Mmmmm! Nothing smells as nice for the Christmas season as fresh greens inside our homes. There are all kinds of fresh greens you can enjoy from your garden (or pick up in-store!), but always look for two qualities: how long they will stand up under dry conditions and 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 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 to use in a variety of situations.
True fir (the abies family) is a great 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. 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 – that’s why they are classified as ‘pseudo tsuga menziesii’.
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. Mixed cedar garland looks particularly nice on banisters and mantles, but keep in mind, it is tricky to keep them hydrated in these spots, and they’ll dry up in about a week.
One of the most unique and attractive ideas for cut winter stems is using them in 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 ten days is about the maximum time for any greens to be indoors without being in water. Try to have an extra supply on hand so you can replenish your creations and keep them fresh looking. 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.
Christmas greens are so nice inside our homes at this time of year. They’re inexpensive, natural and fragrant. To enjoy them longer, just be sure to mist them often and keep them in water if at all possible. For arrangements, if you’re not entertaining each day, pop them outside in a cool, sheltered spot… they’ll last even longer!