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Your guide to Chesaeake Country's freshest produce and more!

Jolly Greens and Grinchy Greens

Evergreens to welcome home — and those to avoid

As Christmas approaches, it’s time to bring fresh greens, with their piney aromas, into your home. Here in Bay Country, we have an abundance of evergreens to choose from. Many will last through the season, even without water. Others dry up too quickly to come inside.
    To add both beauty and aroma to your home, choose narrow-leaf greens like arborvitae, white pine, Scots pine, red pine, Douglas fir, Canaan fir, Nordman fir, juniper, red cedar or any of the cedrus species. These stay-green varieties have lasting power when cut for arrangements, centerpieces, wreaths, swags or roping.
    Broadleaf evergreens to bring inside include southern magnolia, American holly, English holly, Chinese holly, cherry laurel, mountain laurel, rhododendron, pachysandra, English ivy and periwinkle. Japanese hollies are plentiful, but their foliage does not stay as attractive for as long as the other varieties.
    Increase the life of greens by cutting one to two inches from the base of the stem and immersing in 100-degree water at least until it cools to room temperature or until you’re ready to use. In vase arrangements, change the water every other day.
    To keep them green longer, spray the foliage thoroughly with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf within 24 hours after they have been placed in water. Stems and leaves should absorb as much water as possible before an anti-desiccant is applied. If the anti-desiccant is applied before the water, the stems will not absorb as much.

Evergreens to avoid welcoming home
    Grinchy greens include hemlock and spruce in the narrow-leaf evergreen category. These two species will drop their needles within a week after they have been cut, regardless of how you care for them. Storing hemlock and spruce under cool temperatures — which works for many greens — will not revive them. Applying anti-desiccants will only lengthen their lushness by a few days.
    A third narrow-leaf evergreen to avoid is yew, especially if you have children or house cats. The needles and seeds of yews contain high levels of poisonous alkaloids, which can easily move from hands and paws to mouths. The red fleshy fruit of the yew is sweet and not poisonous, but the seeds within are highly poisonous. Many cows have died after eating branches and needles of outdoor yews discarded by neighbors pruning their pastures. Deer, however, can eat yews safely.
    In the broad-leaf evergreen
category, avoid using Photinia (red top) and euonymus. Both dry up quickly even after being placed in water.