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A Christmas Garden
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

November 28, 2004

As gardeners, many of us tend to take what's growing on our property for granted at this time of year. Have you ever stopped to consider the wealth of decorating materials we have surrounded ourselves with? If a new homeowner with a barren yard asked you which plants would serve them well during the holiday season, what would you tell them?

Because we've lived on our land for more than twenty years, I've used many different plants in annual Christmas themes. This year we've taken advantage of clumps of mature white birch trees. A blue floodlight has been directed to shine upward against the bark and into the canopy.

Other years, Austrian pine trees at the foot of our lawn have featured dozens of red plastic bows wired onto their branches. The effect was as if a giant flock of red cardinals had landed and decided to stay for awhile. Other flashes of red are provided by lingering rose hips on the large rugosa roses. In the past, these scarlet fruits have been collected, threaded onto string and dried to serve as a garland on the Christmas tree.

Juniper shrubs often become too large for the position they were planted in. If pruning is required, this evergreen actually makes a lovely wreath with its long tapered branches. Just overlap 6" pieces and wire them onto a base in the same manner as traditional wreaths.

Swags and table centerpieces can feature fresh evergreen prunings combined with pillar candles and small potted poinsettias. A different appearance can be created with the use of grapevines or wisteria, spray painted gold or silver, with bunches of dried flowers tucked in.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without holly and it's encouraging to see more of this decorative shrub being grown. While driving through the countryside recently I saw a sign advertising cut holly for sale. That's a product I hope more people will take advantage of, by using it in decorations and planting it on their own property. Remember that a male and a female are required for the red berries, but the foliage alone is a real treasure this time of year. Branches from the plants shouldn't really be harvested for decorating purposes until they have reached at least 3 - 4 feet in height. They do recover from minimal pruning fairly quickly at that size, so when the time arrives don't be afraid to harvest a few branches.

One of the most important Christmas plants on our property cannot be found this time of year. All of its leaves are gone and only the root remains, beneath the ground, waiting to emerge next spring. That plant is mint. A mint my mother-in-law refers to as lebanese mint. This summer we dried handfuls and stored it away in a glass jar. We could not imagine the traditional dressing served at Christmas dinner, without that essential ingredient.

Including plants in your garden that prove to be useful and beautiful during the Christmas season is not difficult and rewards can be reaped year after year as the holiday season rolls around. May this Christmas see you surrounded by love ones and may health and happiness abound!


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