‘Tis the season for Christmas trees (and no spiders)

With the holiday season here, readers wonder about trees, insects and keeping things fresh.

The second week of December is when cold weather puts outdoor plants to sleep for the winter. You can now do some winter pruning if you want to harvest branches of cedar, pine and holly for outdoor décor. The easiest way to spruce up an empty porch pot or container garden is to poke the cut ends of your pruning crumbs into the potting soil and create an arrangement of greens that will last for weeks outdoors.

If you need to store cut greens to use indoors or for wreath-making, place them inside a plastic garbage bag and leave them outdoors with the opening undone to allow for air circulation. Store your greens out of the sun with some moisture left on the branches. It is the dry heat inside homes that quickly dries out fresh greens.

Q. We have a new landscape so instead of a cut Christmas tree this year we want to invest in a tree for our yard. What type of tree will do best as an indoor Christmas tree for a few weeks? We are considering a Japanese pine, a Cedrus deodora or a Dwarf Alberta Spruce. We will transplant this tree into the ground as soon as the holiday season is over. T.K., Bonney Lake

A. I pick none of the above. Bringing a potted outdoor tree from the nursery indoors for more than a day or two is cruel and unusual punishment to the tree. The warmth will force the plant out of winter dormancy, so when it does go back outdoors the cold weather shocks the confused plant and damage or death is the result. There is also the side effect of dry air and roots to consider. It is more practical to place the potted tree on a deck or patio, decorate with outdoor ornaments and enjoy from the window looking out. (Can you tell I have tried and failed to keep living Christmas trees healthy for a few weeks indoors? If anyone has been successful share your tips.)

Q. Hope you can solve a problem for us. Last year my husband cut a tree from the woods and we brought it indoors. The next morning I found bugs, including spiders, all over the tree. He wants to cut another tree but spray it with pesticides before bringing it indoors. I don’t like the smell of pesticides. I also don’t like spiders. Any suggestions? N.H., Orting

A. The simple solution is to hose off the cut tree with a strong jet of water before bringing it indoors. The spiders and other stowaways are good for birds and the garden so hose off the tree on the lawn or someplace where the insects can escape.(In Germany, if you find an abandoned bird nest in the tree it means good luck.) Keeping your cut tree fresh with the cut end in water will help to keep any small critters clinging to your tree instead of exploring your living room in search of moisture.

Q. I want to use a fresh garland of cedar and fir greens indoors to wrap around my fireplace mantel and up the stairway. Last year I did a lot of work making the garland by wiring together cut greens but after just a few days the whole thing dried up and made a mess. What is the trick to keeping cut greens fresh indoors? D., Renton

A. Wait until Christmas Eve to bring cut greens indoors if you want to play it safe. Unless the cut end of cedar, holly and fir branches are kept in water or kept outdoors the foliage will dry out in 48 hours. Brittle greens are not only a mess but a fire hazard. Some of the artificial greens look very realistic and you can use them year after year. To add a realistic fragrance to your home place cut greens in a large container of water and move it outdoors at night to extend the vase life.

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Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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