Carefully placed reds catch the eye in a winter landscape

A carefully chosen plant can become a showpiece in your winter landscape. Horticulturist Mark Viette recommended several that produce red berries or have other red features.

Viette called the deciduous holly an “easy” shrub for home plantings. “It loses all its leaves, but the birds won’t feed on the berries until later in the season.”

As with other hollies, “you do need both male and female plants” to ensure berry production.

Viette also recommended the Merry Christmas variety of American holly and noted that there are lots of newer hybrids from which to choose as well.

“Even though some of the newer hollies don’t require it, I still recommend planting at least one male and one female plant.”

Red-twig dogwood has its own showy attributes. “Keep in mind it’s not a really large-growing plant,” Viette said. “It might get anywhere from 3 to 6 feet. And not only are there red-twig dogwoods, there are also yellow-twig dogwoods.”

Crabapple trees bear colorful fruit, but some years the birds might pick them clean before you’re done enjoying the color. Look for disease-resistant varieties of this tree, which will bear fruit in five to seven years.

The venerable magnolia produces red berries in interesting seed pods that, along with magnolia leaves, can be used for holiday decorations.

The venerable magnolia produces red berries in interesting seed pods that, along with magnolia leaves, can be used for holiday decorations. (Click to Tweet)

Apples + caramel = delicious desserts

October is National Apple Month as well as National Caramel Month, and what a great culinary combination that is!

Fresh apples paired with caramel make delicious desserts. Apples by themselves are a great snack, and they’re good eaten whole or added to salads, main meals or cake, pie and cobblers.

A medium apple has zero grams of fat, cholesterol or sodium; 4 grams of fiber; and 14 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Virginia is a good state in which to purchase fresh apples, and the state’s orchards yield a wide variety of apples for fresh consumption, as well as for commercial processing.

Many apple growers operate farm stands and U-pick operations or sell at farmers’ markets, and Virginia is known for its fall apple festivals. The state also is home to a growing hard cider industry, with more than 30 cideries making that value-added product.

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

Celebrate October with this delicious recipe for Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce.

See Recipe

Always use caution when driving on rural roads

Many rural roads are curvy and barely the width of two cars. Drivers who are born and raised in rural areas tend to think they know the roads like the back of their hands. Unfortunately, they don’t know what hazards may lie ahead.

Hazards to watch for on rural roads include black ice during the winter; deer and dogs during hunting season; fallen trees during any kind of weather; and other drivers approaching from the opposite direction.

Additionally, farmers often need to use rural roads to move equipment—most of it travels slower than 25 mph and takes longer than a car to stop.

When there is farm machinery moving from one location to another during planting and harvesting seasons, drivers must use even more caution.

State law requires that all farm equipment that travels slower than 25 mph have an slow-moving vehicle emblem to alert motorists. The emblem sometimes is accompanied by amber strobe lights and red and orange reflective tape to make the equipment more visible.

Should you find yourself following farm equipment:

  • Slow down to the speed of the vehicle as soon as you see it.
  • Watch for hand signals, and determine whether the equipment operator is preparing to turn.
  • Never pass farm equipment in a no-passing zone.