Debunking the Poinsettia Myth

Garden Center

It’s time to discover the truth about poinsettias. As it turns out, they’re not as toxic as we thought, not always red, and arguably not even flowers—at least not in the parts we thought. It’s time to cut through the myths and learn the fascinating facts and history behind these beautiful, harmless plants! Here are four myths and three fun facts about the poinsettia to help you become a more informed decorator this holiday season:    

SL Garden Center-New Hampshire-History of The Poinsettia-pet safe poinsettiaMyth #1: Poinsettias are Poisonous 

Once a plant gets a reputation for being poisonous, it’s hard to shake it. Even if we read countless articles that prove their harmlessness, there’s always a tiny voice in the back of our heads that wonders, “Yeah, but are they really safe?” Fortunately, with poinsettias, the answer is a resounding yes! 

The poisonous poinsettia rumor dates all the way back to 1920, when a child allegedly died from eating the leaves. Although this was never proven, the myth took off. Since then, however, countless scientific reports have shown that poinsettias are, in fact, non-toxic to both pets and children. According to the Center for Poison Control, even a quantity of 500 leaves will not have a dangerous effect if eaten. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the poinsettia’s sap is a mild skin irritant, and if your pet does eat the leaves, they may experience nausea or vomiting—a completely normal reaction to eating any non-edible plant. However, even though this plant is considered “non-edible,” it’s still not poisonous and won’t cause any serious health effects if your pet or child nibbles on a couple of leaves. This means we can safely put our worries aside and freely keep poinsettias around pets and children.  

Myth #2: Poinsettias Don’t Last Long

Most people think of poinsettias as strictly Christmas plants; however, if you give them the proper care, they’ll stay in bloom for up to 2-3 months! To ensure a long bloom, take care not to overwater your poinsettia, and only give them a top-up when their soil is dry to the touch. Also, keep their room’s temperature at a steady 65-70 degrees, and avoid placing your poinsettias near any heat sources or cold drafts. Finally, remember to give them lots of natural light, and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy plant throughout the holidays and beyond!     

SL Garden Center-New Hampshire-History of The Poinsettia-poinsettia color changeMyth #3: The Poinsettia’s Flowers Are the Bright Red Parts 

This one might seem a bit strange, but the red flowers on poinsettias aren’t technically flowers. They’re actually specialized leaves called flower bracts, which change colors during the bloom period. They act just like flower petals, attracting insects with their bright colors, but because they’re leaves, they last longer than typical blossoms. The poinsettia’s actual flowers are, in fact, the tiny gold and pink cups in the center of the flower bracts.   

Myth #4: Poinsettias Are Always Red 

While the traditional poinsettia color we all know and love is the classic bright red, plant growers have also bred varieties of white, pink, apricot, and variegated red and white poinsettias. Occasionally, you may even find blue poinsettias—perhaps similar to the illusive blue rose—but these are painted, not grown. However, all other varieties are just as authentic and beautiful as the classic scarlet poinsettia, so don’t be afraid to branch out and experiment with other poinsettia colors this holiday season!

SL Garden Center-New Hampshire-History of The Poinsettia-poinsettias for saleFact #1: Poinsettias Make Excellent Cut Flowers 

If you want to show off your poinsettias in a vase this year, you can turn them into cut flowers. The only trick is to singe the end of the flower stem with a match after cutting to prevent the latex-like sap from escaping. Doing so will help your cut poinsettias last for up to 1-2 weeks in a vase of water! 

Fact #2: Poinsettias Come From Mexico 

Poinsettias originate from a region in southern Mexico, where they grow upwards of 10-15 feet tall in the wild. The Aztecs used their flower bracts as a clothing dye and their latex-like sap for medicinal purposes. An American diplomat discovered the flower while on a tour of Mexico in the 1800s and sent clippings back home to be propagated. The plant’s popularity in North America quickly grew upon its introduction, becoming the holiday staple we all know and love today.

SL Garden Center-New Hampshire-History of The Poinsettia-joel poinsettFact #3: Poinsettias Are Named After Joel Poinsett 

Joel Poinsett was the American diplomat and botanist we just mentioned who discovered poinsettias in Mexico in 1828. He sent them back to his home in South Carolina, where he began propagating and sharing them with other horticulturalists. They eventually became an iconic holiday plant due to their December blooms and red and green color. Joel Poinsett died on December 12, 1851, which is now celebrated each year as national poinsettia day in honor of him and the beautiful flower he helped popularize.

