Nothing beats fresh greens for decking your house, inside and out

Jennifer Davis

When it's time to deck the halls, do you dig out the plastic or seek out fresh pine?

It's that perennial question: Fake or fresh? Surprisingly, the best answer might be both.

"People want (holiday decor) to be quick and easy. I can do an arrangement that you'd be hard-pressed to tell what is artificial and what is real," says Linda Gavin, garden gift department manager for Green View Nursery in Dunlap.

By adding fresh greens to an artificial garland, Gavin can give customers the best of both worlds. Because, nowadays, fake greenery can be very convincing, but nothing compares with the crisp scent of fresh-cut evergreens.

"Both have their place," says Dan Callahan, owner of Gregg Florist in Peoria Heights. "But fresh adds that 'je ne sais quois,' that indescribable touch."

Common misconceptions about fresh greens are that they are messy, expensive and short-lived. Actually, Franklin Susen, tree and shrub manager for Green View, says fresh centerpieces can last well into the new year and outdoor containers, garlands and wreaths "will stay green all the way to March or April" because they've been treated with an anti-transpirant to reduce moisture loss.

"I think more people are worried about the greens not lasting than they are the cost," Susen says.

Other greens, such as boxwoods, can look good even as they dry, much like hydrangeas keep their beauty.

"You can keep a boxwood wreath for years and years," says Gavin.

Callahan's specialty is creating centerpieces that do double duty, particularly from one holiday to another.

"We just had a customer who needed something that would work as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner but then that she could also use for her wedding on Saturday," Callahan said.

Still, if cost is the only thing keeping you from going green, think again.

"It doesn't have to be an expensive adventure," Gavin says. "For under $20, you can get a few bundles of greens to take home and totally transform your home."

At her own home, Gavin even likes to tie fresh sprigs of evergreen with a bit of ribbon to her bird feeders so the birds have decorations while eating their Christmas dinner.

"That's what it's all about - creating memories," Gavin says. "We have a lot of families who come out year after year to pick out their Christmas tree. It's exciting to see them. Some of the ones who came out as children are now all grown up."

In addition to wreaths, garlands and indoor and outdoor centerpieces, Green View also stocks Fraser fir Christmas trees shipped in from North Carolina, where the majority of them are grown.

"Fraser firs hold up the longest, and they have the best fragrance," says Susen.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, "the combination of form, needle retention, dark blue-green color, pleasant scent and excellent shipping characteristics has led to Fraser fir being a most popular Christmas tree species."

Green View also carries the Canaan fir, which is similar to the Fraser fir, as a Christmas tree offering.

Callahan doesn't carry Christmas trees, but his shop and designers are known for creating unique centerpieces. This year, Callahan says glitz is big.

"Metallic finishes in everything - cones, greenery, feathery accents, etc. Of additional appeal, metallics that appear to change a bit due to lighting or the viewing angle," says Callahan, who prefers to use locally grown greenery whenever he can. "The fresher things are, the more fantastic."

Callahan and designer Lori Waughop like to use fresh pine for its "excellent fresh fragrance" and boxwood for its "nice texture with smaller leaves that are a bit shimmery."

"Carolina Sapphire green has a unique shape to it," Waughop notes. "It is one of the greens that softly curves out of the vase and adds dimension to the arrangement. It also has a nice, subtle woodsy fragrance to it."

Says Susen: "If you've never experienced (fresh greens), then you need to come out and get a feel for them. Just for the smell and what it does when you see them."

Jennifer Davis can be reached at (309) 686-3249