January 2020       Volume 10, No. 1
Hello Everyone,
Due to the two feet of snow that fell in early December and the cold temperatures that followed, we at Pumpkin Brook have been late with our usual winter protection chores.  
The good news is that we're now caught up. Deer repellent and anti-desiccant spraying, tender rose protection, and covering of vulnerable plants such as lavender and heathers has now been 95% completed. Reese expects to finish the rest of the gardens that had plants under snow and ice last week in the near future.
We wait until frozen bare ground has emerged for these late season chores. I noticed this morning that only about 1/4" depth of soil was not frozen in my yard where the snow had just melted during the 60 degree days. There is not likely to be significant thawing of the soil due to the short days and cool evening temperatures.  
Much of the browning out damage to rhododendrons and other broad leaf evergreens happens in late February and March. At that point, the days are longer and the sun is higher in the sky. Should there be temperatures in the teens or below at this period, unprotected plants can be easily damaged. Reese is prepared to do additional rounds of deer repellent spraying in deep winter if needed. Contact him if you notice deer damage by emailing <>
We aim to plan ahead, helping your plants to emerge unscathed through whatever conditions Mother Nature may throw our way this winter. Spring is still just over two months away, after all.

Update on Winter Staff Training

Kim, Deanna, Erica and Rick attended the four-day Northeast Organic Farming Association's Organic Land Care Course at Hampshire College this month. We are expecting their certificates of completion in the mail soon, indicating that they passed their exams and have become Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals. Congratulations!
In addition, Kyle and Rick are studying for the International Society of Arborist exam.

Rick, Kim, Deanna, and Erica

We're Hiring! 

We are looking for a few more skilled gardeners to join our staff in spring :

Please spread the word to anyone you might know and contact Kimberly Kuliesis <> to arrange an interview.
Garden Lecture Time is Here Again

There are some wonderful garden lectures coming up in just a few weeks:
Grow Native Massachusetts has a free lecture series in Cambridge that kicks off on Wednesday, February 5 with superstar speaker and scientist, Doug Tallamy. Doug's new book will debut at this event. 
Groton Garden Club and Nashua River Watershed Association will sponsor a free lecture by landscape architect, Toby Wolf, for  Authentic, Immediate and Alive: Design Lessons from Wild Landscapes. The date is Sunday, February 9 at 2 pm at the new Groton Center. See the attached flyer for more information including the snow date of February 16! 
Berkshire Botanical Garden in West Stockbridge is a place that I head to a few times each year for interaction with what I call "garden gurus." Their annual winter lecture keeps up the trend with British gardener Tom Coward of Gravetye Manor speaking on  The Legacy of Wild Gardener William Robinson  on Saturday, February 22 at 2 pm in Lenox. Note snow date the next day. Advance registration is a must, as this event usually sells out.  More info and registration here!

Care for Your Gift Amaryllis Plant


Amaryllis bulbs are a popular holiday gift and are easy to care for. They should be in bloom around Valentine's Day, just when we all need some cheer and color.
I like to pot up each bulb in a 6" round pot, with one third of its neck exposed, using regular organic potting soil. To help the desiccated roots rehydrate, I soak the roots in a shallow pan of warm water for a few hours before potting.
Keep the plant in a moderately warm, dark spot and water lightly until it begins to send up a flower stalk. Then bring it into full sun and water as soon as the soil dries out. As the stalk emerges, the plant will require more frequent watering. You may need to stake it with a slender bamboo stake and soft twine if it threatens to topple.  

Usually amaryllis bulbs send up multiple stalks, so cut the first one out of the way with kitchen shears as soon as the blossom fades. You may want to experiment with small South African miniature bulbs, as well as the larger Dutch hybrids. Forcing an amaryllis bulb is a great project for kids, who enjoy seeing the rapid growth of this plant.
At this time of year, I bring out my copy of Starr Ockenga's book  Amaryllis . This skilled photographer/writer grew hundreds of bulbs in her greenhouse and photographed them at various stages in their life cycles.
If you decide to save your amaryllis plant, it can summer outdoors in its pot or in the ground. Once it produces five or more leaves, there is a good likelihood that it will bloom again next season. Bring inside before frost and let the plant rest in a dark basement for a few months. In January, bring it up into the warmth and light. Then begin to water as above for another season of glorious color.


