Plants as presents

The Thanksgiving turkey had barely begun to digest for most of us last weekend, but the sense of urgency was clearly palpable in Laguna — retailers and restaurateurs hopefully preparing for the holiday season.

Even the city and Chamber of Commerce were involved, getting the lights and decorations up early to inspire the citizenry.

One can’t really blame anyone for being nervous. We are admittedly still mired in tough times that equate dollar signs to the Yuletide spirit. So much is at stake for everyone, including us. No one wants to give an unwanted gift to a friend or loved one. That’s why I like to give plants as presents. You know, “The gift that keeps on living.”

Because you are planning for the holidays, your questions included:


Q. What kind of plants will produce berries for Christmas?

A. Holly, especially the Chinese and English kinds can be used as decorations and then planted in the garden. firethorn (Pyracantha spp.) and toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) are also useful as plants with berried branches.

Q. What’s the cottony-black stuff on the bottom of my citrus leaves?

A. The cottony masses are Woolly white fly. The insects feed by sucking the plant juices from leaves. Application of horticultural oil should knock down this problem.


Q. I want to make spraying “remedies” easier for my wife. What garden sprayer do you recommend?

A. The professional quality Gilmour sprayer mixes chemicals automatically while you spray.

Q. I know roses should be pruned soon. What kind of clippers should I buy?

A. I highly recommend the Felco family of hand pruners. They are “simply the best pruners in the world.” For smaller hands, I recommend the Felco 6.

Q. When will the new roses arrive in nurseries?

A. Bareroot roses will be arriving at your favorite nursery this week through January. Look for the largest selection and best prices by purchasing bareroot roses early.

Q. When is the best time to transplant my camellia?

A. The only time you may transplant camellias (Camellia japonica) is now, while they are in bud and prior to flowering.


Q. Can I plant vegetables now?

A. Yes you can. Catharine prefers broccoli, but carrots, cabbage, kale, lettuce, parsley, and turnips can also be planted either by seed or from starts.

Christmas lights, pine boughs, and plastic Santa Clauses — the race is on to evoke a holiday feeling. But that’s not really the point. Savor the holiday spirit. And support your local businesses and restaurants. See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI wishes everyone a great holiday. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to