Gardeners in Florida are lucky to have the UF/IFAS Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). FAWN is a weather network of 42 monitoring stations across Florida from the north in Jay to the south in Homestead.

To find out more about this valuable resource click here http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/weather/fawn.html

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This is the order you’ll make the cuts.

Pruning is an important part of keeping your trees healthy and looking their best, and using proper technique is an integral part of making this happen. An improperly done pruning job can actually harm your tree and leave it vulnerable to disease or decay.

The three-cut pruning method is a great technique to make sure your pruning cuts are clean and where you want them.

Read more at gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pruning/pruning-three-steps.html

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Christmas Palm

Detail of the Christmas palm’s fruit. Photo by Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org.

Palms are one of those iconic Florida plants. They are great for adding tropical flare to the landscape, but if you have a small planting area, finding a palm to fit can be a challenge. Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii) is one of the few palm species that will do well in a small site.

The common name, “Christmas palm,” comes from the clusters of bright red fruits that adorn these trees in late fall and winter, giving the plants the appearance of being decorated for the holidays. Christmas palms are also sometimes referred to as Manila palms.

To find out more go to http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/trees-and-shrubs/palms-and-cycads/christmas-palm.html

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True Blue

Cool blue hues can help your garden become a calming and tranquil place. Of course, there aren’t many “true blue” flowering plants to be found, but we’ve come up with a few that could help you bring on the blue. Want to add this great color into your landscape? Read more at http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/blue-flowers.html


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Living Christmas tree can be enjoyed for years

A living Christmas tree–with roots still attached–is an environmentally friendly version of the traditional Christmas tree. And when the Christmas season is over, plant your living tree outside. Fortunately, January is a great time to plant trees in Florida.

A living Christmas tree may not be for everyone. But, if you have an appropriate location in your landscape, select the correct tree for your area and follow the right planting techniques with correct follow up care, you can have a tree to enjoy for years.

Begin by selecting a tree species well-suited to North Florida. Arizona cypress, sand pine, Leyland cypress, Virginia pine and red cedar (Juniperus silicicola or Juniperus virginiana) are a few choices. Some unusual choices include the Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and deodar cedar.

Don’t try to find your live Christmas tree in the woods. Some native Florida plants are protected and you might get in trouble digging up trees on property that does not belong to you. Plus, digging up live trees can cause transplant shock and the tree will probably die. Wild trees are also unlikely to have the classic Christmas tree shape.

Many nurseries grow Christmas trees in containers.

Look for a tree with well colored needles. Avoid buying trees with yellowing or brown tips. Make sure the tree roots are not pot bound. The root ball of a balled and burlapped (B&B) tree should be firm and well-shaped.

When transporting the tree, do not carry it by its trunk. Be sure to cover the tree when bringing it home to prevent desiccation by the wind.

Before moving the tree inside the house, acclimate it to its new environment by moving it to an unheated but sheltered area (such as garage or patio) for a couple of days.

Locate your tree indoors in as cool a location as possible. Keep it away from heating vents, fireplaces and other heat sources. Use limited numbers of miniature tree lights. Keep the root ball evenly moist but not flooded.

After the holidays, readjust the tree to outdoor temperatures by placing it back in the garage or sheltered patio for several days. Try to plant the tree as soon as possible. Do not wait until spring.

Be careful to plant your tree at the correct depth. Instructions on planting depth and how to correctly plant a tree are available online at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP31400.pdf or by calling the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.

Once your tree has been planted in the landscape, you can decorate it every holiday season.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

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Hollies are one of the plants associated with Christmas. Their dark evergreen leaves and bright red berries fit right in with the Christmas Season. Some people intentionally plant hollies for the purpose of eventually using this desirable combination of green and red to create a more festive Holiday Season. But what if your hollies never produce berries?

The reason may be because you have a male plant. Male holly plants will never produce berries. Holly plants are either male or female. The botanical term for this is dioecious.

If a male plant is selected, it will produce male flowers and pollen but never set fruit.

A foolproof way of knowing that you’ve selected a female holly is to look for and purchase a plant with berries. However, you will still need a male plant nearby or no berries will be produced.

Generally one male plant is adequate to insure pollination and good fruit set of berries on all the female plants in a landscape. Your next-door neighbor may have a male holly plant that would serve as a pollinator for your holly plants. Pollen produced by the male flowers is transported by bees from distances up to 1½ to 2 miles. And because we are blessed with a number of native hollies in North Florida, chances are good that there will be a male holly within the appropriate distance in the wild to take care of the pollination.

Most dwarf holly cultivars do not produce fruit since they are vegetatively propagated from male plants.

There are other popular landscape plants that are dioecious.

The aucuba or gold dust plant has separate male and female plants. The female produces colorful fruit. The fruit are ½ inch long, scarlet colored berries that mature in October and November. Many years the fruit persist through the following spring. This shade loving plant is not grown for its fruit but rather its bold, sometimes variegated leaves. But if you plant a female aucuba, an extra bonus would be its attractive berries.

Pampas grass is dioecious. You may not have noticed but the plume-like flowers that appear in September differ between male and female plants. The female plants produce plumes that are broad and full due to silky hairs covering the tiny flowers. The male plumes appear narrow and thin because of the absence of hair on the flowers.

Many nurseries produce pampas grass from seed and as a result there will be a mixture of male and female plants. So if uniformity were desired, it would be better to propagate the plants by dividing female plants and then planting the divisions (clumps). Every clump coming from a female plant will also be a female because it is essentially a clone of the parent plant.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

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Steamed clams and stone crab

By: Laura Tiu, UF/IFAS Marine Science Agent, Okaloosa County Extension Office

What would Christmas be without fresh seafood?  Well, in many parts of the world, including our beautiful Emerald Coast, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without preparing and consuming some treasure from the sea.  Seafood and Christmas, it seems, have a centuries-long history of being celebrated together.

The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve originates from the Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat or dairy on Fridays or holy days.  Christmas Eve was one such day, so in catholic countries, like Italy, many would eat fish instead.  This tradition has come to be known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.”  This Christmas Eve meal typically consists of seven, or more, seafood dishes to celebrate the night before the actual feast on Christmas Day.

Many families in central European countries, like Poland and Czechoslovakia, feast on a Christmas carp for their Christmas Eve dinner.  The wild-caught carp actually spends time in the family bathtub for a few days prior, in order to improve on its sometimes muddy flavor.

In Ireland, the Christmas Eve dinner features a simple stew made from a fish called the ling.  When Irish cooks immigrated to America and couldn’t find the salty, preserved, ling fish, they substituted oysters, which were bountiful during the winter months and had a similar taste and texture.

Oysters are a fun and great tasting party food

Speaking of oysters, oyster stuffing has been an American tradition since the country was founded.  Northern oyster stuffing tends to feature breadcrumbs, while the southern version uses cornbread.  There are many recipes available from the early 1900’s including “oyster stuffing for roast turkey” from the famous Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School.

A little closer to home, anyone visiting Louisiana during the holidays is sure to consume some seafood gumbo and grilled oysters.  Local shrimp and oysters are readily available along the Emerald Coast during December.  What is a Christmas Party without a heaping platter for freshly steamed bay shrimp?  Just visit your favorite local fish monger to get the freshest local product or get out and catch your own.

Local redfish are a delicious catch

Don’t worry if you have not had much experience cooking seafood.  There is a lot of help available.  Check out this Fresh from Florida website from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  They have great recipes, charts indicating what is in season and even videos to help with your preparation techniques.



UF/IFAS: An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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