Deck the halls, the front door and the holiday table with fresh greens. Now, the challenge of keeping them fresh through the holidays so they'll retain that delightful heady fragrance and visual appeal of the out of doors.

In our heated, low humidity homes, nothing's more irritating than conifer needles falling every which way as decorations dry and crumble.

The most obvious way to keep them fresh is cutting your greenery right before you're ready to create decorations. Plunge those freshly cut plant stems in a bucket of water and set them out of the way in a cool, dark area. A sure-fire path to disappointing greenery is stashing your recently cut greens outdoors without water and unprotected from wind and sunshine.

There are products that greatly prolong the beauty of holiday greens, both indoors and outdoors. Called anti-desiccants, they are organic, non-toxic and provide a protective coating to greenery that lessens water loss.

Conifers, broadleaf evergreens and berries used in wreaths, swags, table centerpieces — even Christmas trees —can be sprayed to prevent moisture loss. The spray provides a glossy coating that remains flexible. Be sure to read directions on the label before spraying and be aware that it's sticky when applied and shouldn't be used around cars, windows or other hard-to-clean areas. It's best to plan ahead, use an out-of-the-way area for this project, perhaps using a large tarp where you're going to apply the spray treatment, and then go cut your greens.

Wilt-Pruf is one brand of anti-desiccant, made from pine resin. Ask stores that sell a lot of fresh holiday greens if they have an anti-desiccant product or buy online.

After you've applied this product, then add your accents, such as holiday bows, ribbons, dried flowers, rose hips, pine cones or other decorations.

This product is advertised for protecting live, broadleaf evergreens from extreme winter cold and drying winds. You've probably noticed large-leafed shrubs such as rhododendrons hunch down with leaves curled inward when temperatures plummet below freezing. They're trying to lessen moisture loss, as plants can't adequately uptake transpiration in extremely cold weather. After doing some research, anti-desiccants are not recommended for this, as it closes the pores for later, when temperatures have moderated. So go for it on your cut greens and enjoy a splendid holiday season.


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.