Volume 14, Issue 48 ~ November 30 - December 6, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Jolly Greens and Grinchy Greens

Evergreens to welcome home

As you begin trimming your home with fresh greens, piney aromas filling the air, pay attention to which varieties grace your mantel. While many types of greens last for weeks, some greens you shouldn’t welcome in for the holidays because they dry up quickly.

Here in Bay Country, we have an abundance of evergreen plants to choose from. To add both beauty and aroma to your home, consider using narrowleaf greens like arborvitae, white pine, Scots pine, red pine, Douglas fir, Canaan fir, Nordman fir, junipers, red cedar or any of the cedrus species growing in your landscape. These stay-green varieties have lasting power when cut for arrangements, centerpieces, wreaths, swags or roping.

Broadleaf evergreens to welcome into your home include southern magnolia, American holly, English holly, Chinese holly, cherry laurel, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, pachysandra, English ivy and periwinkle. Japanese hollies are plentiful, but their foliage does not stay as attractive for as long as the other varieties.

Increase the shelf life of greens as soon as you bring them indoors by cutting one to two inches from the base of the stem and immersing in 100-degree water at least until it cools to room temperature or until you’re ready to use. Change the water at least every other day.

To keep greens greener longer, spray the foliage thoroughly with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf within 24 hours after they have been placed in water. Stems and leaves should absorb as much water as possible before an anti-desiccant is applied. If the anti-desiccant is applied before placed in hot water, the stems will not absorb as much. Anti-desiccants won’t reduce winter injury, but they will reduce water loss of foliage for a short time.

Evergreens to avoid welcoming home

In the narrowleaf evergreen category, Grinchy greens include hemlock and spruce. Decorate with these two species, and they will drop their needles within a week after they have been cut, regardless of how you care for them. Storing hemlock and spruce under cool temperatures — which works for many greens — will not revive these types. Applying anti-desiccants will only lengthen their lushness by a few days.

A third narrowleaf evergreen to avoid is the yew, especially if you have children or house cats. The needles and seeds of yews contain high levels of poisonous alkaloids, which can easily get on hands and paws, then ingested. The red fleshy fruit of the yew is sweet and not poisonous, but the seeds within are highly poisonous. Many cows have died from having ingested branches and needles of outdoor yews discarded by neighbors pruning their pastures. Deer, however, can eat yews.

In the broadleaf evergreen category, avoid using Photinia (red top) and euonymus. Both tend to dry up quickly after being placed in water.

Not to worry, live green decorators, we have an abundance of good broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreen species to choose from. Cutting out the above species from holiday displays is no great loss.

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

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