Author Archives: Kelsey Savage

Kelsey Savage

About Kelsey Savage

Kelsey Savage writes about home and garden care in between doing her crafty best to update her small New York space. She has worked for Martha Stewart Living and Country Living. Check her out on Google +!

Bonsai for Beginners

Bonsai Care - Brazilian Rain Tree

Brazilian Rain Tree by Spudi Sulistyo. Photo:

Bonsai—caring for and nourishing miniature shrubs and trees in pots—has long been a way for hobbyists to reduce stress and demonstrate their gardening skill.

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Winter Care for Houseplants

How to Care for Houseplants in Winter


Over the winter, when your outdoor garden has little to boast about, the greenery inside your home lifts spirits and keeps the air fresh. But believe it or not, even if a plant lives in a pot indoors, it remains aware of the seasons.

Houseplants deal with winter much the same as outdoor varieties. Although their colors stay bright, indoor plants essentially go to sleep. Here’s how to provide the best care for your ficus, ferns, and philodendrons until the weather warms:

Limit watering, pay attention. Plants that are dormant do not require as much water as growing plants do during spring and summer. Use a finger to check the soil and give your plants a good soaking whenever the soil is dry.

Try a new window. If your plants pass the summer in one window, you might place them near another for the winter. Or give the window glass a wash, inside and out, in order to let in a little more light.

No food necessary. You may be inclined to fertilize to encourage growth, but your plants won’t be interested until the days get longer and the sun gets stronger. Start back with weekly feedings to give your plants a boost closer to spring.

Give them a dusting. Wipe down any dusty leaves with a soft cloth dipped in water. Left alone, dust can prevent your plant from fully absorbing the nutrients it needs from the environment.

A little humidity goes a long way. Your plant may not be as thirsty now, but that doesn’t mean it appreciates the dry air. Mist frequently and put tropical plants on a tray of rocks with a small amount of water.

For more on winter gatrdening, consider:

5 (Nearly) Kill-Proof Houseplants
Bob Vila Radio: Gardening Online
The Winter Garden: Hedge Your Bets

Amaryllis, Year After Year

Amaryllis Care

Photo: Jackson & Perkins

The amaryllis is usually thought of as a one-off winter bulb that makes for a great holiday accent. But with very little care on your part, you can have the grand flower appear year after year.

The bulb, of the genus Hippeastrum, is native to South America and South Africa and grows either in savannas or high plateau regions. In keeping one alive for more than one bloom cycle, the goal is to mimic its natural habitat as closely as possible.

While your amaryllis is flowering, try to keep it cool, or place it near a cold windowpane that doesn’t get much sun. In its current state, with little foliage, the plant doesn’t need more than diffuse lighting. And it should stay moist, though not soaking wet.

Slideshow: 5 (Nearly) Kill-Proof House Plants

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How To: Make Tabletop Topiaries

How to Make Tabletop Topiaries - Versailles

Topiaries at The Gardens of Versailles. Photo:

The sculpture of plants, or topiary, has been a gardening practice for centuries. The precise designs achieved through shaping and pruning can be found all over the world, from the gardens of Versailles to the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Maryland.

If your outdoor landscape doesn’t require the addition of such a formal element, or the practice seems intimidating, why not try making a tabletop topiary for your interior?

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Hanging Mistletoe at Christmas

Where to Find Mistletoe - Mistletoe Kissing Ball

Mistletoe Kissing Ball. Photo:

After decking the halls and decorating the tree, there’s only one thing left to do—hang mistletoe.

By doing so, you are participating in a ritual that holds more than just romantic significance. In fact, mistletoe was once arranged in homes to welcome the New Year and ward off evil. And it was also hung on a baby’s cradle to protect it from fairies.

Related: 3 Easy DIY Wreaths

In the Middle Ages, mistletoe was actually banned from inclusion in Christmas ceremonies on account of its association with pagan ceremonies. Since then, it’s also been revered for its medicinal properties, including a reputation for curing epilepsy.

Botanically speaking, the plant isn’t so charming. As a parasite, it grows on the branches of deciduous trees with soft bark, sending out a thread-like root from its sticky berries. Existing on the host tree’s nutrients, parasitic mistletoe will occasionally starve a tree to its death.

Where to Find Mistletoe - Berries, Leaves, Stem


Unfortunately, thanks to a dry summer in the Southwest, the evergreen branch isn’t very easy to find. One of the main suppliers in the US—Tiemann’s Mistletoe in Priddy, TX—didn’t ship last season due to Mother Nature, and they weren’t able to resume this year (fingers crossed for 2013).

