We are beginning the fourth week of November, Thanksgiving is four days away and we have had some beautiful cool weather that helps get us in the mood for the beginning of the holidays.

This week might not be as busy as usual as we have been instructed to stay home and not attend Thanksgiving with family. I have always enjoyed cooking huge Thanksgiving meals but that was a few years back when I had more family to cook for. 

This year I am planning for my son, granddaughter and myself. No big deal, just a small Thanksgiving Day meal. No cooking pies and cakes for days ahead or making a long shopping list.

Have you seen the Golden Rain trees around town? They are medium-sized trees still holding their green deciduous leaves. Their seed pods form large red clusters at the ends of the branches. In the spring, we are treated to yellow blooms, and in the fall, clusters of red seed that are very striking. The seeds are small but the seed calyx are what provides the color.

There is still a lot of floral color in the landscape. Of course, red hot pokers, mums, shrimp plant, melampodium and marigolds are still going strong. Geraniums and gerberas are blooming again now that we have cooled off. Pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, violas and ornamental cabbage and kale all enjoy cooler weather and perk-up and perform better.

Occasionally you will see a sweet autumn clematis vine blooming with a froth of fragrant small, white blooms growing atop the vines. That is the only clematis I can successfully grow, the others die after a couple of years. Autumn clematis vines will volunteer and grow like weeds, but they are pretty and smell very nice. After these vines bloom, they should be cut back down to the ground and they will come out again in spring and bloom in autumn.

Volunteers can be given to friends, they grow vigorously from wind-scattered seed.

Plant catalogs will be sent out in January. This is the time to contact the companies and order a copy of their book. Most have toll-free phone numbers or you can find them on the Internet by searching "garden catalogs." 

You can see the varieties that are new on the market, see what made All-American winners for recently introduced plants and learn an incredible amount of knowledge about all plants that are offered in a catalog. Even if you don't plan to order from a catalog, you will get a lot of information that will help you when making choices locally for your garden. The variety in catalogs is so much greater than what you can find in a garden shop. You may find a treasure that you simply must have.

It is time to start bringing outdoor plants inside for the winter. Sprinkle some Sevin dust on the top of the soil and sprinkle some in an aluminum pie plate, place the pot in the pie plate for a short time. This will kill the critters that live in the soil of your pots. If you look at the drain holes, you will often see tunnels made by creepy crawlies that are going in and out of your pots, you do not want to bring those inside or put in your greenhouse.

Check the foliage for whiteflies, aphids or any other pests that may be living in your plants. A Q-tip dipped in alcohol will kill common bugs, just wipe them and the alcohol will dissolve the coating on their body that protects them. 

If you have a severe infestation mix up water and dish detergent and spray them, this will also kill soft-bodied insects. Use a ratio of one quart of water to half a teaspoon of dish detergent. After spraying with the detergent let sit for half an hour or so and they can be rinsed off and you will have clean insect-free plants to bring inside for the winter.

Sasanqua camellias are blooming, these are the smaller flowering camellias that bloom earlier than japonicas. They have smaller flowers but they cover the bushes which more than makes up for the flower size. If you would like to add sasanquas to your garden, purchase them while they are in bloom so you are sure you will get exactly what you want. There are so many varieties on the market with so many different colors and forms, it is a difficult decision to choose just two or three.

Loch Laurel Nursery specializes in camellias and citrus. To tour the nursery is a treat and you will find it hard to believe that there are so many different beautiful camellias.

Mark Crawford, owner, has developed the First Lady series of japonica camellias. Each one in the series has been named for a First Lady of Georgia who has lived in the Georgia mansion. They are as beautiful and varied as the First Ladies they were named for. Some are on backorder. They have been grown, grafted onto strong rootstock and must grow two to three feet tall before he will let them go. If you order a full set, planting by Mark is included in the price of the collection.

I am often asked if amaryllis bulbs should be dug and kept inside for the winter. The answer is no they do not have to be dug in our climate. The shoulders of amaryllis should be out of the soil for best blooming. They do enjoy being mulched which protects them from up and down temperatures during winter. 

The bulbs do best when they are slightly crowded, they like the company of their sisters. In early spring, treat your bulbs with Imidacloprid granules. This will keep the evil amaryllis weevil from destroying many of them. Imidacloprid will soon be taken off of the market, after that I don't know what we will use to protect the bulbs. A cold freezing winter will kill the weevils, but our mild winters do not cause them any problem.

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and a great weekend. See you next week.

Susan Grooms lives and gardens in Lowndes County.

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