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In Middle Tennessee, Mother Nature seems to keep us alert by constantly changing our weather conditions. December is no exception. Some December days can find us planting bulbs and trees, while others find us making frantic attempts to shake heavy snow from evergreen shrubs. 

So, our list of December gardening opportunities can really vary.

One of the more important winter chores is providing food for our wild birds. Having a variety of plants that provide berries and seeds for the birds is the easiest way to feed them. However, food sources can become sparse in winter, and supplementing with store-bought food can help them survive. 

This doesn’t have to be an elaborate undertaking. We have found it can still be enjoyable just feeding black oil sunflower seeds, and most of the desirable birds will eat these. An upside-down suet feeder is worth purchasing. 

We used to have several feeding stations with special feeders and a variety of specialty seeds and nuts. For those with the energy to do that, it can be a most rewarding task. Placing the feeders so the activities can be seen from inside the home, making sure feeders are out of the reach of cats, providing trees nearby and preventing squirrels will make for a relaxing experience. If you put the feeders out, Thank You, but remember, it becomes a commitment to be kept until, at the very least, next May.

Young fruit trees, and some others, may need collars to prevent critters from chewing the bark, and should we get snow, trample the ground around the trees to prevent tunneling rodents.

Mulch may be needed for some perennials and shrubs to prevent thawing and heaving. 

Be aware that cutting back perennials that are sub-shrubs such as rosemary, sage or salvia greggii can kill them. When in doubt, don’t prune them in fall and winter because the plants are stressed enough already. Many plants provide food for something, and the various shapes just look interesting covered with snow.

Rosemary is the herb of the month for December in my opinion. Rosemary, the beautiful Herb of Remembrance. Since moving here, most of my herbs have been grown in pots. By now, potted plants should be hidden away in protected areas away from north and west winds. 

The bay tree, lemon verbena, and aloe are thankful to come inside. However, I find that most herbs resent my bringing them inside for the winter and prefer to take their chances outside. Of course, come spring, I am always excited for my herbs that survived the winter. An elderly friend once said “Don’t take it personal” when plants died. Alas, I remember her words far too often.

Make use of all those colorful berries and stems in winter arrangements and wreaths. Our plentiful cedar trees, actually junipers, can be used to make the most beautiful long-lasting wreaths. If you have access to one with berries, all the better for a wreath, and those berries are food for bluebirds.

Small poinsettias or other seasonal flowers are just the perfect accent to pop into potted house plants with empty spaces at the base of the plant. Poinsettias make good cut flowers, just run a flame under a fresh cut stem before using it. 

Happy gardening.

Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice.  Readers may submit gardening questions by email:, on the website:, or by mail:  PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056

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