Beginning to look (and smell) like Christmas

Christmas greens are so nice inside our homes at this time of year. They’re inexpensive, natural and fragrant.

Christmas greens add a festive feel this time of year.

Mmmmm!  Nothing smells as wonderful for the Christmas season as fresh greens inside our homes.  It’s good to see a trend towards more traditional Christmas decorating.  There are all types of fresh greens you can enjoy indoors, but I always look for two qualities:  how long they will stand up under dry conditions and are they fragrant.  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.  Usually sold as single branches for swags, lodgepole and scotch pine are also very resilient.

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.

True fir or the abies family is my second choice for indoor greens.  Silver balsam and noble 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 forest.  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 – 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 I’m afraid it also has a shorter 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 décor.

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, especially deciduous holly, Ilex verticulata, with its stunning red berries.  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.

Decorative branches of contorted willow and filbert or the stunning brilliant yellow and red branches of twig dogwoods look great in a vase by themselves, indoors or out.  My favourite are the branches of ‘Midwinter Fire’ which is a yellow and orange bicolour dogwood.

Christmas greens are so nice inside our homes at this time of year.  They’re inexpensive, natural and fragrant.  To enjoy them longer, be sure to mist them often and  keep them in water if at all possible.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

EDITORIAL: The dilemma of living in beautiful B.C.

Tourism dollars are needed for the economy while some locals are crying ‘stay away’

Three men face attempted murder charges after Harrison Hot Springs stabbing

Man, 24, sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries following attack Wednesday

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Chilliwack children can get tested locally, Fraser Health confirms

Erroneous information online and via 811 has many families driving to Abbotsford for testing

New treatment centre for addicted youth opening in Chilliwack

Facility ready to support up to 20 youth with substance-use challenges

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

‘Tiny home’ being built for Abbotsford woman with severe allergies

Online campaign raises $59,000 for custom cargo trailer for Katie Hobson

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Acclaimed B.C. actor Brent Carver passes away

Carver, one of Canada’s greatest actors with a career spanning 40 years, passed away at home in Cranbrook

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

Canucks blank Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying clash

Jacob Markstrom stops 27 shots to lead Vancouver past Minnesota

Most Read