Monday, December 1, 2014

Adirondack Holidays: Decoration And Gift Ideas

F_Krüger_VorweihnachtI love greenery and lights this time of year and it doesn’t take much to make a difference. I’m in awe of the super creative folks but as long as I can see some deep green and lights, I’m content. If you feel daunted at the thought of making your own wreath, consider a simple swag for your door. Gather a handful of nice looking greens, wrap them together with green wire, add a ribbon and you’re done.

I recently discovered one of the easiest ways to decorate. I use the planters on our porch that were full of flowers all summer, and fill them with greenery. You can use a variety of greens to provide different textures and color. Cut the greens in varying lengths but mostly about twice as long as the pot is high and stuff them into the potting mix to hold them in place.

If your pot or planter is empty of soil you can still add greens, but I find the soil or potting mix holds them in place better.  If the soil has frozen, bring the pots into the house to thaw out to make them easier to work with. Shove the stems a good 6 to 8 inches into to the potting mix and keep adding them until it looks nice and full. This would work well for window boxes as well.

The greens I like to use for these winter planters include balsam fir, white pine, white cedar, red cedar, and yew. Hemlock is abundant but doesn’t hold its needles well after being cut. You can add whatever else you like and have available including pinecones, interesting bare stems, artificial berries, a bow, you name it. I also like to add a string of mini lights once the arrangement is all set and I set these pots near our front door and porch steps.

Every year we talk about choosing and caring for holiday plants, so here’s a review. Plants and flower arrangements are an ideal gift for anyone.

•  If your friend is a gardener and houseplant lover, then look for a plant that will last a long time under their care such as cyclamen, Norfolk Island pine or Christmas cactus.

•  If your friend is not so interested in having more houseplants then choose a plant that can be enjoyed while in flower then tossed out with no guilt. This group includes poinsettias, potted mums, amaryllis, and cut flower arrangements.

•  You can also choose a less showy houseplant such as pothos that will grow well for almost anyone and dress it up with a bow for the holidays.

•  Norfolk Island pines are actually small trees that can stand in for a Christmas tree for folks with small spaces. You can find them just a foot or two tall, or older ones that may 4 feet or more in height. Indoors they don’t need full sunlight and will eventually reach the ceiling, but that will take several years.

To help holiday plants last as long as possible, pay close attention to watering and their location. Remove the foil from around the pot and place it on a sturdy saucer to make it easier to dump out any water that accumulates there. Do not let any houseplant stand in water for more than an hour or two. If you really want to leave the foil on, be extra careful that water doesn’t accumulate. One way would be to remove it from the foil for watering and let the pot drain in a sink, then replace it in the foil.

Consider the location carefully and try to avoid drafts from windows and outside doors as well as blasts of heat from radiators and wood stoves. A fireplace mantel seems like an ideal place for greenery and plants but the dry heat that it produces is murder on them. And don’t forget that cut greens are a real fire hazard once they become dry and brittle. Keep them away from any candles or open flames and remove them once they start shedding their needles.

Illustration: Father and son with their dog collecting a tree in the forest, painting by Franz Krüger (1797–1857).

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Amy Ivy is a Regional Vegetable and Berry Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program. Amy also often leads local foods production research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. She can be reached at 518-570-5991,

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