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Originally published Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Make a lovely living wreath, eradicate pesky scale insects

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris on how to make a living wreath and rid houseplants of scale insects.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Arboretum Foundation’s Annual Gifts & Greens Galore Holiday Sale: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6-7, Graham Visitor Center, 2300 Arboretum Drive E., Seattle (, click on “Events & Programs”).

‘Trees for Salmon’ Christmas tree program: Visit the King County Parks and Recreation booth at Swansons Nursery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8 for information about living-trees partnership, volunteer opportunities, games and prizes. 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle (

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In the Garden

A living wreath is a fun holiday project to do with kids. Start by purchasing a sedum-wreath frame, available at local nurseries and garden centers. The frames come in various styles and sizes, but the easiest one to work with comes with a rim that clips on the top to help hold the plants in place. Buy sphagnum moss, also available at nurseries, soak it thoroughly, ring it out and then pack it tightly to fill the frame. Next, use your hands to form a trough in the center of the moss and fill it in with all-purpose potting soil. At this point, snap the top ring in place. Before you begin planting, plan your design. I find it works best to begin with a unified pattern of hen and chicks, and then fill in with various types of sedum. When planting, you must remove enough of the roots to allow you to squeeze them between the clip wires before firming them into place with your fingers. Try to plant thickly so little bare soil shows in the frame. When the planting is complete, tuck in additional moss to hide any open space or exposed wires. Gently water the plants in; then let the wreath sit for at least a week before hanging it on an outdoor wall in a sunny location. Wire some wine-bottle corks on the back to prevent moisture damage to the wall. As long as you remember to take the wreath down to water it now and then in hot, dry weather, your wreath will continue to grow and become even more beautiful for years to come.

Scale on houseplants

Brown soft scale are sucking insects that can damage houseplants when they build up in large numbers. Usually the first thing you notice is honeydew: a shiny, sticky substance excreted by the scale insects. Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice woody-looking bumps. Serious infestations cause stunted growth and yellowing leaves. The woody-looking bumps are the adult females. They cover themselves with a waxy shell, remain stationary and produce a couple of live young a day for many months. The live young, called crawlers, venture out looking for somewhere to feed, and after a couple of months, mature and settle down to start a family of their own. Immediately isolate any infested plant. The crawlers can travel to adjacent plants to spread the infestation. They can hop on you to hitch a ride to other houseplants as well, so wash hands and change clothes after handling a plant with scale. The first step in the effort to eradicate these troublemakers is to dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and use it to wipe the adults off the plant. This is a tedious task, so make the job easier by pruning off heavily infested branches before you start. After removing the adults, go after the crawlers with Neem oil or insecticidal soaps. To be effective, these must be applied religiously every seven days until the infestation is totally eliminated. Some plants are sensitive to sprays, so do a test on a few leaves and wait a couple of hours to see what happens before spraying the entire plant. If the plant is heavily infested, toss it in the compost bin, but inspect possible replacements before purchasing. The last thing you want to do is unwittingly bring in another scale infestation on a new plant.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.


About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.

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