The Basics of Fresh Evergreen Boughs
by Rob Sproule,
Scent is the most intimate of human senses. A soothing scent can bring back tender memories and instantly comfort us. In the garden, we plant sweetly scented flowers, like Heliotrope and Pansies, where we sit to relax after a long day. When we move indoors in the fall, we don’t have to sacrifice the scents we love.
We often remember our childhood Christmases by the smells that lingered in our homes while we spend time with our families. For most of us, it’s important to pass those memories onto our own children.
One of the most classic Christmas smells is that of rich, earthy evergreen boughs, usually from the family Christmas tree. If you’re like the majority of Albertans, however, you’ll be hanging your ornaments on an artificial tree this season. The growth of artificial trees has left many pining for the freshness of live evergreens in the home.
As we opted for the convenience of artificial, we lost the crisp scent of evergreen boughs in the home. To fill that gap, the past few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of fresh boughs like cedar, pine, and spruce.
Fresh Boughs in your Home
There’s much more to fresh greens than spruce and cedar. There are now dozens of types of boughs available, from rich red cedar to dusky magnolia and berried juniper to explosive winterberry. On top of boughs, there are dozens of types of branches and cones to accessorize them.
Think of fresh boughs like cut flowers. They are raw material ready to be turned into a work of art. It’s the perfect opportunity to be as creative as you can and make an urn liner, fresh basket, or centerpiece to call your own. Putting them together isn’t nearly as hard as you are probably thinking. Get some wet oasis (florist foam), or moist sand for larger projects like urns, and start sticking in the stems.
If you would rather not get sap on your hands, most garden centres have professional designers who will happily make arrangements specifically for you. If you have a treasured Christmas keepsake or container, as long as it is able to get wet, ask them to include it to make it more personalized.
Shopping for Fresh Greens
Just as with cut flowers, you want to bring home boughs that are as fresh cut as possible so they will last the entire holiday season. Go somewhere that has a good selection and sells a fair bit of them. I would avoid the grocery and box stores that pile them up at the front entrance and don’t take care of them.
Pick up the boughs before you buy them. Just as with a live tree, give them a very gentle shake. If it rains needles, move on. Look for boughs that smell crisp and fresh and that where the needles are pliable. These will last the longest.
Caring for Fresh Greens
Evergreen boughs are pretty low maintenance. If you are going to put them outside, then leave them outside through the season. If they freeze and stay frozen they will last much longer than if they thaw and freeze again and again. If you do get a warm snap and they thaw out, think about spraying them down to keep the moisture in.
If you bring them inside, than remember that they will desiccate faster if they are exposed to direct sunlight or left near a heating vent.
I suggest leaving a mister bottle near the wreath, swag, or arrangement you have indoors. When you think about it, give the needles a healthy spritz. The more moisture you put in, the longer it will last. Remember that boughs need moisture in order to exhale humidity and, most importantly, that deliciously earthy scent.