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Holiday decorating, the easy and natural way

Evergreens such as rosemary and redwood, with a splash
of color from nandina leaves and berries, are the makings
of a holiday arrangement. Festive ribbon can tie it all together.
Be sure to soak the foliage first. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Use evergreens, holly and other garden clippings

Deck the halls with boughs of holly – and just about any good-looking evergreen.

For centuries, holiday revelers have brought pieces of evergreen indoors to bring in the scent of the season as well as add a festive natural touch to decorations.

These quick and easy decorations can be as simple as greens arranged loosely in a vase, tied with a bow. Get out your pruning shears and snip some evergreen foliage, such as 2-foot pieces of redwood, juniper, cedar, cypress, pine or fir. (These may come off the bottom of a Christmas tree, too.) Stems of citrus foliage or rosemary will work. Like evergreens, citrus leaves and herbs add scent as well as bright green color.

Don’t forget holly; its shiny foliage and cheery red berries almost shout, “Happy holidays!” With red-orange berries, pyracantha and nandina (heavenly bamboo) also make attractive accents.

Before displaying, soak the foliage in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then gently shake or drip dry. That bath rehydrates the needles or leaves and helps them retain their freshness.

Stick some stems of foliage in a vase with water; remove any leaves or needles that will be below the water line. Add a ribbon bow and it’s an instant centerpiece.

Pieces of evergreen can be turned into super-easy garlands. After stems have been washed and dried, lay stems on a mantle or tabletop, or weave them around stair bannisters. Tuck them around picture frames or mirrors. Bend, twist and braid stems into a rustic wreath. Use thin wire and ribbon to tie in place. Accent with more garden gleanings such as pine cones, seed pods and rose hips.

Another easy decorating idea the natural way: A bowl of red and green apples. The shiny fruit makes an instant (and edible) centerpiece in the colors of the season.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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