Poinsettias and spinach in winter

Assorted holiday-season fabulousness

The author’s cold frame in her backyard.

The author’s cold frame in her backyard.

Photo By david k. breglia

The magic of poinsettias and other holiday excellence
My favorite local nursery, the Plant Barn (406 Entler Ave., 345-3121), is having its annual holiday Sale-a-bration on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring “random sales,” food, live music from local musician Mark Wilpolt and friends, and more.

In-the-know gardeners know how amazing Plant Barn’s plants (and artsy gifts) are, thanks to the efforts of nursery owner Denise Kelly and her very knowledgable and genial staff (which, during the holiday season, includes the charming Superelf). Actually, the word “magical” could easily be applied to the Plant Barn’s beautiful, lush grounds, greenhouses and gift shop, especially this time of year, when its lovely Poinsettia House is in full swing.

I was at the nursery recently, to purchase vegetable and herb starts for my winter garden, and ended up spending time in the warm, cozy Poinsettia House, taking in the beauty of the flowers and the cute, rustic Christmas decorations on display. (Postcard freak that I am, I ended up purchasing a cool sparkly Christmas postcard made of galvanized steel that I picked up in the Poinsettia House).

Go to www.theplantbarn.com to learn more.

Tea for a good cause
On the off chance that anyone actually needs a “good” reason to drink tea and eat delicious food at the T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café (250 Vallombrosa Ave.), the popular eatery/teahouse has partnered with the GRUB Cooperative’s Education Program—responsible for hosting numerous workshops and other sustainability-focused activities—for the month of December, offering a percentage of sales to the worthy education program. To participate, present a special card when ordering; contact Stephanie at 354-1646 to request card.

Build a cold frame
The December 2013 page of my Gardening with Edibles calendar—put out by master gardeners of Butte and Glenn counties—is staring at me from my office wall, right next to my computer, telling me about cold frames, those handy garden structures “that help you keep plants warm and safe until consistent garden weather arrives,” as Butte County master gardener Ruben Rivera put it.

Cold frames, wrote Rivera, “are recommended for vegetables or fruit that are self-pollinated (like zucchini and cucumber), and for vegetables that are grown for their foliage or flower (like spinach, cilantro, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower).”

He recommends using 1-by-1- or 2-by-2-inch lumber, or one-half- to three-quarter-inch PVC pipe, to make a frame that fits over your raised bed or garden row; attach frost cloth (available locally at Collier Hardware, among other places) over frame with cable ties.

My hubby made me a redwood raised bed that functions as a cold frame (pictured) with the addition of old windows that cover the top of the box at night and when temperatures dip below freezing (the top of the box is built at an angle with a lip to hold windows from sliding off, giving the appearance of a mini-greenhouse). I currently have spinach and lettuce seedlings growing in it. Last winter, it successfully produced lots of strawberry spinach (yum!) and even some flowers.

RIP, Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 - Dec. 5, 2013)