Holidays

The holly green, the ivy green

Fall pruning around the gardens is reaping the makings of holiday arrangements for Botanica's volunteer floral designers.

Arching branches of pink beautyberry spilling over long-needle boughs of white pine, smooth and flat-needled incense cedar snuggling up to rough blue juniper, black alder cones and brown crape-myrtle seed pods — all are being included in seasonal bouquets and swags that are being sold during Botanica's holiday event, Illuminations.

The six women who normally do the arrangements that grace Botanica's lobby throughout the year are putting the creations together with clippings from Botanica's gardens and, occasionally, from their own. Their workroom off Botanica's kitchen is suffused with the cool, bracing fragrance of just-cut pine. Tubs of boxwood, dried hydrangea blossoms, green and white ivy, orange-berried euonymus and red-berried holly cut from the garden give them a volume of horticultural riches to work with.

If you're wondering about what you can trim this time of year for Christmas decorating, designer Floanna Crowley mentioned, in her own yard, pines that she wants to limb up so that they don't drag on the ground.

Janet Gordon, a horticulturist at Botanica, added: "Any crossing or rubbing branches, or any that are damaged. Or if they're hanging over the parking lot, which is where these came from."

Illuminations started Friday and continues tonight and Sunday night and the next two weekends. It sets the gardens a-sparkle with electric lights, the paths lined with luminarias. Chimeneas provide real-fire warmth, and carolers sing inside and outside. Santa Claus visits, too.

The annual event is a big fundraiser for Botanica, and it requires a big volunteer effort.

The volunteer floral arranging committee, headed by Mary Lu Wagner, cuts plant material from the gardens every week of the year, but in far lesser quantities, for their lobby arrangements.

"We walk around the gardens and see what's in bloom right now and see what we can work with," Crowley said. "Everyone has a different style." Off-limits from pruning: shrubs and trees, and the last flower of any plant.

"We can't take anything we don't have a lot of," Gordon said.

She shook boughs of pine over a trash can and pulled out brown needles before adding them to a tall glass vase full of water.

Wagner held up a swag of holly, white pine and incense cedar. The crowning touch: a pine cone that came naturally attached to the pine bough.

Wagner will be teaching a class on how to make arrangements with fresh greenery from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 4. Botanica also will be offering a class on how to photograph lights at night during Illuminations on Dec. 3. See accompanying boxes for more information.

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