, coaching crews and clients, allowing time for plant buying and planning behind the scenes.
On the Plant Health Care front
Carmine Imbriglio has been named Director of Plant Health Care and will continue to work with Al Newman, Plant Health Care Manager.  We may be bringing on a third part-timer in the department this season to help with the many tick and mosquito applications that will be scheduled.
Winter is a Great Time to Plan Changes to Your Landscape
Our designer, Paul Marean, is on staff all winter this year.  He's already at work on a number of designs.  On mild days he can often be found making site visits.  Why not a visit to you next?  Please contact us at 978-425-5531 or try Paul's Email
Plant Pick - Pet Safe Indoor Plants
Tulsi - Ocimum tenuiflora
Indoor plants can do wonders refreshing our spirits along with the air we breathe at this time of year!  Please be sure that your indoor garden has only plants that are non-toxic for your pets.  Click here for the Pet Safe List!

If you are in doubt, keep the plant in question out of the pet's reach.  This may be easier said than done!  The Mass Animal Fund suggests you call your veterinarian right away if you suspect your cat or dog has ingested any part of a plant and is displaying any of the following symptoms:  drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, constipation, abdominal tenderness, lack of appetite, pale gums, temperature, or accelerated heart rate.

Remember to use a pet-safe ice melt product such as Safe Paws if your pet goes outdoors.  Products containing salt are harmful to digestive systems (dogs and cats lick their paws) and your landscape over time!  I'm seeing a lot of cracked sidewalks this winter in my travels due to overuse of standard ice melt products.
Around Town
You may be interested in hearing Mark Richardson, Horticulture Director at Garden in the Woods, speak on a somewhat controversial topic:  "Kill Your Lawn."  Emphasis will be placed on native groundcover and woody plantings that could replace all or part of a lawn area in the home landscape.  

Join Groton Garden Club and Nashua River Watershed Association members for the talk on Sunday, February 11 at 2 pm at 592 Main Street, Groton. RSVP: Please call 978-448-0299

This lecture is free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Groton Commissioners of Trust Funds.
White Tail Deer Browsing Habits in Winter Months
Our Vermont friend, the naturalist Mary Holland, had a recent post about winter browsing habits of white-tailed deer.  During winter, the microorganisms in the deer's stomach are different from those of spring, summer and fall.  That's why deer switch their diet to evergreens and woody plants in winter!

They can now turn this high-fiber diet into proteins thanks to complex physiological processing.  We now see deer feeding on plants such as yew, hemlock, white cedar, basswood, dogwood, holly, rhododendron, maple, staghorn sumac and witch hobble (a native viburnum common to northern woods).

If you were thinking of offering hay to the deer running through your back yard as a foil for their preferred winter browse, this strategy will probably not work.  The deer's stomach has the wrong kind of microorganisms right now to digest the hay.  So even if the deer's stomach was full of hay, the creature might starve since hay is undigestible during the winter months.
2018 is the Year of the Bird!   
This year marks 100 years since the Migratory Bird Act was made into law.  A coalition of nonprofits has declared this the Year of the Bird to mark this important milestone.  Their website has a pledge you can take to make a single meaningful action to help birds each month of 2018. 

Don't forget the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up on February 16-19, too.  That's the time when you can count the species and numbers of birds visiting your feeders and become part of a national count by submitting your totals online at This can be a great activity to do with your kids or grandchildren!
Cedar Waxwing on Crabapple

Mass Audubon has a new program to foster habitat for bird that breed in our forests.  On the list are common favorites such as American woodcock, ruffed grouse, various warblers, scarlet tanager and northern flicker.  These birds don't like tidy, parklike conditions but instead seek an understory of shrubs and small trees for perching, nesting and foraging for food.  

The program connects landowners with licensed foresters trained and certified in conducting Bird Habitat Assessments.  A long-term demonstration site is being created at Elm Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Brookfield and North Brookfield.  It will be interesting to see what sorts of plants are encouraged for bird habitat - ideas for our own gardens at the woods edge, no doubt! 

See for more details.

Priscilla's To-Do List for late January and February
  • Water houseplants weekly just to keep a heartbeat going, and resume weak liquid fish fertilizing every other week as new growth begins in mid February
  •  Lightly prune back dead leaves and branches of houseplants such as begonias
  • Monitor houseplants for signs of pests such as aphids, whiteflies, scale and spider mites
  • Keep indoor plants set on trays filled with pebbles and water to boost indoor humidity
  • Remove spent amaryllis flowers after bloom and set the plant in a bright window to allow leaves to fully develop, fertilizing occasionally
  • Discard forced paperwhites after bloom
  • Allow ice and snow to melt naturally from outdoor plants, as branches are brittle and will crack readily if handled now
  • Gently brush heavy snows from tree and shrub branches
  • Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns as this may injure turf grasses
  • Sow pansy and onion seeds indoors now under lights
  • Sort through leftover garden seeds and place reorders now
  • Monitor temperature and moisture levels on overwintering tender plants in garage or basement, checking stored bulbs for signs of desiccation or rotting
  • Cut up old Christmas tree boughs to mulch garden perennials or strawberries OR decorate the tree as a natural bird feeder with suet cakes and cones rolled in peanut butter
  • Prune red raspberries back to 18" height if not done last fall
  • Clean, repair and sharpen garden tools
  • Plan any changes to the garden on paper
  • Schedule a design meeting with Paul or Priscilla now
As usual, we will be mailing our "spring" letter including Plant Health Care contracts for Compost Tea applications and Tick and Mosquito spraying in late February.  Watch for this in your US Mailbox!  And we are planning to call back the crew and resume our rounds sometime in late March or early April, depending on snow melt. 
We all look forward to seeing you before too long!

With best wishes,

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