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Keeping Holiday Garland Fresh

Question:

I love to put live pine garland on my stairway for the holidays, but after a week it is already drying out. How can I keep it fresh for the holidays?

Answer:

Being a traditionalist, I find that there is no substitute for the aroma and look of fresh holiday greenery. Some of my favorites are boughs of pine, cedar and spruce along with mistletoe and boxwood.

I must agree that keeping greenery fresh can be a challenge particularly if you like to decorate early. However there are a few steps you can take to make it last much longer.

When selecting greenery it's important to know some plants actually hold up better than others. For instance, hemlock and spruce tend to shed their needles while Western cedar and noble fir have a reputation being more durable. And make sure whatever you purchase is as fresh as possible. That means good green color, flexible branches when bent and very little, if any needle drop.

The key to keeping greenery fresh is maintaining moisture in the stems and leaves of the plant. Whether you purchase your greenery or cut it right out of your garden, the first thing you want to do is soak it in water over night. I completely submerge garlands and wreaths in a large galvanized tub that I purchased from a hardware store, but you can use your bathtub just as well.

Once the greenery has soaked over night, take the additional step of spraying it with an anti-transpirant such as Cloud Cover or Wilt-Pruf. Purchase these products at a garden center. Plants naturally lose water through their stems and leaves through a process called transpiration. By using an anti-transpirant, these pores are sealed and water loss is minimized. Just wait a few hours after treatment before you begin decorating. Also some tree lots or nurseries will apply an anti-transpirant for you when you purchase your greenery. If this is the case skip the over night soaking to prevent washing it off.

If you are using the greenery for an arrangement, recut the stems. Once an evergreen has been cut, the sap often seals the ends of the branches, so this step helps the greenery take up water from the vase. To keep the needles soft and pliable you can add glycerin to the water in your container. Most drugstores carry glycerin. Now if you do this, be generous. I recommend one part glycerin to one part water.