Prudent Pruning for the Holidays

There\'s nothing like fresh greens for Christmas decorations - and no, it\'s not too early to think about holiday bedecking, even if the sight of jack-o-lanterns jostling Santa Clauses at the department store sets your teeth on edge. While you\'re cutting back dried materials during your fall cleanup, think about saving some of the more attractive specimens for decorative arrangements. Decking your halls with prunings makes good ecological sense. Given the price of bought greens, real or fake, you might call it pruning for dollars. If you\'ve got a garden with well-established evergreens, you\'ve probably get candidates for timely trimming. There are many ways of decorating with greens; as swags or sprays, massed on a mantel, arranged in vases. You can also use them outdoors, both in wreaths and other outdoor décor, but also in pots. While gathering, look for a variety of forms and colors to keep your arrangements interesting. Remember the following design elements: Substance: Conifers (needled evergreens) like spruce, some kinds of pine, yew, and junipers provide mass. They anchor your composition. Structure and height: Conifers with interesting angular branches, such as creeping juniper or scrub pine, add interest, height and texture. Color: Cedars and their relatives, such as cypress, lighten the arrangement with their feathery foliage. “Golden” or chartreuse make good accents, as does Colorado blue spruce; select the most silvery sprigs. Pizzazz: If you’re fortunate enough to have an evergreen (Southern) magnolia, a single rosette of its leathery, glossy leaves makes a spectacular center in a basket or large vase. Don’t limit yourself to evergreens. Check your garden for shrubs with colored bark, like dogwood or blueberries, to add height as well as color. Remember, when putting together arrangements, you’ll want to have more material than you’ll actually use, so you can pick and choose individual specimens.