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I’m not really all that early mentioning the upcoming holiday — I started seeing Christmas decorations in the big box stores a month ago. It’s like they skipped right over my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving: Turkey, mashed potatoes, pies, mmm … but I digress. The holidays will likely look different for most of us this year, so making it special in any way we can might just be the ticket to creating new and memorable traditions.

One of my favorite things to do at this time of the year is to make swags and wreaths from the trimmings of nearby trees and shrubs. I can smell them already! The hardy trees and shrubs of the Pacific Northwest offer a plethora of textures, colors and aromas:

Boxwood: a small-leafed hardy shrub often used for outdoor décor due to its strong aroma.

Cedar: small flat-leafed needles with a wonderful fragrance.

Firs: they all have wonderful scents, tolerate indoor heat well, and have excellent color and needle retention.

Holly: a traditional green with bright shiny leaves. Female plants display bright red berries.

Juniper: fragrant, short, green or bluish-silver foliage that may have small blue berries.

Magnolia: large glossy, dark green leaves with brown undersides. The leaves hold up very well with or without water.

Pine: many different types, readily available and long lasting in arrangements.

Spruce: traditional green used for wreaths and roping. Blue spruce is attractive for its’ color and needle retention.

Herbs: rosemary, sage, lavender, eucalyptus and cinnamon sticks enhance the fragrance of your arrangement.

When gathering live greens for your projects, there are a few things to keep in mind, including where you gather, colors and textures as well as thoughtful harvesting. There is an extensive article on pruning at extension.oregonstate.edu/crop-production/fruit-trees/tree-pruning-basic, which will ensure you harvest greens without damaging the shrub or tree growth.

This is a fun project that the whole family can join in, starting with gathering lush greens and ending with the joy of delivering those delightful gifts to family and friends’ front doors! There is a step-by-step article to get you started creating at hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/holiday-decorating-with-fresh-greenery. Whether you choose to make this your own special project or include the family, let your imagination run wild, have fun and enjoy the sweet smells of nature!

A special thank you, in advance, to all the Hood River Master Gardeners that will, once again, collaborate to create holiday wreaths and swags for the clients of the FISH Food Bank and WAGAP, in the coming weeks.

As always, if you have specific gardening or pest questions you can submit them, online, to the OSU Hood River Extension, Columbia Gorge Master Gardeners’ virtual Plant Clinic at extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/hoodriver or by phone at 541-386-3343 ext. 38259. Master Gardeners are a great resource for research-based information. Remember to provide detailed plant or pest problem information, as well as your preferred method of contact.

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