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Q:

I would like to make my own holiday wreaths and sprays this year. What plants are best suited for this purpose and how do I condition them to last?

A:

To ensure their freshness, beauty and safety through the season, take appropriate steps in selection, conditioning and care of evergreen boughs. Wash branches thoroughly in warm water to remove dust and dirt, then rinse them in cold water. Remove any defective foliage and split the stems about 2-3" up from the ends to facilitate water uptake. Place the material in warm water and store in cool temperatures for at least eight hours prior to use. Keep the water level high by replacing any water that has evaporated from the container. All evergreen material will last longer if conditioned prior to use.

Pines and firs stand up best indoors while certain species like hemlock and spruce are notorious for dropping their needles. For the best needle retention, choose Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Fraser Fir (A. fraseri), Noble Fir (A. procera), White Fir (A. concolor), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii - not a true fir), Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris), White Pine (P. strobus).

Remember to cut off the invasive vine Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) that grows up and girdles trees. Take as much as you want as Bittersweet's orange and red fruit adds an attractive touch to wreaths and sprays.

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