If one plant could be called the Christmas Flower it would be the poinsettia. They are great for home decoration and make perfect gifts to be enjoyed for years to come.

Which brings me to a story of one plant in particular. In the garden along the drive at my newly restored home on Mission Street was a double red poinsettia. The house had been vacant for more than 10 years and the winter had apparently been too mild to freeze the plant back. In the spring of 2003 when I was getting ready to paint the house the plant was over 10 feet tall and had grown out over the drive. With great reluctance I found I had to cut it down in order to paint.

It was only afterwards that my next door neighbor told me the poinsettia had been given to his brother-inlaw and new bride who happened to be living with them at the time - 36 years ago! They didn't have enough of a garden to plant the gift, so their next door neighbor kindly offered to let them plant it along his drive where they could see it.

We both thought that 36-year-old poinsettia was gone for good. But it is back and beautiful! It has about 100 bracks that are just starting to turn red in this cooler weather and should be in full bloom by the middle of the month.

If you get a poinsettia over the holidays it can be kept indoors until spring. Keep it in a bright window with moist but not wet soil. And if you have an unusual story about something in your garden that you would like to share with other NL readers, let us know…

Alan Cash

It is that time of year when the flowers begin to bloom, the leaves spring forth and the webworms begin to get hungry.

Webworms are a serious problem in King William. Last year I tried a tree medicine which I bought at Home Depot. The solution stated that if you poured the contents on the base of the pecan trees, the tree would absorb the solution and the webworms would leave the tree. The solution cost about $18.00 per bottle and it didn't work. My neighbor hired a company to spray her pecan trees and they charged her a fortune and she still has the dreaded worms.

Read more: Trichogramma Wasps

Each new day is a real gardening challenge. With little rain we may be under mandatory water use restrictions by the time this goes to press. An aquifer level of 660 feet above sea level will require watering in the garden only on specific days and during a limited time period. Watering in the morning is best. It is cooler and water soaks into the soil further and helps prevent lawn diseases from forming. Watch your local news for specifics. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, use it when there is little wind. Many systems have a fine spray that can be blown away from the soil and evaporate in the air. Also check the sprinkler heads frequently to be sure they are operating properly.

Read more: Out in the Garden: April 2009

Rainwater is much better for your garden than City chlorinated water. But have you priced the fancy rain barrels for sale at the garden centers? You can make your own easily and cheaply by fitting out one of the plastic barrels left over from our Spring Fair.

Using a saber saw, cut out a six inch diameter hole in the top of the barrel. Then use a 1/2" drill bit to make a hole in the side of the barrel, approximately six inches from the bottom. Twist a 1/2" plastic hose bib with a rubber garden hose washer into the hole. Then reach inside and twist a threaded 1/2" PVC collar onto the hose bib.

To set up your new rain barrel, choose a convenient downspout location. Place the rain barrel on top of two cinder blocks. Set up the barrel and configure the downspout to pour into the barrel. Place screen material over the opening to prevent leaves from clogging up the hose bib. And be sure to drop in mosquito doughnuts often since rain barrels are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Several 50 gallon barrels are located on the back patio of the KW office just waiting to be converted. Take a look at the prototype on the back patio -- it's easy! And your plants will thank you......Bill Cogburn

By early March we can start saying goodbye to winter and start gardening in earnest. Hopefully 2012 will be a wetter year than 2011. I measured 19 1/8 inches of rain in my gauge on Mission St in 2011. In the months of February through May and again in August there was no measurable rain in the gauge. November and December were the wettest months with 2 1/4 and 3 1/4 inches respectively. According to the paper, San Antonio’s average annual rainfall is 27.92 inches with only 14.88 inches received in 2011.

Read more: Out in the Garden: February 2012