Much of our Christmas decor comes from right outside our doors!
When you stop and think about it, there are almost endless connections between our landscapes and the Christmas season.
Back when many of our traditional Christmas decorations were created, most folks would use materials that were close by and readily available to them. This is why you see garland and wreaths made with Pine or Spruce branches, Pine cones, accents using holly shrubs, and cone-shaped conifers themselves being used as outdoor Christmas trees year after year.
So it goes without saying there is a traditional and authentic connection there. And these things continue to be located right outside your front or back door.
For instance, here in Texas one of the more common trees we have is the Cedar Elm. They’re everywhere in North Texas. And you’ll know them in the winter time, despite the fact they are deciduous, due to the ample Mistletoe you’ll see in the canopies which is more pronounced when the tree’s leaves are gone. You’ll see them as green clumps in the canopy, the only green in the tree. Mistletoe will attack other trees, but are seemingly most prevalent in Texas in Cedar Elms.
These clumps of Mistletoe are rather easy to locate and cut and is beneficial to the tree if you remove them. Mistletoe is a fungus, after all, that is attacking and feeding on the host tree as it grows. Mistletoe, left unchecked, can kill the tree by overtaking the canopy.
Cut them just below the line where the Mistletoe meets the tree branch, and then hang them in various places in your home or your outdoor living spaces. Dispose of them after the holiday season. It is best to dispose of them in plastic bags, so that their pollen cannot be released elsewhere or even at your own place prior to being carried away.
Nevertheless, you can hang one in your home during the holidays and if your significant other steps under it, you are allowed to plant a kiss on her/him, according to Christmas lore.
Wreaths were, and to some extent today, are made of Pine or Spruce limbs, curled in a circular fashion and adorned with short holly branches or clusters with the red holly berries on them. Pine cones and native flowers complete the look.
Have a Red Cedar, or a Madelyn Cypress, or an Sentinel Pine in your landscape? Drape lights over them and further decorate them to have an outdoor Christmas tree as part of your display.
People often remark that Christmas has a certain “smell” that other holidays do not. Aside from the obvious aroma from a kitchen cooking a Christmas dinner, the various greenery used in garland inside the home is often what causes that scent. Whichever material you use, whether it be pine or spruce, it will give off a holiday aroma that your guests and family will enjoy.
Growing up in East Texas, my father had planted a Blue Spruce in our front yard. We decorated it each year. It’s pyramidal shape was a natural for a Christmas tree. But it kept growing and growing until the last year we were in that house, it was 35 feet tall and probably 35 feet wide. But it was a thing of Christmas beauty.
You can make these things yourself with some do-it-yourself advice you can find in multiple places online. The materials to work with are right outside your door.
Though Winter is getting under way now, we still have things to do in the landscape. Let’s get right to those:
1. If you have sewed Winter Rye grass in your lawn, your third fertilization should be done within the next few weeks. When you apply, make sure you offer plenty of water in the days following as we’re seemingly in the midst of a dry winter, at least so far.
2. If you have Banana trees, go ahead and cut them back now. You want to cut them just a couple of inches above the soil and make sure you provide ample mulch to protect their root ball through winter weather. Don’t have mulch? Use the large leaves of the banana tree itself and cover the base with several of them, creating a layered effect. Ditto for Canna Lily and other tropicals that will go dormant during winter.
3. Remove the tops of your bird baths or flip them bottom-up. We do this so that moisture doesn’t freeze in the bowl and crack it. If you turn the bowl upside down (if it has a removable bowl) the water will run harmlessly off the sides. My own looks like a giant mushroom when I do this.
4. We’re about halfway through the Fall leaf-drop. That means the leaf collection routine continues as well. Make sure to remove all the leaves that are building up around the foundation of your home and any structures you have on your property. They can be a fire hazard when things are dry like they are.
5. Speaking of dry . . . just because we’re into late Fall and early Winter does not mean we can simply turn the tap off for our landscape plants. We’ve been scarce on the rainfall so far and conditions have been quite windy on many days, which dries out a landscape almost as efficiently has hot summer sun. So make sure you are watering at least once a week to keep your plants damp through the dry weeks we’re seeing. Even during cold winter weather, it is good to water your landscape prior to the arrival of a cold front as wet soil is harder to freeze than dry soil is.
6. If you have bagged your leaves, try not to put them at the curb for garbage collection. If you’re not a composter, someone in your neighborhood is. Offer your leaves to them. I’m sure they’ll be grateful for the help. For composters who are reading this column, you want to keep a certain amount of the leaves for your spring and summer composting, so you can maintain an equal ratio of dead organic matter vs green organic matter (such as grass clippings) for proper decomposition.