A Live Christmas Tree or Not…

Every year I debate whether to put up a live Christmas tree or an artificial tree. I have live greens indoors festooning the tops of mantles, sideboards, tabletops. Outdoors, I always put out our big painted Santa, a live wreath on the door and a small evergreen tree covered with winterberries that the birds will eventually eat. But I wrestle with the tree decision every year.  Since Thanksgiving day, I have spotted lovely Christmas trees through living room windows as I drive in the evening. I want to have ours up and decorated now, too.

The problem is I love a fresh tree…but putting it up now for me guarantees a dry, brittle tree with faded needles, drooping branches, dropped needles and decorations askew by Christmas Day. And when the tree is taken down, more fallen needles have actually clogged the vacuum in years past. Needles can hide in places that I discover months later. I’ve tried all the tricks to keep a tree moist. None have worked.

Every other year I’m certain I’ve solved that problem by buying an authentic looking artificial tree, but by the next year I’ve fallen out of love with anything artificial. I’ve given a lot of artificial trees away. One realistic one sat full of lights in my mother’s home. One is decorated yearly at my brother’s home and another one completes multi-tree holiday decor in my daughter’s home. The one I bought last year, a cute tabletop lifelike tree, sits in a box in the basement. I liked it last year but I can’t even bear to open the box now.

It’s definitely not bah-humbug because I love the season and go the extra mile getting the home ready… complete with music and hot chocolate all month-long. It’s just the tree dilemma. As the days progress, I know I’ll come across a perfect live tree that will smell wonderful and look great for days…. and when the tree is finally dragged to the curb and cleanup is done, I may be looking at artificial trees once again. Sigh…

Getting there…

We’re lagging behind everyone we know in decorating the home for Christmas. Two daughters are sharing photos of their multiple trees adored thousands of lights, themed tree ornaments, and rooms devoted to Dickens, Williamsburg, Disney…. so clearly I needed some inspiration this year get started. First things first: Santa came out of storage yesterday and, as he has for 30-some years, greets visitors at the front door.
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Churchill’s Gardens, just down the street, provided the perfect showcase for inspiration with their holiday greens, twigs, and berries for sale and a wonderland of Christmas in their showroom. Holiday music, themed trees, several Santas and reindeer were there to greet us in this North Pole atmosphere. mister gardener and I spent time absorbing the ambience, bought a ribbon and some southern magnolia leaves, and returned home to invite Christmas to our home.

So far, something simple for the door…..

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…..and our planter we filled with gathered greens, berries, twigs, and the southern magnolia, which greeted us this morning with the season’s first snow. I can’t think of anything better than a nice snowfall to inspire us for the Christmas atmosphere.

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The North Wind Doth Blow…

Old Man Winter is quietly slipping into New Hampshire. On our morning outings we see more signs that he has a foot in the door.

Vibrant colonies of  the holly shrub winterberry (Ilex verticillata) dot the brown landscape in ditches and low lying areas.

Winterberry What a showstopper! I read in the blog New Hampshire Garden Solutions, that due to low fat content, birds may not have these berries at the top of their menu in the winter. Therefore the berry laden branches are available for folks to cut for Christmas decorations. I like to purchase cultivar branches at nurseries so I can enjoy the native berries in their natural surroundings.

winterberryYou don’t see cord wood like this in Tidewater Virginia, but homes around here are often heated with wood. I am still stopping to stare at sights like this! This family is ready for winter.

woodMost mornings finds thin ice covering low-lying area ponds and creeks.

frozenRunning water falls from an icy ponds and leaves have fallen from deciduous trees allowing the evergreens and berries to take center stage this time of year.

water fall/winterberryIt is also common to see small flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows foraging beneath our feeders. These birds are likely migrating from Canada to warmer climates for the winter… although some stay here. Both are in the sparrow family, flock together and are known to produce hybrid offspring.

Lastly, with the leaves gone from the mighty oaks and maples, a synchronized scene is taking place in every yard in Exeter. The last of the leaves are being blown, mowed, raked or bagged all over the area. Let’s hope that most end up in a nice compost. How GREEN!

leaf raking