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Longtime gardeners offer holiday recommendations

There are a lot of interesting plants gardeners can grow for use in arrangements, craft projects and holiday décor.  (Susan Mulvihill)
There are a lot of interesting plants gardeners can grow for use in arrangements, craft projects and holiday décor. (Susan Mulvihill)

Longtime friends and avid gardeners Phyllis Hathaway and Sherrie Guiles have a couple of knock-out gardens. These ladies are known for their stunning indoor arrangements and holiday décor, made with natural materials from their gardens.

Since fall and the holiday season are almost here, I asked them about their favorite plants that look great in their landscapes and in their homes. Here are their recommendations:

• Native to the Southwest, Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’) has stunning gray-blue foliage and attractive cones. It can reach a height of 40 feet and is drought-tolerant once it has become established.

“It is a real standout in wreaths and lasts forever,” Guiles says.

• False Arborvitae or Elkhorn Cypress (Thujopsis dolobrata variegata) is an evergreen tree that grows slowly but can eventually get up to 50 feet tall. It is best grown as a specimen because the branches have white undersides that contrast nicely with the green scales above.

Other trees recommended by Hathaway and Guiles include Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ pendula), Eastern White pine (Pinus strobus), Ginkgo and Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata).

• Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) is a small evergreen shrub with shiny green leaves. It looks great when trimmed as a topiary or grown in short hedges.

Guiles recommends the hardy cultivars ‘Winter Gem,’ ‘Green Mountain,’ ‘Green Beauty’ and ‘Green Velvet’ for our region. The foliage makes a nice accent in arrangements.

• American Cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) is a deciduous shrub that is attractive year-round with lacy flower clusters in the spring and coral- to red-colored berries that last from summer into the following spring. It reaches 8 to 12 feet in height and is extremely hardy.

• A shrub with eye-catching lavender berries is the Coralberry (Symphoricarpos ‘Amethyst’). It’s actually a Snowberry, which is very hardy, attracts birds and is deer-resistant .

• Another shrub that Guiles and Hathaway are enthusiastic about is Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). This holly has red-orange berries and is very prolific. The berries will linger on the branches until late winter and provide a nice contrast when there’s snow on the ground. They look beautiful in holiday decorations.

Two other plants that produce attractive berries are Crabapple (Malus ‘Red Jade’) and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum).

• Both women are wild about hydrangeas, which are deciduous shrubs known for their large flower clusters.

“You can cut the flower heads, put them in a vase of water and when the water has evaporated, they will have dried beautifully,” Guiles says.

She and Hathaway recommend Hydrangea paniculata (PeeGee), arborescens (Smooth), quercifolia (Oakleaf) and macrophylla (Big-leaf). The first three types are the hardiest.

• Another flower that works beautifully in arrangements, whether dried or fresh, is the rose. Hathaway’s favorite is Rosa glauca.

“Without fail, this rose has the prettiest rose hips of all the roses I grow,” she says. The hips are the seed heads from each rose blossom.

It has grayish-blue foliage and single pink flowers, and require less water than most roses.

• Hathaway puts dried lavender and rose petals into sachets and potpourri, especially to give her linens a pleasing, calming scent. She recommends the lavender cultivars ‘Munstead,’ ‘Grosso’ and ‘Buena Vista.’

She and Guiles also enjoy using dried peony blossoms for home décor projects. To dry the flowers, just hang them upside down either singly or in bunches.

If you are looking for interesting seed heads, they recommend plants like Love-In-A-Mist (Nigella), Clematis and poppies.

“One of the joys of having a garden is getting to take things into the house all the time,” says Guiles. “It’s something we really love to do.”

To view photos of the above plants, visit susansinthegarden. blogspot.com.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@live.com.


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