A GROWING CONCERN: Recycle clippings into standout holiday decor

WELL, LAST WEEK was somewhat nasty weather — and then this week, wonderful sunny skies.

Next week, Thursday in fact, family and friends gather for a celebration of “thanks.”

So many of us have so many things to be thankful for and today I will tell you why it is fortuitous to prune your evergreens now!

I will also expand on how grateful we can be for those clippings.

November and December are the primary and ideal months to prune coniferous evergreens on the Peninsula and in the Pacific Northwest.

Not only should you first prune any tree you are going to hang lights on, you should remove all dead wood, errant branches, crossover branches and those that rub upon another.

With your evergreens, now is the time to “harvest” them for artistic, horticultural and decorative uses. First, harvest them as seasonal artistic uses: Combine numerous types of evergreens arranged together and place them in pots, window boxes, planters and bare flower beds.

Red or yellow twigged dogwood branches combined with white paper birch bark, madrone, curled willow, coral bark maple or any other cool, funky colored branch makes a centerpiece have pizzazz.

One could add a more decorative touch by integrating fall and winter foliage, and, of course, lights add to the theme as well.

When laying out an evergreen arrangement made from your pruned-off evergreens (and hopefully those from or traded with your neighbors, friends and family), use ornamental kale and cabbages, use various grasses or incorporate the big white Dusty Millers that look absolutely marvelous in an evergreen display.

Heathers and heaths look great also by adding another similar texture to the mix. Using a mixture of evergreens in an arrangement over your bulbs, around the perennials as well as in and among any sensitive plants acts as the perfect insulating thermal mulch cover.

Various evergreens (more than one plus two or more particle sizes) when crossed and displayed not only look good, but effectively trap in heat and hold it in because of the loose and airy mat this mixture makes.

This means your bulbs will not emerge early, nor will other plants want to prematurely break out in the nice, mild winter days of late January and February or early March.

Then you can be decorative by using your trimmed evergreens to make door wreath or swaths. Bring branches indoors or to holiday parties and lay them out on the table arranged for a great, festive aroma.

Five or six tip-pruned branches of evergreens arranged and one of those numerous vases you have in a cupboard somewhere really can add such intriguing scents to the air and make for a multiple sensory display. And let’s emphasize those tip-pruned branches because you would either have a lot of those or a bunch of thinned out, lengthy branches because that is only one of two ways you can and should be pruning your softwoods.

Conifers respond extremely poorly when headed off (a prune anywhere across the branch directly above a node) in aged wood of 3 years or older.

In fact, most do not respond at all, so they look just as woody and dead today as they did five years ago when you cut those evergreens back from the driveway and sidewalk line — because they were headed off along old woody branches back in the interior and by their nature do not branch off old wood.

If you must remove a big piece of evergreen, use a thinning cut, which removes the branch or limb at the exact point it radiates off another branch, limb or main trunk.

Thinning is a primary way to prune — you head off evergreens at their tips — because in turn, it makes them thicker and lusher (this is how Christmas trees are produced by shearing or heading off the tips of all branches).

Eventually, you have to thin out the thick canopy that grows in reaction to those heading cuts, and thus you harvest your conifers.

So go harvest your evergreens, then arrange them in fabulous artistic works of horticultural masterpieces that will beautify your home and neighborhood, bring enjoyment to yourself and others, all the while illuminating the darkness in an artful display of holiday and solstice cheer.

And please … stay well for the holidays!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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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