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Coastal Gardening: Fresh or faux holiday décor — why not both?

Nothing says “the holiday season” like Christmas trees, wreaths, garland and candles. When it comes to decking your halls, are you a “fresh” or “faux” decorator?

Both types have pros and cons. For instance, faux allows for years of use. It’s relatively inexpensive. One con is that it’s made from petroleum byproducts, and it becomes a problem when you’re ready to dispose of it.

As for fresh greenery, its fragility naturally makes it temporary. When selecting fresh plants and foliage for holiday decorating, you must consider the lifespan, the location where it will be used and your ability to keep it fresh longer by adding water.

I try to use a combination of fresh and artificial foliage. This option can be very cost effective while also giving you longevity — the best of both worlds.

Here are some helpful tips to consider as you ready your home for the holidays:

• When reusing an artificial wreath, you might try augmenting it with fresh boughs of cedar, pine and/or magnolia. Cut fresh greenery early in the morning and hydrate overnight. A product dip, Flower Fresh, helps maintain freshness for arrangements, so I recommend it for all fresh flowers and greenery.

Wire greenery to the artificial wreath, and remember to mist the wreath every few days to help prolong its life. The same technique can be used for swags, centerpieces and artificial trees.

• Early in my career while living on a very limited budget, I attended a holiday open house at an upscale garden center in Jackson. Spying a gorgeously decorated tree, I realized it was not within my means, but I desperately sought a less expensive way to recreate the look. I purchased a fresh tree that had some issues. The branches were widely spaced and not very uniform; but the price was right. I cut branches of Burford holly from my mother-in-law’s yard, spray painted them gold and tucked them in various spots among the widely spaced branches of the fresh tree. It worked, and I was pleased with my ingenuity. Don’t be afraid to get creative to achieve your décor goals.

• Many homeowners buy and install their fresh holiday trees soon after Thanksgiving. This is four to five weeks before Christmas, so bear in mind that falling dry needles and strings of lights could become a fire hazard.

• Always try to select the freshest tree available. Have the trunk trimmed several inches shorter, and place it in a tub or bucket of water overnight. These trees are harvested in the mountains before the first snow, so they already are fairly dry before arriving at your local store or tree lot. Cutting a few inches from the trunk allows the pores not callused over to be exposed and the tree can take up water, extending its freshness.

• Nothing smells as great as a fresh tree, wreath or swag. I encourage you to buy from a local Christmas tree farm. The tree can be selected early, then cut closer to the season.

Happy holidays!

Written by Darlene Underwood

Darlene Underwood is a Mississippi master gardener, national
accredited flower show judge and Garden Clubs of Mississippi
third vice-president. Reach her at

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