Preserving freshness of the holiday

Decorating for the holidays often involves fresh aromatic greenery from conifers; glossy leaves from evergreen magnolias, eucalyptus, ivy and myrtle; along with festive red berries from nandina, pepper tree (Schinus terebinthefolius), Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), cranberries and holly (Ilex).

Once we've added them to arrangements or clipped and wired bright, pliant sprigs from the garden onto wreaths and swags, they begin their demise, sometimes slowly, other times faster than expected.

Even accessory fruits -- citrus, pomegranates, persimmons and apples -- that are expected to hold up indoors fade faster in warm, dry, winter household conditions than they do in earlier seasons.

Holiday crafts displayed both outdoors and indoors retain their freshness longer and look best when coated with an antidesiccant spray, the same kind of product used to protect tender plants from cold and frost damage.

You can purchase it at nurseries, garden centers and craft stores.

Berries from nandina shrubs, unparalleled for their longevity and versatility in holiday d?or even without a protective spray coating, out-compete pyracantha and holly berries, which shrivel and drop off in just a few days.

Nandina develops long, loose panicles useful in large bunches or broken into small sections.

Their thin stems are resilient enough for wiring or gluing onto a form or pushing into moist florist's foam.

If you don't have a stand of nandina, commonly called domestic bamboo, in your garden -- and many people don't simply because they dislike its vertical habit and deeply cut foliage -- you might consider adding a plant or two just to have a ready supply of its fabulous red berries this time of year.

Living trees

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