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Holiday decorating: Keep your greens fresh

Gardening by Brian Minter

Mmmmm!  Nothing smells as nice for the Christmas season as fresh greens inside our homes.

It’s good to see folks coming back to more traditional Christmas decorating, but keeping greens fresh is important.

There are all kinds of fresh greens you can enjoy indoors, but I always look for two qualities:  one is how long they will stand up under dry conditions and the other is their fragrance.

For both longevity and fragrance, it is hard to beat pine. All pine varieties have a wonderful scent, but one of the most attractive is Pinus strobus or White Pine.  Its soft blue needles look so graceful, and they can be used in a variety of situations, particularly to accent fresh flowers and centrepieces.

The long-needled Pinus ponderosa is also attractive, especially when branch tips are cut and placed in a large vase.

The best use of these branches, however, is for door swags. With their naturally curved tips and large cones, they look perfect when combined with a big red velvet bow and a few shiny baubles and Christmas novelties.

The rich blue needles of Scotch pine are also great to use in a variety of situations.

True fir or the abies family is my second choice for indoor greens. Balsam and Grand Fir are very good when it comes to retaining needles and when you brush your hand against their boughs, the fragrance puts you back in the woods.  I particularly like the silver underside of their needles.

The flat nature of their branches makes these greens ideal for swags or for advent and traditional wreaths.

Blue spruce is the ultimate picea, and its branches make beautiful door swags as well. The needles on spruce, however, do not last as long as abies or pine, and they are sharp, making them somewhat more difficult to work with.

Douglas Fir, named after Alexander Douglas, a British botanist who collected specimens of West Coast trees and took them back to Britain, is neither a spruce nor a fir –v that’s why they are classified as pseudo tsuga menziesii.

They have a delightful fragrance and make beautiful looking Christmas trees, but unfortunately, their branches dry out far too quickly to make them an ideal green for indoor use.

Hemlocks are much the same:  lovely, but difficult both for drying out and for needle drop.

To enjoy greens longer, mist them as often as possible.

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