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WHAT'S BLOOMIN'

Gardening column: How to pick Christmas trees, greenery, poinsettias, and keep them fresh

Friday, December 7, 2012 - 12:01 am

We're at holiday time once more and in the throes of “decking the halls” and are shopping for either a freshly cut Christmas tree, a lovely pine scented “real” wreath and garlands, and/or a poinsettia plant.

Here are a few tips to help us pick the one that is just right and hints at how to make it last all through the holidays:

Trees

•For a fresh-cut tree, tug gently on some needles, and if most of them stay put, you've found a good one.

For another good way to check on how fresh the tree is, shake it a bit to see how many needles fall. Some of our evergreens will seasonally drop needles anyway — and that is not abnormal. But if many shatter and fall when you are shopping, move on and make another choice.

•Remember this was a live tree and would have withstood storms of ice and snow. Since it is going indoors, it is best not to set it near a heat vent. Even better, try to find a cool, drafty place near a window or sliding doors — and, of course, position it safely away from the fireplace.

•Before putting it in the stand, trim the bottom of the trunk in case it has started to seal over. If that happens, it will not draw water properly.

•Plain tap water is best to use instead of some of the fancy mixtures. Make sure the water reservoir is kept full, which means you will probably need to top it off every day.

•Instead of keeping the lights on all the time, use them sparingly. Even though many of our new types lights do not give off a lot of heat, it is enough to cause the tree to dry out more quickly.

Garlands and wreaths

•Use these same tips for garlands and wreaths if they are decorating an area in the house. If outside, they will, by the nature of things, last longer.

•If they are used in the home, arrange garlands and wreaths so you can spritz them with water everyday — this will help keep them fresh longer and avoid needle drop.

•Treat them as you do your tree by avoiding areas near heat vents.

•Treat all your outdoor decorations that you take indoors with care, paying attention to their needs, and they will give you and your family a lot of pleasure throughout the Christmas season.

Poinsettias

•When picking prime poinsettias, make sure the foliage is green almost down to the soil line.

•Make sure the bracts, or colored leaves, are bright red or vibrant with whatever color they are supposed to be.

•To prolong the color of the poinsettia, give the plant as much natural light as possible.

•Poinsettias are cold-sensitive, and even touching a cold window can cause the bracts to wilt.

•When buying them, be sure to add protective covering over the plant and set it inside the vehicle as soon as possible, then inside the house right away.

•Water with a little fertilizer dissolved in it will benefit the plant. Check the soil for dryness or a soggy feeling. Don't overwater or underwater, or you will cause plant stress and the plant will soon drop leaves and bracts and die off.

Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What's Bloomin' blog at news-sentinel.com. This column is the writer's opinion.