The beginning of December is a good time to trim hardy evergreens such as cedar, fir, holly and nandina or heavenly bamboo.
Gather the best of your pruning crumbs and use them to make fresh wreaths, swags or to poke the cut end into the soil of your container gardens.
Tip: If you need to store cut evergreens for a craft project later on in the month, place them into a plastic garbage bag, leave the bag slightly open and keep outdoors.
Moisture trapped in the bag will keep the cut greens fresh and winter temperatures will take the place of refrigeration. Just be sure to keep the bag in the shade.
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Q. My neighbor has a huge hedge of holly. She said I could help myself as I love real greens for Christmas decorating. Problem is last year, when I placed the cut holly on my mantle, it dried up in just a few days.
One more question – are there any special tips for pruning holly? S.E., Puyallup
A. Holly is not the jolly cut green that the song makes it out to be.
The shiny green leaves dry up quickly once brought indoors, so deck your halls on the same day as your holiday party unless you can keep the cut ends of holly in water.
Florists or craft stores also offer a product called Holly Dip. It coats the foliage of the holly so it will not shrivel up as fast, but adds just a few extra days to their mantle life.
Artificial holly, dried flower heads of hydrangeas or fresh boughs of cedar are more practical ways to get a natural look when it comes to holiday decorations.
As for your second question, you can cut that holly hedge anytime and anyway. It is pretty hard to harm an established holly plant just by pruning it.
Q. Is winter the wrong time to put a bark mulch on top of trees and shrubs?
We moved into a new home and the yard needs sprucing up before the holidays. We don’t have time to relandscape, but I am thinking that if we pull the weeds and put down fresh mulch, it would make this mess of a yard look a lot better. H.H., Federal Way
A. Anytime is a good time to add mulch on top of your soil and nothing beats the almost instant gratification of weed-free beds with a fresh frosting of mulch.
The one warning about using wood chips or bark around trees and shrubs is to avoid piling the mulch up around the trunk of the plants. Having bark chips touching tree and shrub trunks can encourage disease and burrowing rodents.
Don’t build volcanoes of mulch around plants. Imagine laying down doughnuts of mulch instead. Arrange the mulch so that it barely covers the soil around the base of the plant but becomes two to four inches deep as you go outward toward the root zone.
Q. Is it too late to plant bulbs? Just found the bag of tulips I was going to plant this fall. T. email
A. Dig in.
Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils prefer fall planting but as long as they get six to eight weeks of cold weather you will most likely have something to tiptoe around this spring.