Gardening with Gayle

Shortages of both real and artificial trees have added an extra challenge to the Christmas decorating season.

We have lots of shortages this year with disruptions to our supply chain. Parents have been warned that, if they don’t buy toys early, Santa could end up with eggnog on his face. There is even a shortage of helpers who play Santa, and Christmas trees are in scarce supply.

Anyone planning on purchasing a Christmas tree this year should act fast, according to experts. Extreme weather and supply chain issues caused by the ongoing pandemic have led to shortages in both real and artificial trees. The American Christmas Tree Association stated that wildfires, drought and heat waves have all taken a toll on tree farms. The Oregonian newspaper reported that some farmers lost nearly 90 percent of their tree crop.

Shortages of artificial trees (most are made in China) have a different root cause, stemming from the pandemic, which has triggered supply chain issues worldwide as companies struggle to keep up with the high demand for consumer goods, raw materials and transportation. Why did we not think that having a supplier 6,000 miles away could become a problem?

Fyke, my son, told me that Tennessee is a sweet spot in America. We have a moderate climate, enjoy all four seasons, beautiful terrain and no wild fires, hurricanes or drought. We also dodged the Christmas tree problem. Our area is abundant with cedar trees and short leaf pines that make great holiday trees. We also have lots of natural greenery that can be found in your yard or along the roadside which can be used for seasonal decorating.

I love bringing fresh evergreens into my home. I usually wait until the middle of December so that my material doesn’t become overly dry. Biltmore House changes out trees and live cut decorations every two weeks to keep everything fresh for their visitors. Decorating with evergreens and berries is one of the oldest wintertime traditions. In fact, decorating with such items predates Christmas and can be traced back to pagan times when the winter solstice was celebrated.

We are lucky to be able to forage for greenery in our area; holly, boxwood, cedar, pine, magnolia, and Leyland Cyprus are available for our cutting.

Holly (genus Ilex): These sport the characteristic shiny leaves and bright berries that deck the halls during the holiday season. This most traditional holiday greenery comes in several forms, both green and variegated. Female plants display bright red berries. Make sure that holly does not freeze after cutting, or the leaves and berries may blacken.

Boxwood (Buxus semperviens): This small-leafed shrub is a longtime favorite for fine-textured wreaths and garland. It has an aroma that is either loved or hated, so be sure of your reaction before bringing it indoors! Some people (including me) think cut boxwood smells like a cat box.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana): This native juniper may have a grey or blue cast with a slight bronzing of the tips in the winter. The branches have a wonderful cedar scent and produce an abundance of light blue berries. We see this tree growing along the road side and in abandoned fields. The aroma is great but the needles are super prickly; you may need gloves to handle. I always line my mantles with this plant. The smell is wonderful.

White pine (Pinus storbus): The soft, bluish-green, long needles are beautiful in their own right, but the cones the plant produces add an extra element of interest. The foliage is often wired into roping to hang indoors and outdoors. Expect some sap, it can be sticky.

Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): The large leaves are a glossy, dark green that contrast well with the velvety, brown undersides. Magnolia leaves make stunning wreaths and bases for large decorations. The leaves hold up very well, even without water. The branches can make a beautiful centerpiece for your dining room table. Try layering the leaves using both sides, green then brown. This adds interest to the arrangement. Magnolia can also be spray painted white or gold if you want add a color.

I hope that every person who wants a Christmas tree will find their perfect one this year. Whether you buy a fresh cut tree, travel to a tree farm, or dust off old reliable that has been living in the basement. Enjoy!

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Gayle Fisher is a master gardener for the state of Tennessee, as well as an accredited National Flower Show judge. A student consultant for landscape design, she has served as an officer in District IV Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs and is a member of the American Horticultural Society. She can be reached at gaylesf@tds.net

Gayle Fisher is a master gardener for the state of Tennessee, as well as an accredited National Flower Show judge. A student consultant for landscape design, she has served as an officer in District IV Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs and is a member of the American Horticultural Society. She can be reached at gaylesf@tds.net

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.