A lot of you vividly remember the ravages last winter inflicted on evergreens.
Evergreens are most susceptible to cold, high winds, which rob the foliage of important moisture. Plunging temperatures are not nearly as much of a problem to evergreens, many of which can withstand far chillier temperatures than we are ever likely to get in this area. Broad-leafed evergreens -- including laurel, holly, rhododendrons -- are particularly susceptible to the winds. But small conifers can also suffer.
There is a product you can buy at the garden center that you spray on the shrub or small tree to prevent damage from drying winds. It is marketed under a couple of brand names -- Wilt-Pruf and Foli-Gard are two -- and basically it consists of an organic-based coating that sheets foliage, protecting leaves like oil or wax protect wood. If you spray it on now, by the time spring comes and new growth begins on your bushes, the coating will have worn off and foliage can "breathe" again unencumbered.
Wilt-Pruf or Foli-Gard is also excellent for house plants in the winter. The drying effects of indoor heat can really hurt house plants, causing leaf-drop and discoloration of foliage. Daily misting is the best cure for these problems, but if misting is a hassle, or you feel you are unlikely to keep up with it, spray some Wilt-Pruf or Foli-Gard, protecting your house plants from undue moisture loss. HERB GARDEN PLANNING has always been somewhat of a puzzler for me. On the one hand, I want my garden to look just like an English herb garden -- beautifully laid out in elaborate patterns and excessively neat -- but inevitably, I misjudge how large something is going to grow, or I don't plan far enough ahead, and at the last minute must add important herbs at random. The magazine, The Herb Quarterly, has come up with a great planning aid. It's called the "Herb Garden Planner," and was originally developed for Family Circle magazine and consists of large grid cutouts of railroad-tie borders, gravel paths, brick-and-flagstone walks, tall, medium and short herbs, a beehive, a birdbath, and a sundial. Plus there a sample designs of herb gardens, a propagation chart and culinary herb chart. The package is available for $2 from The Herb Quarterly, West Street, Newfane, Vermont 05345. Q. I brought my geranium indoors for the winter. I placed it in a bright window which gets plenty of southwestern light and sun. It did fine for a few weeks but now it has lost most of its leaves and the ones that are left are turning brown. Even the top of the stem is brown. Can it be saved? A. Sure. Geraniums actually should be cut back almost immediately when they are brought in for the winter. I like to see even a large geranium cut back to about six or eight inches, leaving a leaf or two, but mostly just stem. If you cut it back when it is still green and healthy, you can root the cuttings. But, not to worry. Cut your plant back to where you see healthy green stem. It may not look like much now, but if you keep it watered, and leave it in a bright, sunny location, this haircut will stimulate new growth from the side and base of the stem -- growth that began indoors and should therefore thrive in an indoor environment. As the new growth develops, don't hesitate to feed the plant with a very mild solution of house plant food or fish emulsion diluted by half as much as package recommendations. A big, healthy houseplant tolerates full- strength commercial food but a smaller plant that you are nurturing along should get gentler feeding. Meantime, keep the plant rootbound (in a small pot) and it will in all likelihood flower again in the spring. After the last frost date, you may put it back outside to grow and thrive all summer, before cutting it back next fall again when you bring it back indoors. Geraniums live for years with the proper treatment.