Some myths take a long time to correct, and may never disappear completely. This statement definitely holds true for the poinsettia, whose long and fascinating history has long been plagued by rumors of their toxicity. Despite this myth, however, we can rest assured knowing that poinsettias are, in fact, as harmless as they are beautiful. Far from the deadly Christmas plant they’re rumored to be, poinsettias are harmless and can be safely enjoyed long after Christmas. 

SL Garden Center-New Hampshire-History of The Poinsettia-pink poinsettiasCome visit our garden center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, to find your next poinsettia today! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates and featured products.  


How to Grow a Garnish Garden in Your Kitchen

Garden Center

One of home gardening’s sweetest pleasures is enjoying a bouquet of freshly-grown herbs whenever you like. Although the plants themselves may be small, the freshness, flavor, and satisfaction they bring to your home cooking is immense. As it turns out, you don’t need to say goodbye to them when winter comes to New Hampshire. With indoor pots, you can grow fresh cilantro, mint, oregano, basil, and more without much effort year-round—here’s how!  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-New Hampshire-How to Grow a Garnish Garden in Your Kitchen-holding tray of herbsWhat Herbs Can You Grow Indoors? 

Almost any herb you can grow in your garden will grow indoors, including basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, mint, cilantro, summer savory, sage, parsley, chives, and rosemary. Most herbs—except for woody perennials like rosemary—can be started from seeds in a small pot of potting soil. However, since many herbs are slow to germinate, it’s often easier to buy them as seedlings.

How Much Light Does an Indoor Herb Garden Need? 

With herbs, more sunlight equals better growth and bigger flavor, so it’s best to place your garnish garden near the brightest window available. Ideally, they should receive at least six hours of sunlight per day, but shade-tolerant herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro can get by with as little as four. If your herbs are leggy and leaning towards the light, it’s a sign they want to move to a sunnier spot.      

How to Water an Indoor Herb Garden

Most herbs need water once the top inch of soil dries out, but this can vary: heat-loving Mediterranean species like rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage like to dry out a bit more between watering, whereas parsley, basil, cilantro, and mint like to stay moist, but not soggy. Growing your herbs in appropriately-sized pots will also go a long way toward maintaining consistent watering, as you’ll see below. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-New Hampshire-How to Grow a Garnish Garden in Your Kitchen-harvesting herbsHow to Harvest an Indoor Herb Garden 

If you want a continual harvest of tasty herbs, it’s best to snip off a bit at a time as needed. Take no more than one-third of the plant at once, and remember to let it grow back before taking more. Another trick of the trade is to harvest based on your plant’s shape—take away any leggy bits to encourage thicker growth, and thin out any areas that are too dense to let your herbs breathe. 

An Indoor Herb Garden with Grow Lights 

If your herbs are getting too leggy, or aren’t growing much, they may not be getting enough sun. If this is the case, you can supplement with grow lights. Grow lights simulate the sun by giving off a broader visible light spectrum and more powerful rays than standard lights, providing your herbs with all the energy they need to thrive. Remember to switch your grow lights on and off at regular intervals to imitate the day and night cycle. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-New Hampshire-How to Grow a Garnish Garden in Your Kitchen-assorted dried herbsExtra Tips for a Successful Herb Garden

  • Choose the Right Size of Pot: when the pot used is too big for your herbs, the soil doesn’t dry out evenly, making watering a difficult guessing game. Likewise, if it’s too small, your herbs will quickly dry out without a constant water supply. Using the right-sized pot will simplify your indoor herb care immensely. 
  • Imitate the Wind: most herbs don’t have very strong stems at the best of times. Without exposure to outdoor wind, however, they become even weaker. Simulating the wind by running your hand through the leaves will help strengthen your herbs’ stems and improve growth. 
  • Don’t Let Them Get Too Dense: like all plants, herbs need a bit of airflow between their leaves to keep them healthy and free of pests. Dense foliage prevents this and encourages a build-up of moisture, which can lead to mold, mildew, and other nuisances.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-New Hampshire-How to Grow a Garnish Garden in Your Kitchen-pesto ingredientsRecipe Ideas for Your Indoor Herb Garden 

The beauty of an indoor herb garden is that it gives you a fresh supply of herbs throughout the day, even for simple meals like a tossed salad or sandwich. Of course, fresh herbs also immediately boost the flavor of any holiday dish, including roasted meats and vegetables, sauces, dressings, marinades, and more. Try finishing your steaks with a compound butter made of garlic, sea salt, and fresh rosemary, or make a simple syrup infused with fresh mint, thyme, or sage for killer holiday cocktails. If you’ve never tried it, homemade pesto makes an indoor herb garden instantly worth the effort. Try branching out beyond the classic basil, and explore mouth-watering alternatives like cilantro and parsley pesto.  

