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Decorate for the winter season with plants

Don’t fret over a white Christmas. A green holiday is perfectly okay too.

That’s the message from former HGTV celebrity and current Landscape Ontario public relations manager Denis Flanagan.

“I’ve worked Christmas retail and you can get turned off by the whole thing,” says Flanagan. “I stay grounded – no pun in there – by thinking of the green and the plant side of Christmas.”

There are several ways to spruce up your home using live and cut plants, says Flanagan, who prefers to think of it as decorating for the winter season as opposed to just Christmas. Done right, your efforts will last well into spring,

Indoors, miniature cyclamen will brighten any table top or mantle. Offering tiny bursts of vibrant or pastel pink, the intensely coloured flowers are a bold contrast to their dark green foliage. Cyclamen grow wild in Europe which means they will thrive in a cool, shady spot.

“The biggest disappointment with holiday plants comes from where you put them in your house,” notes Flanagan. “You have to think it through a little bit and think of where they come from in the world.”

Azaleas are equally stunning and great value for the money. Keep them slightly on the moist side and shaded and they’ll bloom for months.

Ever wonder why the leaves on your poinsettia turn dark? Native to Mexico, they prefer hot, sunny environments. “More people kill a poinsettia by over-watering or by putting it too close to the front door,” says Flanagan. “We open the front door and within five minutes the cold air has just toasted that poor little bugger.”

If you prefer a lower maintenance colour boost, opt for cut long-stemmed amaryllis, easier to find now that they’re grown here in Canada. Orchids are also coming on stream, available in a variety of colours and sizes.

Outdoors, Flanagan suggests pooling your resources to create one dramatic planter versus a number of smaller ones. Berries are back in fashion, along with birch stumps and over-sized Sequoia cones. For filler, “you can’t beat dogwoods and white pine,” he says. “You can start decorating pots outside now and keep them all the way through to the end of March.”

Landscape Ontario is seeing a trend towards real Christmas trees over artificial trees, part of a wider “earthy, organic grow-your-own-vegetables movement.” When choosing a cut tree, Flanagan’s best advice is to know who you’re buying from. He’s so confident in his own supplier that he doesn’t remove his tree from the netting until he gets home.

To keep your tree from drying out, make a fresh cut directly before bringing it indoors and spray it with an anti-desiccant, a spray that will block tiny holes in the needles to retain moisture. You may pay more for balsams and firs, but you’re rewarded with stiffer branches that are easier to decorate.

“The thing that gets confused the most is that people think cutting a tree down is a nasty thing,” says Flanagan. “Christmas tree farms are just like corn farms. It’s a crop. The farmer has land, grows a crop and replants it every five years … It’s wonderful for the environment and wildlife.”

Inspired to go green? Take a look at eieihome’s landscape pros.

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