Field Trip: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I highly recommend a winter visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The Courtyard is always a horticultural wonder, with forced seasonal tropical plants in bloom among ancient statuary and antiquities. Even a short moment lingering at the edge of the area transports you to another world.  
Plan your visit here:

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard.

Update on Soil Biology Test Results

In late fall after leaf drop, we test the garden soil of our compost tea clients to determine the level of active soil biology. That means the quantity of microscopic organisms that do so much good all season long. We are looking for a minimum level of 600 parts per million on the microorganism count.
We're happy to report that the results are in, and all but two clients have met or exceeded the minimum level! We are quite thrilled with these results. During the season, our Plant Health Care Manager Reese Crotteau and PHC team provided our multi-part compost tea and summer foods applications. In the fall, our crews "fed" the microorganisms with our granular soil amending program based on nutrient density soil test results. The goal of all this feeding is to increase soil biology populations that will eventually be self-sustaining in a balanced, healthy soil.
Our plant health care contracts will be ready for 2020 in February. To inquire about joining the soil biology program, please contact Kimberly Kuliesis < >  for more information.

Plant Pick:  More Plants to Attract Birds in Winter

Here are three more native woody plants that attract overwintering birds in our area:

Viburnum trilobum
Viburnum trilobum , Cranberry Bush Viburnum, sports a clear red berry resembling a cranberry that persists in the cold weather. It is low in lipids, so birds like Cedar Waxwings will choose it in late winter when they are desperate for nourishment. This plant grows up to 15' tall and will sucker some, so keep it away from a foundation bed. Plant it at a distance where you can view it from a window. Perfect for a woodland edge or hedgerow situation.

Rhus typhina
Rhus typhina , Staghorn Sumac, is another plant for an outlying edge as it suckers quite freely. Around 98 species of birds enjoy its fruits, growing in reddish clusters at the end of fuzzy branches. This plant will also colonize sandy or rocky waste areas.  It can be contained by regular mowing. Staghorn sumac is extremely tall, reaching 10'-30.'

Crataegus viridis
Crataegus viridis ,  Green Hawthorne, has persistent red fruits all winter long. In the rose family like the non-native crabapple, hawthornes are vase shaped, wide spreading small trees with four season interest. Hawthornes do have thorns, so birds like them for nesting as thorns discourage predators.

Priscilla's To-Do List in the Garden for January

1. Cover all tender roses (David Austin and hybrid tea types) with cones of compost as frozen bare ground emerges between snow storms
2. Cover heaths, heathers, and lavender with evergreen boughs to prevent winter desiccation (the discarded Christmas tree is perfect)
3. Dress exposed perennial beds with salt marsh hay once the ground is frozen to prevent heaving and potential loss
4. Explore ideas for design changes to your own garden in 2020 through reading, attending lectures, and talking with a designer on our staff, <>
5. Inventory leftover seeds and place your 2020 seed order
6. Inventory garden tools, plan repairs and replacements
7. Start amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs and bring into the warmth of a partly sunny window
8. Force hyacinth bulbs on water in a small vase with narrow neck, at 45 degrees
9. Remove dead or discolored leaves from houseplants when seen

10. Water houseplants sparingly until new growth begins in February

11. Take a walk outdoors to rejuvenate and relax
12. Check yourself, children and pets for ticks after time outdoors, as ticks are active year-round whenever temperatures are above 32 degrees

13. Do not pull splayed branches of shrubs or trees out of the snow as they are brittle in the cold temperatures and split easily

We hope to see you soon at a garden lecture or at the Gardner Museum.  In the meantime, enjoy your winter past-times,
Priscilla and the PBOG Crew

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