Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2007
Regional Report

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Our mini-tree with vegetable and fruit ornaments highlights our holiday buffet.

Holiday Decor From Your Garden

The garden is a treasure trove of possibilities for holiday decorations. Pyracantha berries alternated with popcorn make attractive garlands. Oranges, lemons, or apples sprinkled with cinnamon or cardamom and stuck with whole cloves are delightfully fragrant pomander balls. Rose hips add bright red and orange color to green wreaths. Vines from grape, honeysuckle, wisteria, willow, or ivy will bend into many usable shapes. Eucalyptus pods, pinecones, acorns, and magnolia leaf clusters provide many shades of brown. Bufford's holly, which grows better here than the traditional variety, gives us stickery-leaved green with red berries. And, of course, there's mistletoe.

Garden Prunings for Decor
Prune conifers and broad-leaved evergreens to shape them, lessen chances of wind and snow damage, and provide trimmings for holiday decorations. Branches that hold their shape well indoors include incense cedar, fir, laurel, magnolia, oleander, pine, pittosporum, podocarpus, and viburnum. The red berries from cotoneaster, nandina, and pyracantha always serve as a bright accent.

Herbs, too, can trim yule logs, flavor jelly, give fragrance to clusters of twigs or wreaths, and perfume the air in stovetop potpourris.

Decorating a Live Tree
If you plan to decorate a live Christmas tree indoors and then move or plant it outdoors afterwards, choose a smaller size tree, as it will adapt better than a more mature one. After you bring the tree home, water it well and store it in an unheated garage or outbuilding for two or three days as a halfway spot till you move it indoors. Keep the rootball moist and the boughs misted. Once the tree is in place indoors away from heating vents or fireplaces, either water it directly or by scattering ice cubes around the soil surface to slowly seep down into the entire rootball.

Limit the tree's time indoors to a maximum of seven days; fewer if the house is very warm. Move the tree outside again to the garage, shed, or protected spot for at least two weeks before moving or planting it in the open. The longer you enjoy the tree in the warm house, the longer it will need to readapt to outdoor conditions.

Small Norfolk Island pines can become mini-Christmas trees, with their own tiny lights and ornaments. Provide each room in the house with its own individually decorated tree, such as cookie cutters hung with red ribbon bows for the kitchen tree. Other living plants for indoor color include African violets, azaleas, begonias, Christmas cactus, Christmas (Jerusalem) cherry, cyclamen, and kalanchoe, as well as the ever-dependable chrysanthemum and poinsettia.

Be sure to give these living plants bright indirect light, keep them cool and out of drafts, and water them just enough to keep the potting mix barely moist. Cacti and succulents are also good choices, but they need direct sunlight and very little water.

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