Norfolk Island pines a nice holiday addition

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Backyard Gardener By Patti Sharpe

Following my last column, I received a bit of gardening news that I wanted to share with readers. 

Tabby enjoys the Norfolk Island pine

Many residents of Colchester County will be familiar with the Veterans Memorial Park in Bass River. The park, established in 2008, was the inspiration of local physician, Dr. Karen Ewing, who designed it as a living memorial to veterans. 

This year, it won first place in the Communities in Bloom inaugural Gardens of Remembrance program. Along with being the national winner, the memorial park won 2,000 tulip bulbs in a draw in the same competition. Many of the bulbs will be planted in the garden and some will be given to the volunteers who help with garden maintenance and local organizations who maintain gardens.

Congratulations to Dr. Karen Ewing and the park committee. Plan to visit the park next spring and enjoy the tulips.

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During the weeks preceding Christmas, local stores fill with any number of beautiful holiday plants.

I am particularly fond of Norfolk Island pine, the small evergreens, which resemble Christmas trees. Many are sold decorated, but they are not strong enough to support heavy decorations and lights will dry out their needles. They are native to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, where they grow 80 to 100 feet in height. 

In our climate they are grown as houseplants and reach a maximum height of six feet, but do so very slowly. I bought a very small one following Christmas about three years ago and it has successfully doubled its size in that length of time. It has lovely soft needles without any hint of evergreen scent to it and maintains its colouring year round.

Experience has proven it to be a fairly undemanding plant. I water it infrequently and irregularly when it feels dry and seldom fertilize it. 

The bit of reading I have done suggests that infrequent fertilizing and infrequent repotting contribute to keeping it to a manageable size. Mine, however, is in need of repotting, but I understand that is best done in the spring with this plant so I will put off the task until then. 

Many years ago, I had a much larger specimen that didn't last beyond the holidays. In retrospect, I think the fault was mine because I had placed it in an area where it was subjected to a cool draft and insufficient light.

My current pine has spent all its time in the brightest part of the house and well away from doors and windows during the winter months. Adequate humidity has never been an issue, but having moved to a home heated largely by wood, it may become necessary to mist it occasionally this winter. It even manages to tolerate the attention of our two cats without looking any the worse for it.

As with many holiday plants, there will likely be Norfolk Island pines still available at local stores when the New Year arrives and at a discount. Why not get one to brighten the winter months ahead?

CUTLINE: Patti Sharpe is a long-time resident of Great Village and actively involved in various organizations within her community. Send your news to her at sharpep@eastlink.ca.'

      

   

 

 

 

Geographic location: Norfolk Island, Colchester County, Veterans Memorial Park Bass River Gardens of Remembrance Pacific Ocean Australia Great Village

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