You don’t need to be a green thumb to enjoy fresh herbs year-round. All it takes is a sunny window sill, regular watering, appropriate pots, and savvy harvesting, and you can have fresh herbs within arm’s reach all winter long, right in your kitchen. For more information on how to start your indoor herb garden, visit our garden center in Moultonborough, NH, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products! 


Please note that our herbs have sold quickly this season, and we only have a few left—visit while supplies last!

Fabulous Holiday Porch Pot Designs for Moultonborough

Garden Center

The end of the growing season in New Hampshire doesn’t mean the end of beautiful planters. On the contrary, holiday planters are the perfect way to decorate your porch this Christmas and beyond. The weather may be too frosty for flowers, but we can still make fabulous seasonal arrangements using evergreen boughs, berries, bells, ribbons, and more—here are some ideas!

Materials for a Holiday Porch Pot 

While you won’t have much success planting annual flowers this time of year, we can look to our winter landscape for a world of new inspiration.

Berries: Whoever came up with red and green as Christmas colors was likely borrowing from the natural world around them. Red berries stand out amidst the snow and add an incredible pop of color to arrangements, especially winterberries, holly, and rosehips.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Holiday Porch Pot Designs-assorted evergreen cuttingsEvergreen Branches: As the most vibrant part of our winterscape, make every opportunity to use cuttings from any evergreens on your property in your porch pots. These include junipers, cedars, spruce, firs, pines, and hemlock. 

Pine Cones: Pine cones are like ready-made decorations waiting to be used in holiday decor. Technically the flower of pine trees, they bring rich brown tones and beautiful texture to any porch pot. 

Deciduous Twigs: Dogwoods, birch, and willow branches will bring beautiful white, gold, red, and green colors to your planter. Feel free to use either small branch clippings or even whole sawn-off logs, as you’ll see below. If you don’t have access to any of these trees, use any deciduous branches available for a similar result. 

Dried Flowers and Seed Pods: While you don’t want to create an autumn look with too many dried flowers, hydrangea blossoms and lilac seeds are good options for holiday porch planters, as they maintain their shape quite well. Feel free to experiment with any other dried flowers or seeds found in your yard.

Ribbons, Bells, and Balls: What would a holiday planter be without a few bells, Christmas balls, and ribbons to grace the porch? They mimic the radiant reflections of the snow and bring beautiful finishing touches to a winter planter.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Holiday Porch Pot Designs-traditional colors for winter planterHow to Design a Holiday Porch Pot 

Thriller, Filler, Spiller: This famous design technique is just as valuable during the winter as it is in the spring or summer. As a reminder, the “thriller” is the focal point that catches your attention—in this case, any tall branches or brightly colored decor. The “filler” fills in the space around the thriller with greenery, namely evergreen boughs. The “spillers” are plants that hang over the sides of the pot, hiding the edge and creating a look of overflowing abundance. Any flexible evergreens work as great spillers during the winter.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Holiday Porch Pot Designs-holiday planter of evergreensA Look of Abundance: The holiday season is a time of abundance when we share our gifts with the people around us. Likewise, the most impressive porch pots have a sense of grandeur, so don’t hesitate to fill in your planters with ample evergreen boughs, ribbons, pine cones, and more! 

A Play of Textures: How can you make a planter look unique when it’s mostly evergreens? The key is to play with different textures. Contrast your soft junipers with lively spruce, or your smooth firs with sprightly pines. Juxtapose peeling paper birch with silky ribbons, and let your rugged pine cones mingle with glowing winterberries.  

Great Holiday Porch Pot Ideas to Start With 

Need some ideas for bringing these materials and techniques together? Here are a few designs to get you started: 

Birch Logs, Holly and Juniper 

For your thriller, place three vertical, 1-2″ birch logs in the center and back of your pot of soil. Next, fill in upright boughs of spruce around your birch logs, and place overhanging boughs of juniper around the entire front edge and sides of the planter. As a finishing touch, arrange several twigs of bright red holly berries in front of the birch logs and insert a large red ribbon to hang over the front.           

Dogwood, Christmas Balls, and Pine Cones

Begin by placing several tall twigs of dogwood or willow at the center-back of the pot. Next, place juniper or cedar around the front and sides of the pot as both the spiller and filler. Finally, nestle three large decorative red balls in the center of the junipers and, as a finishing touch, place pine cones around them.     

