"Natural" decorations make Holidays special

With Thanksgiving behind us for another year, and the last of the cold turkey sandwiches just a fading memory, it's time to start thinking in earnest about the Holiday season that is now almost upon us.

And the Holiday Season is a great time to bring some of your landscape in from the outdoors to brighten your indoors.

Of course, the first thing we usually think of is a Christmas tree. Rather than buying a cut tree this year, consider buying a "live" tree that you can plant outside after the Holidays. Here are a couple of tips if you're going the live tree route.

Look for a tree that is fresh and supple. You can test it by running some of the branches through your fingers. Select a tree where the needles bend but don't break off. Shake it a little to be sure there is not a shower of dry needles. And pick a tree that is at least a foot shorter than the ceiling of the room where your tree will stand. Keep the roots of the tree well moistened in the balled burlap but don't stand the tree in a bucket of water or you're liable to rot the roots

If your area is likely to have hard frozen ground after the Holidays, here's an idea: Before you bring the tree into the house, decide where you're going to plant it, dig the hole and put the soil in a wheelbarrow in a shed or garage. Keep the tree indoors for as short a time as possible. When you plant it outside, place it in the hole you had dug previously and backfill with your saved soil. You might need to remove any nylon string that was used to bind the burlap before you plant it. Be sure to follow any specific instructions that you received when you bought your tree at the nursery or garden center. Don't be afraid to ask your supplier any care or planting questions you might have. You are also welcome to contact me personally by e-mail and I will try to help.

There are several useful websites with care guidelines. One can be found at http://www.slmseniors.com/YNRbZ/library/burlap.htm.

Apart from Christmas trees, there are many other ways to bring nature indoors for the Holidays. If you have evergreen trees on your land, you can make some simple garlands from branches that you cut from pine, fir, cedar or spruce trees. A variation is the traditional wreath, and a "natural" wreath created with branches from real trees is so much more attractive than an artificial one. You can purchase a wreath ring from a craft store or make your own by stretching out a wire coat hanger into a circular shape. There are a number of websites offering "crafty" tips on creating wreaths and garlands, includinghttp://nyny.essortment.com/christmasdecora_nut.htm

Now is a good time to take a look around your land or the surrounding countryside for natural "extras" that you can bring indoors. These can be used as stand-alone decor, perhaps in baskets or bowls, or added to the wreath or garland you're making. Depending on where you live, you might find pine cones, abandoned birds' nests, nuts or seed pods. You can leave them in their natural state or spray them gold, silver or white if you prefer. And if you have a holly bush, the contrast of the shiny green leaves and red berries look very inviting as part of your Holiday table centerpiece.

A word about safety. As branches, twigs and other flora dry out in your home, there is a real risk of fire hazard. Be sure to keep all of your decorations away from fireplaces and candles, and I recommend you use a fire retardant spray, where appropriate. Ask at your craft store, nursery or garden center.

Bringing some of your outdoors indoors can be very satisfying. Enjoy nature in your home this Holiday season!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to steve@landsteward.org or mail to: Steve Jones, "The Plant Man", P.O. Box 686, McMinnville, TN 37111. For resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org

QUESTION: "We've been getting a lot of moles in our yard. We'd like to get rid of them but do not like the idea of traps and poisons. Do you have any creative ideas we could try?" - Roger L.

ANSWER: I recall reading about this idea somewhere and you might want to try it! Go to a toy store and buy a bunch of plastic pinwheels and stick them in the ground around your lawn. Apparently, moles don't like the sound that the pinwheels make as they spin in the breeze so they choose not to burrow anywhere near them. I've no idea if it works, but it might be fun to try it. Let me know if it works!