by MOYA ANDREWS
Now that most of the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees, evergreen trees and shrubs are more apparent in park and garden plantings all across town. These stalwarts in the landscape provide some green relief throughout the winter and come in different shapes and sizes.
In recent years, there have been some gray, blue, and yellow tints added to the color palette of various evergreen species, and also more dwarf varieties have become available. The newer varieties are generally seen in the landscapes of more recently constructed buildings. The larger, dark green specimens in older gardens are usually yews and the tall ones mostly have a vase shape as the deer adore yews and munch on them as far up as they can reach. Since we are usually a bit taller than the deer, we can generally reach up a little higher and clip a few branches to decorate our homes for the holidays.
This is a good year for us to decorate with what we already have available as we shelter in place. Small clippings of yew foliage can be used for low centerpieces for the holiday table. Simply add three store-bought red carnations with stems cut short among the green foliage or use a few shiny balls or ornaments you already have in a closet. To anchor the items, use oasis foam, available at hobby stores, or frogs, which is what flower-holders are called in the trade.
In addition to the more common evergreen yews, other types of evergreen foliage may also be available in your garden. For example, arborvitae, hemlock, juniper, boxwood and holly are good choices. Cut pieces from the back of your shrubs or from around the base if you want to avoid the plant looking butchered, though the aforementioned varieties will grow back. Do not cut any spruces, however, as they do not regenerate.
A large bushy upright branch of an evergreen (e.g., pine) can be placed upright in a square vase and decorated like a small Christmas tree. A swag of longer evergreen branches can be tied together with wire and a big bow of ribbon and hung by a hook on the front door. Wreath shapes are available at hobby shops, and evergreen or pine cone wreaths can be fashioned on these frames. A mantel covered with greenery is the perfect showcase for your collections of ornaments, toys, shiny balls, candleholders, and other treasures. The fresh-cut greens also emit a fragrance that permeates the house, and a large vase of holly or other evergreen— with a big red bow—is the perfect gift for a neighbor or friend. As you unearth old decorative items in your closets, remember that most can be regenerated with a coat of gold, silver, or red spray paint and/or new ribbons. Many beat-up ornaments, small toys, and soldiers sprayed red will look stunning against a background of greenery on a bureau or entry table. One of my creative friends picked the large, long-stemmed, spherical heads that had dried on her hydrangea bushes and removed all of the leaves beneath the blooms. She then sprayed the flowers in three groups— bronze, silver, and gold—and combined the three colors into unusually large vases. She placed two on either side of her entryway and another on a stand under a light in her living room, which was stunning.
There is so much natural beauty around us in our landscape—even in winter—that can be brought indoors to cheer us during the holiday season. It is quite satisfying to be able to say, “I had such fun doing this with my children,” or, “I am really surprised it turned out so well!”