Keeping holiday greenery fresh

We all want the old-fashioned kind of Christmas we read about in books. The kind with holiday greenery draped down banisters and across mantles.

The kind with huge trees bedecked with candles. The kind with fresh wreaths and mistletoe and kissing balls...

What we forget is that these idealized Christmases occurred long ago - before central heat. In modern times (when we don't have to wear gloves indoors), the decorating scheme must undergo a little change.

We can still deck our halls, we just need to choose the right holiday greenery and know how to keep it fresh indoors.

Fantasy versus Reality

For decorating with live garland indoors, choose pine, fir, and cedar. These cuttings dry out more slowly than other Christmas greenery.

Fantasy: Deck the halls with boughs of holly...

Reality: Anyone who has ever tried to deck anything with holly has discovered it can dry to a crisp indoors in a day or two if you don't stick its little boughs in floral foam.

Fantasy: A website or magazine photo showing a roaring holiday fire with lush, lighted garland draped from the mantel.

Reality: That scene is the before picture. The magazine never shows the after picture with toasted garlands dripping with brown, dried-out needles.

Choosing Holiday Greenery

  • Garlands, swags and wreaths: For indoor decorations, use pine, fir and cedar for holiday greenery. These cuttings dry out more slowly than other greenery and may last several weeks if you keep them cool.
  • Holiday arrangements: Several types of greenery are appropriate for arrangements that will be watered or anchored in floral foam. Just a few that you may clip from your own garden include ivy, holly, yew, magnolia, boxwood, nandina, pittosporum, viburnum and hemlock.
  • Outside garlands and wreaths:  Spruce, laurel, boxwood, juniper and fir are the favorites for outdoor decoration.

Make Sure Greenery is Fresh 

The best way to ensure holiday greenery is fresh is to cut it yourself. Look in your own backyard for fresh Christmas decorating ideas. The advantage of using what comes from your yard: It's cheap, and the materials will be unique to your home.

If you buy your greenery, give the pine needles the old Christmas tree test: Bend them. If they are brown, or if they break, buy elsewhere.

How to Make Holiday Greenery Last

  • Plan on putting holiday greenery up a week or two before Christmas.
  • Buy or harvest greenery as close as possible to when you plan to use it.
  • If you buy greenery early, keep it outside until needed.
  • Before you put fresh garland and live door wreaths up, soak them overnight in a bathtub filled with water so they can absorb as much water as possible. This will help keep your holiday greenery fresh.
  • If you bring branches home to make your own swags, garlands and wreaths, re-cut the ends and pound them with a hammer so they will absorb more water. Then soak them overnight in the tub.
  • If you make flower arrangements, keep your holiday flowers in the garage or outside when not on display.

Holiday Decorating Do's

  • If you plan to have a lighted garland or holiday arrangement, use cooler LED Christmas lights.
Check holiday greenery for freshness every couple of days.
  • Keep holiday greenery away from heat vents, the fireplace and sunny windows.
  • Check holiday greenery for freshness every couple of days. Replace sections that are brown or are dropping leaves or pine needles.
  • Mist every couple days to keep greenery fresh.

Holiday Decorating Don'ts

  • Don't decorate too early. The longest lasting greenery - fir - will only keep about four weeks indoors (if you're lucky).
  • Don't use greenery in displays with candles.
  • Don't drape garlands from a mantel if you plan to use the fireplace.
  • If you have children or pets, don't use greenery with poisonous berries such as holly, yew, ivy, Jerusalem cherry, bittersweet, crown of thorns, or mistletoe.

Finally, with any evergreen decoration, be sure to keep a broom handy. You'll need it.

› 5 Tips for Keeping Holiday Greenery Fresh