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Volume 13, Issue 51 ~ December 22 - December 28, 2005

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Managing the Greens that Deck Your Halls

Evergreen leaves and berries bring hope for spring’s arrival

The tradition of bringing greens indoors comes from the European and Scandinavian countries. The winters were long, and bringing greens in the house during winter months gave hopes that spring would soon be coming. It must have worked, as we still do it today.

To keep your greens looking fresh as long as possible, place them in 100-degree water as soon as you cut them. This will stimulate them to absorb as much water by the stem as possible. Most of the water will be absorbed within the first hour. If you are going to use the greens in the house, it is advisable to spray them with plant shine or Wilt-Pruf to seal in some of the moisture. These materials are not 100 percent effective, but they will help.

Remember that some greens are safe while others are toxic. The leaves and berries of mistletoe and yews (Taxus) are highly toxic and should not be used where they are likely to be exposed to pets and children. It is safer to use such greens as acuba, holly, pine, fir, spruce and juniper. Contrary to many beliefs, holly leaves and berries are not poisonous.

If you are going to use spruce, avoid using Norway spruce because they will shed their needles within a few weeks after being cut, despite having been placed in hot water immediately after pruning.

When the time comes to discard these greens, do not throw them into the fire of a fireplace — especially pine, spruce and fir. These species contain resins and will be extremely low in moisture, they will combust and rapidly generate intense heat and smoke.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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