COLUMN: Fresh greenery livens up the holiday season

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

  • Dec. 25, 2015 12:00 p.m.

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’s 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 centerpieces.

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.

True fir (the abies family) is my second choice for indoor greens. Silver, Noble 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, 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 – 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.

Cedar is an old-time favourite for many reasons, but it also has a short lifespan indoors.

If you can keep it in a cool room or use it outside the home, its pendulous branches are useful in swags, wreaths and most importantly, in cedar ropes.

Another super idea is to pull all the spent flowers from your moss hanging baskets and replace them with all kinds of cedar tips to create wonderful Christmas baskets. Add a few frosted cones, some holly and a big red bow with long tails, and you’ve got a very attractive addition to your outside decor.

One of the most unique and attractive ideas that I’ve seen in a long time is a traditional European greens arrangement. Using a piece of florist’s oasis in a low bowl, arrange a variety of colourful green tips from yellow, blue, gold, green and bronze foliaged trees.

A twisted stem of contorted filbert, one or two tall thin candles, bits of moss and a few dried perennials can be added for a finishing touch. It’s a very creative way to wow your friends and guests, and it will last right through the festive season.

Cut branches are no different than cut flowers. Seven to 10 days is about the maximum time for any greens to be indoors without being in water.

By cutting about one inch off the bottom of each stem and by keeping them in room temperature water, the life span of most greens can be tripled.

To enjoy greens longer, be sure to mist them often and keep them in water if at all possible.

Also a well-known product, called Wilt Pruf, is an organic anti-desiccant ready-to-use spray that coats boughs and trees with a clear film to make them last two to three times longer.

Just Posted

Abbotsford Panthers celebrate 35th anniversary of title with win

Panthers come from behind to defeat Notre Dame, Mouat edges Bateman in exhibition action

Two parks left in contest to crown Abbotsford’s favourite; Round 4 bracket results

After four rounds, one park chosen to face-off against Mill Lake Park in final

Vehicle accident on Sumas and South Fraser Way intersection

Southbound traffic on Sumas Way slow as the right lane is blocked

New wine patios clear hurdle in Abbotsford

Ripples Winery and Maan Farms Estate Winery each hope to create patios for drinkers

Abbotsford police searching for missing local man

David Cole’s family have not heard from him since early September

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Grand opening of Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery at Chilliwack cause for celebration

Ribbon-cutting with dignitaries, Molson brass and family marked the official grand opening

B.C. cabinet minister denies that Surrey mayor’s friend attended government meeting

Surrey councillor questions Vancouver businessman Bob Cheema’s involvement in official meeting

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Powder the muskets, zombies are coming!

Fort Langley National Historic Site offers up A Survivalist’s Guide to a Zombie Apocalypse, Sept. 28

Petition to rename park after teen overdose victim to get hearing

With 3,500 signatures so far, organizer is thinking of closing down online campaign

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Most Read