A GROWING CONCERN: Pruning for decorations

IT IS SOMEWHAT spooky, almost eerie, that the second most decorated holiday of the year is Halloween.

And since fright night precedes the deck-the-halls granddaddy of them all, Christmas —along with Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Islamic new year and, of course, the winter solstice — now is the time to start thinking about artistic holiday and seasonal displays.

Last week, we discussed sowing your grass seed as well as the virtues of planting now, today, tomorrow or the next few weeks, specifically because of the weather and the oncoming onset of plant dormancy.

Dormancy comes into play again today because evergreen and coniferous trees and bushes on the Peninsula prefer to be pruned in November and December.

Most of us own evergreen plants.

Or we know friends and neighbors, businesses, churches and others who have evergreen conifers and holly plants.

There’s nothing like helping a friend, neighbor, co-worker or the boss, so go out and get pruning.

Pruning now is not only beneficial for your evergreens, it also produces a valuable by-product: the clippings.

It is these tips and thinned-out branches that we covet now, because they are the base material for a multitude of holiday displays and fine winter gardening.

The Port Angeles Garden Club might even need your leftovers for their holiday wreath making.

As you plant your new botanical purchases now, when the climatic conditions are ideal, mulch is desired after you plant, and pine boughs and evergreen tips are a fabulous decorative top-dressing.

In fact, a multi-crisscrossed placement of evergreen prunings should be placed all around your flowering perennials, among your roses and over all bare-ground bed areas.

A perfect way to keep your spring bulbs from emerging too early and suffering frost damage is to mulch the ground with mixed evergreen boughs from your pruning work.

If you are very creative, think of it as a quaint floral display.

Using various colors and varieties, stick branches into the ground and add holly branches, dogwood stems, lights, gourds and ornamental grass. It can be an incredible fall/winter work of art.

This is one of my favorite tricks of the trade, because it mulches over plants, bare ground and bulb beds and makes new containers, pots and baskets look marvelous.

Our weather is such that evergreens and decorative branches, such as thick white birch stems, will last well from this November until next March.

The colors and textures of evergreens are very appealing.

Then for Thanksgiving, if you add pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, fall mums, Indian corn, hay bales and colored leaves, you have a quintessential Better Homes and Gardens ornamental masterpiece.

It gets even better as Thanksgiving gives way to December.

Out go the gourds, hay and cornstalks and in come colored lights, variegated holly, mistletoe, decorative balls and bells, ribbon and bows, for the perfect Norman Rockwell front-door scene.

These creative, artistic holiday displays are one reason why gardening is so darned fun.

Start an inventory of your overgrown evergreens as well as that of your friends, businesses, and elderly folks down the road.

Be a hero and volunteer to help clean up and prune out overgrown driveways, sidewalks and window areas.

Think of trading your yellow tips for someone’s blue, or your cypress for another’s fir or spruce.

The more textures, colors, types and individual characteristics of evergreens you have, the more spectacular and visually stimulating the arrangements will be, and the greater fun you will have creating the display.

Also, you never ever can have enough.

Really, I have been paid to do this kind of work for almost 40 years and I never have enough clippings.

And do not forget, this is the ideal and perfect time to prune your evergreens.

Be aware that nothing can so permanently damage your evergreens and conifers as incorrect pruning.

Got that?

Nothing can destroy evergreens more completely than incorrect pruning, so only do thinning cuts, or only clip this year’s or last year’s growth.

With cold weather and the holidays in mind, next week I will be talking about ice, lights, art and community service as we explore how you can learn and create joy for visitors and residents alike.

Keep your work gloves dry.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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