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Get growing: Craft your own natural holiday trimmings

Thanksgiving is over but some people are still gardening outdoors. Hoop houses and floating row covers can extend the harvest into the New Year for such vegetables as kale, lettuce, chard and spinach. Root vegetables can be left in the ground with a mulch of straw or salt marsh hay. Don’t mulch them, however, until the ground actually freezes. Otherwise you may find voles and mice burrowing down and nibbling on your carefully preserved harvest.

Winter doesn’t actually arrive for another month but you can get a head start on winter chores while taking a break from holiday preparations. Tools can be cleaned, the metal working parts oiled and sanded with steel wool while the wooden handles will appreciate an application of linseed oil. You can even take pruning tools to the sharpener now in anticipation of February work on fruit trees and grape vines.

HOLIDAY DECORATIONS: OK, so you really aren’t inclined to get a head start on winter chores when what you really want to think about is holiday decorating. Yes, it’s time to take down the pumpkins and the Indian corn.

Wreaths are easy to craft from evergreens in your yard or your neighbor’s yard. All you need is a wire form, flexible wire and lots of cut greens. Juniper is rather prickly as are holly and spruce, but arborvitae, yew, pine and boxwood are wonderful basic materials for wreaths. If you don’t have the time or inclination to create your own evergreen wreath, at least buy a plain one from the local garden center and use your ingenuity with berries, other greens, baubles, pine cones and bows to make something distinctive for your door.

If you don’t know how to make a wreath there are several workshops to help you. Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Tower Hill Botanic Garden near Worcester Karen Perkins will lead a hands-on session with a fee of $55. Call 508-869-6111 to register. Tower Hill also has its annual Holly Days display to enjoy.

At Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on Wednesday Elizabeth Cary will lead a “Wreaths from the Wild” workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. The fee is $45. Call 298-3926 to register.

Finally, much closer to home and much more economical are the weekly workshops at Hickory Dell Farm on West Farms Road in Northampton. Faye Omasta offers workshops every Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. for $25.

Call 586-0031 to register. Private wreath-making parties are also available for small groups.

Weatherproof containers can be decorated with pine boughs, gnarly sticks spray-painted gold or silver and winterberry (Ilex verticillata) or evergreen holly with bright red berries.

My personal tradition has been to get a wreath up for St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 (or thereabouts), place electric candles in the windows for St. Lucia Day on Dec. 13 and put up the Christmas tree the day after my late husband’s birthday on Dec. 18. At our house the tree stays up for the entire 12 days of Christmas, so it has to be fresh. Last year I selected one at the Hadley Garden Center that was so fresh it stayed up for an additional week. It turned out to be a local tree from Ashfield instead of one cut in November in Canada. Ask your supplier the source of your tree and when it actually was cut down.

My family were hardly fans of Richard Nixon but my husband was so impressed that Nixon insisted on a living Christmas tree for the National Tree on the Mall in Washington, D.C. that he wrote a children’s book about the search for an appropriate tree. The tree was found in the early 1970s in Pennsylvania. On a trip to see the origin of the tree about a decade ago we learned that the company that moved the tree from Pennsylvania to the nation’s capital was Frost & Higgins of Northampton, now C.L. Frank, Inc.

What an amazing local connection.

ANIMAL TRACKING: It’s Black Friday. How about going tracking instead of shopping?

Learn the art and science of tracking wild animals in a hike through the Conway woods today from 1 to 4 p.m. Frank Grindrod of Earthworks Programs offers a program designed for teens, adults and families.

The fee is $35 per person with family rates available. Call 522-0338 to register.

WINSERTS: Button up your drafty windows with custom-made (by you) winserts of wood and plastic film in workshops Tuesday in Shutesbury and Wednesday in Florence. Both workshops will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. To register for the program, which costs $25 per window, contact Laura Biddulph at the Center for EcoTechnology, Inc. Her email is laura.biddulph@cetonline.org or by calling 586-7350, ext 229. These interior storm windows have been proven to reduce drafts and therefore, winter heating bills.

WINTER WALKS: Pete Westover leads a winter walk at Larch Hill and Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst on Dec. 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. Learn about the cultural and natural history of the area. The walk is free, but space is limited and registration is required. Call 256-6006. The same day, naturalist Aimee Gelinas will lead a walk through the boreal forest at Savoy State Forest under the auspices of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. This program is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is listed as a moderately strenuous hike. Registration is required.

The fee is $20, Audubon Society members $15. Call 584-3009 to register.

GARDEN LECTURE: Glyn Jones, head gardener at the renowned Hidcote Garden in Gloucestershire, England, is this year’s speaker for the annual Winter Lecture sponsored by Berkshire Botanical Garden at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington. The date is Feb. 23 and tickets are $42. The event is always a sell-out and Jones should be an especially popular speaker. Hidcote is one of the most famous gardens in England. For ticket information check the BBG website at www.berkshirebotanical.org.

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