Laws protect plants home decorators seek

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Betsey Thomson

The Well-Tended Garden by Betsey Thomson

It’s time to prune my evergreens so that I can utilize the trimmings for my holiday decorations. When I make my annual door wreaths, all the greens are from my own property.

Under the Christmas Greens Law, many plants are protected from being removed from state or town properties and only with written permission from private property. Most states now have that policy, and I can see why. A couple of years ago, a very large stand of winterberry growing on the side of my road was completely destroyed by over enthusiastic pickers.

Some of the protected plants include American holly, winterberry, inkberry, rhododendron, red cedar, Northern and Atlantic white cedars, hemlock, spruces, balsam fir, white pine and the two club moss called creeping Jenny and princess pine. Those last two have a multitude of common names so identify them as lycopodium obscurum and L. complanatum.

I use a little bit of each plus pinecones for my creations but all are from planned pruning with the exception of the club moss. There is an abundant supply in my woods that I carefully thin out. Colorado blue spruce, though not listed, makes a bold contrast in any décor, but it and Norway spruce have very poor needle retention. Some cedars can have a very unpleasant odor, so bad that my cats spit and attack them.

My wreaths usually hold into late January. By then, the hemlock and spruce parts will have lost their needles, the club moss will be bleached out, birdsEvergreen texture will have feasted on the holly berries and some bows will have detached and blown off to be found come spring.

Before working with any evergreen material, rinse it well in warm water to remove hidden critters and dirt then rinse again in very cool water. Branches used for garlands should have the ends split a few inches, placed in deep container of warm water then stored in a cool place for eight to 10 hours before using. Inside garlands will appreciate a daily misting.

Choosing a tree need not be a challenge. Select one with pliable needles and springy branches then thump it on the ground to check for freshness. The more needles that fall the drier the tree so select early before the precut ones do dry out. For every four hours a tree is out of water, a seal forms on the cut end that prevents the tree from absorbing water. Make a fresh cut to allow absorption once purchased then get it into a bucket of water. Until fully revived, a tree can drink up to a gallon a day. The freshest trees come from local tree farms.

Christmas decorations with greens have a fantastic history. Did you know that spiders are the reason we use tinsel?  For some interesting background, Google, history, origin, legend and the decoration of Christmas or Christmas symbols and their meanings. Happy holidays!

Betsey Thomson is a University of Rhode Island lifetime master gardener.

Contact her at betseythomson@verizon.net.

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