Top 5 Ways to Keep Evergreen Boughs and Cut Greens Fresh Through the Holiday Season

Christmas is just not Christmas without including some fresh greenery in your decorating plans.

Fresh cut greenery can be collected on your own property or purchased from the local garden centre. Decorative holiday greenery falls into two categories:  Evergreen such as spruce, pine, cedar, fir and juniper with blue berries. These greeneries can be used inside your home and out. It is usually available in wreaths, garland, and boughs. 

The second category is greenery such as fragrant eucalyptus, magnolia branches, variegated euonymus, red huckleberry, curly willow and red/yellow twig dogwood. Again these deciduous branches can be used outside but some may experience leaf curl or change color when frozen. They are used mostly for indoor arrangements and bouquets. 

If you are creating your own holiday masterpieces the secret to making a dazzling display with any of the above is to mix the different branches for a variation in leaf and needle textures. I like to include the deciduous greenery in my outdoor planters and when the leaves freeze, curl and turn color, it only adds to the texture of the arrangement.

The biggest question I have had from customers over the years is how do I keep my greenery fresh through the holiday season? If you are used to buying your greenery every Christmas you know that it is plentiful early in the season but closer to Christmas, harder to find at the stores.

Here are the Top 5 Tips to keep greenery fresh through the holidays.

Evergreen boughs should be purchased fresh. By fresh I mean no browning, yellowing, and very little needle fall when you shake a bundle. When you get these home, make sure you briefly leave them to dry inside and then put them outside in a large cardboard box, spread out in the box so they keep dry.  Loosely close the lid and keep the box by the back door or in an area out of the full sun, any snow cover, and easily accessible. The key here is to keep them aerated, dry and cold.  

If you have also purchased deciduous branches you can take them inside but if they are leafy such as eucalyptus, magnolia or euonymus, strip the lower branches of leaves, fresh cut and put into water. Every two to three days, drain the water, clean the container out with a light bleach - water mix, and  fill with fresh water. Cleanliness is the secret to longevity. This will keep them fresh until you build your wreath, outdoor planter or table arrangement.

Leafless branches such as red dogwood, curly willow, and red huckleberry should be kept in a cool room or outside in the cold. Bring them in to thaw a day before using them.   

Inside or out, keep your greenery out of direct sun. The winter sun’s rays are powerful and very drying. Once dried out and browned, you cannot rejuvenate live evergreen decorations. 

The day before you begin to decorate bring the evergreens inside, strip the lower branches of needles, make a fresh cut on each branch and put in a large bucket of warm water. This will rehydrate the remaining needles. This also applies to working with deciduous greens - always make a fresh cut when working with each piece of branch. 

If you are making table arrangements, cut the wet floral foam to fit the inside of your chosen container. Always green up your containers before adding decorative pieces such as berries and bows. Check the arrangements for water every two days. It is amazing how much water the greenery will drink up. Lightly mist indoor arrangements every two days but omit this step if you have flowers or poinsettia bracts in your arrangement. Misting will mar the blooms.

When you have completed your outdoor live decorations and before you put on the bows, decorations or lights, lightly mist with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt Pruf.  Do this over a small tarp or newspapers on the table/floor.  I like to use two applications of anti-desiccant.  Let the pieces dry thoroughly before finishing and place outside.   

FYI - Graceful cedar branches in a clear glass or decorative vase by themselves make a very classy display on a mantelpiece or as a low cedar arrangement with pinecones on the table. Cedar exudes a wonderful fragrance. Used on their own in water, they will last for a long time. Don’t forget to remove the needles from the branch ends that will be in water. 

Always use very sharp pruners – this makes all the difference in the world when working with live branches. 

Wear gloves when working with pine as cut pine branches produce a very sticky sap which is hard to remove from the hands.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published