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Tips for holiday decorating with outdoor greenery

Balsam fir

The dark green needles on the

balsam fir (Abies balsamea) stay

on branches and retain their

pleasing fragrance throughout the

Christmas season.

Douglas fir

Crush the needles for a sweet

fragrance. The Douglas fir

(Pseudotsuga menziesii) is one of

the top Christmas tree species in

the United States.

Fraser fir

This fir (Abies fraseri) has excellent

shape and needle retention. The

dark blue-green branches turn

slightly upward. Fraser firs have a

pleasant scent and are a top pick

for Christmas tree, bough or spray.

Photos courtesy of National Christmas Tree Association

by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This time of year, we satisfy our need for nature by dragging branches, garlands, berries, trees and other greenery indoors to deck the halls. Almost anything from nature can be used to decorate the house.

Midwesterners favor conifer cones, hollies, boxwood, chokeberries, blackhaw virburnum, evergreen boughs, nuts, ornamental grass flowers, sprigs of rosemary or snippets of sage. You're limited only by your imagination and climate.

The freshest cuttings come from our own landscape, but what you can't grow can likely be found at the garden center, florist or produce department at the local grocer. Craft stores stock fake or dried versions of all things natural, too.

This isn't the best time of year to prune pines, so consider picking up a few branches where Christmas trees are sold. Rehydrate store-bought greenery by laying it flat in a bathtub or sink and soaking it in water overnight.

Fresh-cut branches and potted flowers last longer when they are kept out of direct sunlight and in a cool place. Drafts from heat registers will dry out greenery and blasts of cold air will kill poinsettias.

Use care when decorating with plants, because some parts may be poisonous. Berries from mistletoe, yew, holly and bittersweet are indeed colorful, but also toxic.

Some children may think the berries are candy. To be safe, keep decorations out of reach of children and pets. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous.

Sometimes known as the Hoosier Gardener, Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp lives in Indianapolis and is part owner and editor of Indiana Living Green magazine. Her work has also appeared in many other publications, including The American Gardener, Garden Gate and Greenhouse Grower. In addition, Meyers Sharp speaks about gardening and sustainable living throughout the Midwest and is a director of the Garden Writers Association.


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