TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – ‘Tis the Pruning Season


Thanksgiving is here so now is the time to concentrate on decorating your home for the upcoming Christmas season.  Finding the right materials to decorate for the holidays is as easy as taking a stroll through your gardens.  Personally, I find it so rewarding to use some of my own landscape plants as a source of greenery.  Cutting your own greenery as needed is about as fresh as it gets.

We have now had a good hard freeze and a killing frost that has helped, finally, send our plants, especially evergreen plants, into dormancy for the next few months.

So, it is a good time to do some “selective” pruning of your shrubs and trees.  Realize that I am using the word “selective” when I talk about pruning evergreens this time of year.  Heavy pruning should be done in late winter and early spring.  Light shaping or trimming can be done now.

Did you know that some of our beloved evergreen plants that are used for holiday trimmings have an interesting history?  The ancient Romans used holly and laurel branches as symbols of friendship.  In medieval England, Holly was kept in the home or on the person to protect against witchcraft.  In Germany, Holly was a church decoration that was taken home to ward off lightning.  A Christmas wreath made of evergreens is another decoration that comes from Europe – the evergreen branches symbolize eternal life, while the circular shape is the emblem of eternity.

Using some of your own evergreen clippings for holiday decorating can be fun and exciting.  Here are some favorite plants to “selectively” prune at this time:


A Richmond favorite to use with all decorations.  Tip pruning and thinning out can be done now.  Boxwood can develop too much density and have internal problems if sheared too often.


Another favorite with all decorations.  Hollies offer beautiful glossy green or variegated leaves and red berries.


Small clippings from the ends of such plans as Blue Spruce, Canadian hemlock, Deodora cedar, Gold Mop cypress, and junipers can add color and texture to any arrangement.


Nandina Domestica has beautiful red and green foliage with large clusters of red berries.

Heat and dry air shorten the life of all cut greens.  To ensure that fresh greenery last through the holiday season, keep the cuttings cool and moist as long as possible, preferably with the cut ends in a continuous supply of water.  I will use an Oasis as the support for arrangements in containers as it holds moisture around the cut ends.  Another idea is to apply Wilt Proof to your cuttings in order to extend the life of greenery.  Wilt Proof is an anti-transpirant wax that will coat your greens, helping to retain moisture.

Another important tip:  avoid placing fresh cuttings directly on furniture.  Use a cloth under your arrangements to prevent sap from taking the finish off of wood surfaces.

Yet another important tip:  Don’t throw away your Christmas greens or cut tree after the holidays.  Cut greenery and branches from the tree can be layered on your perennial beds for an instant, loose mulch.  These cuttings are easily removed in the spring and then added to a compost pile.

Enjoy your holidays.  And, enjoy the self-satisfaction of using some of your own landscape plants for trimmings during this special time.


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2 thoughts on “TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – ‘Tis the Pruning Season”

  1. Thanks. Doug. A great memory for me is making Christmas wreath every year with my dad in Southern California. He was a great gardner. As was his English mother. We trimmed evergreens and just spontaneously started building, decorating with little balls, etc. I learned that gathering and creating is a joy!

    • Pam,
      Thank you for sharing this memory with all of us of you with your dad making arrangements. I do it every year. And, years ago I had my two sons assist and create.
      Great memories. Happy Holidays, Doug

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