Luckily, there’s at least one state producing mistletoe: Lacey Stitt, of, says the State of Oregon has no shortage of the holiday standard. The company ships across the US, usually within five days of ordering.

Lacey suggests taking the mistletoe out of its bag as soon as it arrives and hanging the plant immediately. If you wait to hang it, keep the mistletoe cool in the interim. Eventually, the plant’s leaves and berries will drop, but they should last through the season.

For more on holiday decorating, consider:

Deck the Halls with Holly Bushes
Easy Ways to Add Christmas Curb Appeal
10 Architectural & Appetizing Gingerbread Houses

Deck the Halls: Holly Bushes

As your home decor becomes festive inside, it’s nice to see a little of that color scheme reflected outside as well.

There’s nothing that can double as a herald of the holiday season while adding interest in your landscape throughout the year like holly bushes can. Not only does the holly family offer both deciduous and evergreen options, but there’s at least one species that will grow in your garden, no matter what state you live in.

Just be sure to plant both male and female plants in your garden if you want berries—most holly species are dioecious. Here’s a breakdown of a few of the families to help deck the hall:


American Hollies

American Holly


Slow growing by season but capable of reaching heights of 30′ eventually, American hollies are evergreen and their foliage is the quintessential Christmas decoration—just watch out for the long spikes. This holly’s crimson berries don’t just brighten up your yard, they feed deer as well as many birds.


Japanese Hollies

Japanese Holly


If you are willing to move past crimson and green, then Japanese hollies make a great choice. Black berries pair with smaller leaves than their American counterpart has. Japanese hollies come in many shapes, including dwarf breeds as well as tall, columnar varieties.


Chinese Hollies

Dwarf Chinese Holly


Great for warmer climates, Chinese hollies often have the same spiny leaves as American versions as well as berries that range from red to yellow. “Buford”  is perhaps the most traditionally holly-esque and can be used as a landscape screen thanks to its large size. Others have more compact shapes and make great borders.



Possumhaw Holly

Photo: beechwoodlandscape

If you’re looking for mounds of red (or yellow or orange) berries and don’t care about the foliage, then the deciduous Possumhaw holly is for you. The small tree grows well in the eastern half of the US and sports white flowers in spring.

For more on seasonal gardening, consider:

The Winter Garden: Hedge Your Bets
For the Birds: 10 Feeders for Winter Nourishment
The Christmas Flower



Tabletop Christmas Trees for the Holiday Season

Tabletop Christmas Trees


Choosing a live evergreen to serve as your Christmas tree brings a fresh scent and a bit of the outdoors into your home. But it will also bring a rash of falling needles and perpetual sap-induced stickiness. If a full-size fir doesn’t fit in your household, why not try a tabletop version for the benefit of a live tree with a small portion of the mess?

Table Top Christmas Tree from Brookstone

28-nch table top Christmas tree from Brookstone.

Dwarf spruces, firs, and pines usually come in a gallon-size container and should be bought from a reputable nursery for lasting power. Pick a variety that you an incorporate into your yard once the holiday season has passed.

Once at home with your mini tree, let it sit under a slow drip from the sink until fully soaked. After the initial watering, you will only need to water again once the pot begins to feel dry (stick your finger in the soil every few days to test). If the needles appear to be falling out faster than usual, mist the tree daily to help balance the effects of winter’s dry air.

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5 Fiery Fall Bushes

Finding your garden lacking when it comes to fall color? Our favorite fall bushes will not only add a bright spot of fiery foliage, but they are also low-maintenance and easy to incorporate into your home landscape.



Fall Bushes - Viburnums

Viburnum / Photo:

With more than 150 varieties of viburnum, there’s one for every garden. The native species has both deciduous and evergreen options; pick one that matches your environment’s conditions.
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Don’t Forget to Plant These Bulbs!

It’s the season to be planting bulbs. Many gardeners get fixated on the old standards—tulips and daffodils. Yes, there are many amazing varieties of both, but maybe this is the year to branch out. Here are five overlooked bulbs to get in your garden now.



Planting for Fall - Alliums

Alliums. Photo: Informed Farmers

The great purple globes of Ornamental Alliums add structural interest and height to an early summer border. The deer-resistant bulbs are easy to grow and drought-tolerant—they even multiply naturally year after year in most zones. The only difficulty is choosing just one of the hundreds of available varieties!
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Adding Ornamental Grasses to Your Garden

Ornamental Grasses - Elijah Blue

Festuca Glauca 'Elijah Blue'. Photo: Nature for Cities

Ornamental grasses bring more than just bulk to your garden—they add various textures, movement, and color, and they are low-maintenance to boot. If you live in an area with a little ways to go before a hard frost, it’s not too late to incorporate a few such varieties in your garden.

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