Q. I would like to make my own holiday wreaths and sprays. What evergreen plants are best and how do I make them last?
To ensure their freshness, beauty and safety through the season, take appropriate steps in selection, conditioning and care of evergreen boughs. Wash branches thoroughly in warm water to remove dust and dirt, then rinse them in cold water. Remove any defective foliage and split the stems about 2 to 3" up from the ends to facilitate water uptake. Place the material in warm water and store in cool temperatures for at least eight hours prior to use. Keep the water level high by replacing any water that has evaporated from the container. All evergreen material will last longer if conditioned in this manner prior to use.
Pines and Firs stand up best indoors while certain species like hemlock and spruce are notorious for dropping their needles. For the best needle retention, choose Abies balsamea (balsam fir), A. fraseri (Fraser fir), A. procera (noble fir), A. concolor (white fir), Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir, not a true fir), Pinus sylvestris (Scotch pine) or P. strobus (white pine).
Remember to cut off the invasive vine Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet) that grows up and girdles trees. Take as much as you want; bittersweet's orange and red fruit adds an attractive touch to wreaths and sprays.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service