Final Step: Once you have your arrangement in place, water the entire pot to freeze the soil and keep the boughs in place. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Holiday Porch Pot Designs-reindeer holiday planterAt the end of the day, holiday porch planters are all about creating seasonal art pieces, which means there’s a lot of room to experiment and play. Now that you know the basic steps, materials, and philosophy, feel free to experiment while making your own. 

For any supplies for your holiday porch pot ideas, please visit our garden center in Moultonborough, NH! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products!   

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden in the Winter

Garden Center

As the seasons shift, some birds in New Hampshire fly south for winter, others stay, and still others that breed in more northern places migrate here. Attracting these feathered friends is not only a great pleasure for us, but provides important food, shelter, and water for them during the cold months. Although boosting the bird habitat in your landscape is a long-term project, even in the short-term, there are simple ways to bring winged-ones to your yard!    

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Attract Birds to Garden in Winter-woodpecker birdWhich Birds Can I Expect to Attract? 

In its own way, the world of winter is just as wondrous as other seasons—with magical snowy beauty and a unique cast of birds in our forests. The most common year-round residents you’ll see are the Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Black-Capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Dark-Eyed Junco, American Goldfinch, Blue Jay, and Mourning Dove. Of course, these are only a few of the 400+ birds that live or migrate through New England. 

Long-Term Ways to Attract Birds 

The most effective way to attract birds to your yard is by enhancing their habitat. That means growing more native trees, shrubs, and flowers that birds like to feast on or live in. Evergreen trees are an especially good habitat for birds over  the winter, as their thick branches provide shelter from snow and cold. As for food, any trees with cones, nuts, acorns, berries, and fruit will be a bird’s delight over winter and year-round. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Attract Birds to Garden in Winter--winter birdhouseOther Ways to Attract Birds Over Winter 

Although you can’t grow a tree overnight, there are still many ways to make your yard attractive to the winged-ones this winter. 

  • Provide Shelter: although birds aren’t breeding over winter, they still benefit from having boxes, especially during cold snaps. Birdhouses used for nesting in the spring can become warm-up spots for birds over winter. Or, bigger boxes, known as “roosting boxes” can provide shelter, often for many species at once. In the absence of evergreens, leaving a pile of brush in your yard also supplies moderate coverage for small birds.
  • Provide Water: having a birdbath in your yard is a great way to attract birds over winter. To keep it from freezing, place a heater inside of it, or install a heated birdbath. Since eating snow is much more energy intensive for birds, they’ll appreciate any source of liquid water!   

How to Attract Birds with Feeders 

Setting up food is another sure way to attract feathered friends over winter. Here are some tips for placing, using, and choosing feeders:

  • Use a Variety of Feeders: different birds have different feeding styles. For example, Dark-Eyed Juncos are ground-feeders, while Nuthatches feed as they travel down a tree trunk. Attract more birds by using various styles of feeders, including open trays at ground and table height, hanging feeders, and suet cages along tree trunks.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Attract Birds to Garden in Winter--refilling bird feeder

  • Provide Good Quality Food: whole nuts, seeds, and suet are the best foods for birds, especially sunflower seeds and nyjer. To keep the food mold-free, install a roof over your open trays, check your feeders often, only put out small amounts at a time, and replace any food before it spoils.
  • Place Your Feeders Strategically: put them within sightline of your windows, so you can watch the feeding birds. Hang them near an evergreen, so small birds have options to hide from predators. If big birds, like Blue Jays, are dominating your suet cage, place it on the underside of a leaning trunk, so only small perching birds can access it.
  • Keep Squirrels and Rodents Away: if squirrels and rodents are hogging your bird feeder, you can install a squirrel baffle over it, which is a barrier that is difficult for them to crawl over. You can also place a cage over the feeder which allows small birds to enter while blocking squirrels. Mixing a small amount of cayenne pepper into the seed mix is also known to repel squirrels, but the birds don’t mind it.

Attract Birds with Homemade Boxes and Feeders 

You can bring your own creative touch to your yard by crafting things yourself. Research the feeding style, food preferences, or shelter needs of your favorite birds and try to make something to attract them. Any old stumps or coppiced trees are great locations to install a homemade tray or birdhouse-style feeder. Sometimes a bird feeder can be as simple as an upwards-angled mason jar hanging horizontally by a ribbon.    

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Attract Birds to Garden in Winter-cardinal in treeObserve and Form a Relationship

If you want to get better at attracting birds, make a habit of observing them in your yard throughout the seasons. Find out what they eat, where they live, what their calls mean, and when they nest. You’ll not only gain insight into their lives, but as touchstones to the ecosystem, birds reveal the wild world of insects, plants, and animals that are—often unbeknownst to us—living all around us.  

