Friday, November 26, 2010

Fresh Holiday Greens

Years ago I would go to my father-in-law’s house to harvest greens for my holiday decorating. He had a beautiful assortment of needled and broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs from which I could cut and gather greens. Now in my third home, I’ve finally planted some of these wonderful trees and shrubs that don’t seem to mind a light pruning in early December. Added to that, some are cone-bearing, a huge bonus for Christmas decorating. Here are some of the greens in my backyard.

Junipers have a nice blue color with extra interest in the blue berries.

Cryptomeria japonicas are beautiful evergreens with soft, short needles. They are dark green and grow to about seventy feet in a pyramidal shape.

Cedars provide a wonderful fragrance and nice color to arrangements outdoors in containers or indoors in vases and boughs.

Hollies are wonderful additions to holiday decorating. The evergreen hollies are generally dark green with red berries. Winterberry holly is a deciduous variety, dropping all of its leaves in the fall leaving bright red clusters of berries perfect to use as an accent.

Spruces are nice to use in wreaths. Their branches are stiff and the needles short; needle retention is poorer than in pines and firs. They are great to use outside and will retain needles longer if sprayed with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf.
Mountain laurel is used extensively in the south. Use it indoors and out to complement needled evergreen branches.

Other evergreens are great too, and, eventually I may plant white pine, Southern magnolias and boxwood in the yard to use for decorating. In the meantime, Valley View Farms has all sorts of these and other greens available from Thanksgiving week until Christmas.

Here are a few tips to keep greens fresher longer.
  • Use clean, sharp pruning and lopping shears to cut the greens.
  • Put cut greens into a bucket of fresh water until ready to use. Crush the ends of the branches to allow for better water take-up.
  • Consider spraying with an anti-transpirant like Wilt-Pruf to keep greens from drying out.
  • Keep greens out of direct sunlight and away from heaters and candles.
  • Replace greens if they dry out too much. They may rehydrate with an overnight soaking in water. 
Enjoy the colors and fragrances of the holiday season. And, make notes now to plant some of these remarkable trees and shrubs come spring.

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