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Volume 16, Issue 50 - December 11 - December 17, 2008
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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Gather the Greens in Your Garden

From boxwood to white pine, you’ve many evergreen choices

Here in Bay Country, we have an abundance of evergreen plants to choose from. Many — but not all — narrowleaf greens will hold their needles if you treat them right, while adding beauty and aroma to your home. For long-lasting holiday greens, gather arborvitae, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, junipers, Nordman red cedar, red pine, Scots pine and white pine.

Many broadleaf evergreens will also hold up throughout the holidays. Choose from American holly, cherry laurel, Chinese holly, English holly, English ivy, mountain laurel, pachysandra, periwinkle, rhododendron and southern magnolia. 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 as soon as you bring them indoors and immersing them in 100-degree water. Change the water at least every other day.

Break Boxwood for the Holidays

Back in colonial days, gardeners pruned their boxwoods by breaking branches, just prior to the holidays for use in making decorations. You will find that in cold weather, boxwood branches become very brittle and can easily be broken from the main stems. This may seem crude, but it is a very effective method of pruning boxwood and making maximum use of the prunings.

Boxwood branches have many decorating uses, such as in making wreaths, sprays, kissing balls and centerpieces. To increase their longevity in the home, carry along a pail of hot water, about 100 degrees, and immediately place the broken end of the branches in the water. The cold stems will absorb the hot water readily.

By breaking branches 12 to 14 inches long, you punch holes through the boxwood canopy, allowing light to penetrate into the center of the plant. Breaks made when temperatures are low are clean and will heal quickly come spring. Another advantage to pruning boxwoods by breaking branches during winter months is you have more time, so you can do a better job. Winter pruning also gives you a head start on spring pruning.

Still another advantage of breaking branches is that you reduce chances of spreading canker diseases from plant to plant. Pruning boxwoods during the summer months with hedge or pruning shears increases your chances of spreading canker-causing diseases from plant to plant with the tools.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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