Q&A: Evergreen Boughs

A gardener seeks advice on drying holly branches for use as Christmas decorations.

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Q: How do you correctly dry holly branches so that you can use them for Christmas decorations? I tried just cutting a holly branch and putting it in a vase with water, but it drooped and turned an awful color.

A: Holly, as well as other evergreens normally used for holiday decorations, will last only 10-14 days (or less) indoors. That means your holly arrangement could be languishing just when you need it to look its best. Try cutting holly or pine boughs and using them as is, rather than putting their stems in water. They'll remain greener as they begin to dry out, and you can toss them and replace with new cuttings when they get too desperate-looking. If you put cut holly in a container of water, the branch will try to take up water and continue to grow. When it doesn't get the cold air and/or sunny conditions it craves, it will wilt and lose color.

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