For supplies to attract winter birds, visit our Garden Center in Moultonborough, NH. And follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products!

How to Protect Your Trees from Cold and Salt Damage

Garden Center

Salt damage, winter burn, frost heaving, and hungry rodents are just a few of the challenges our trees have to contend with during the winter. Although most trees we grow in New Hampshire are experts at living through the cold months, we can still help them overcome seasonal challenges, so they thrive next year—here’s how! 

Understanding Salt Damage

De-icers keep our roads and walkways ice-free during the winter, but they have an unfortunate consequence on nearby trees and plants. Traffic on roadways can spray salt water onto trees throughout the winter, causing evergreens to turn brown and die back in the spring or killing the new buds on deciduous trees. A cluster of dead twigs, or “witch’s broom,” on the end of deciduous branches is a telltale sign of damage from salt spray. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Protect Your Trees from Cold and Salt Damage-cedar salt damage

Besides being sprayed with salt water, trees also suffer from salt dissolved into snowmelt penetrating the ground; this can leech off roadways or come from de-icers you apply to your property. When a tree absorbs salt ions, it exhibits similar signs as drought damage, such as scorched and curling leaves, stunted growth, susceptibility to disease, and even death. 

How to Prevent Salt Damage in Moultonborough

There’s no need to let your trees suffer from our de-icing practices. Here are several ways to help them avoid and overcome salt damage: 

  • Use Alternative De-icers: if possible, use coarse sand, gravel, or calcium chloride to prevent slipping on your walkways, and minimize or eliminate the use of sodium chloride. 
  • Pile Snow Away from Trees: when shoveling salty or dirty snow from your hardscapes, don’t pile it near any trees or gardens. Instead, shovel it somewhere where the snow can melt off your property, not into the root zone of trees. 
  • Erect a Barrier: set up a burlap screen, plastic fence, or snow fence in front of roadside trees that are subject to salt spray. 
  • Improve Drainage Around Trees: adjust the grade in your garden or landscape so salty snow melts away from your trees, not towards them. 
  • Flush the Soil in Spring: use water to flush away salt-affected trees, diluting any salty water and sending it deep into the ground, below the root zone. 
  • Be Mindful of Salt-Intolerant Trees: white pine, sugar maple, eastern hemlock, basswood, and spruce are intolerant of salt. Give them extra attention to prevent salt damage, and avoid planting them near roadways. Salt-tolerant species include birches, ashes, poplars, red oak, and red pine, but keep in mind that even though they’re more salt-tolerant, they can still be damaged by it.   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Protect Your Trees from Cold and Salt Damage-covering rhododend

How to Protect Trees From the Cold 

Most trees native to New Hampshire or hardy to our growing zone can withstand our winter, but that doesn’t mean that winter doesn’t pose a challenge for them. Evergreens are vulnerable to winter burn, which happens when they lose too much moisture through their needles. 

The freezing and thawing cycles of winter can also cause damage to roots, and there is the weight of the snow itself. Whether you have young trees you want to protect or trees that are prone to winter burn, here are some strategies to help your trees withstand the cold:

  • Mulch the Roots: insulate the roots from fluctuating temperatures by mulching with bark mulch or wood chips. During extremely cold weather, you can pile extra snow around the roots of vulnerable trees. Remember to keep mulch 2 inches away from the trunk to prevent rotting.     
  • Wrap Vulnerable Trees: broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons or arborvitae, are particularly vulnerable to winter burn. You can place a frame around them and wrap it with burlap to prevent moisture loss. Evergreens exposed to sunny areas or prevailing winds also lose moisture more easily during the winter. If necessary, set up a burlap screen to protect them from desiccating wind and sun. Remember to remove any wrapping in the spring to prevent overheating. 
  • Water Evergreens in the Fall: water your evergreens regularly throughout October and November until the ground freezes to protect them against winter burn in the months ahead.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-How to Protect Your Trees from Cold and Salt Damage-purple blooming li

How to Protect Trees from Animal Damage 

Rabbits and rodents pose a risk to trees over winter, especially young ones, which have softer bark. To prevent animals from girdling their trunks, wrap vulnerable trees with a plastic guard, metal mesh, or a metal cylinder. The cylinder should extend 2–3 inches below ground for mice and 18–24 inches above the snow for rabbits.   

For more expert advice on protecting trees from salt damage and any challenges over winter, visit our garden center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, and keep up-to-date with us on Facebook or Instagram