An evergreen wreath on the front door and a real tree in the family room are conventional decorations for the holiday season. So are those beautiful winter containers filled with evergreen branches sitting on the porch.
But evergreens are much more than outdoor decor.
When placed indoors the greenery adds to the holiday scenery, but it’s that fresh scent that makes them indispensable.
Just like walking in the forest and “forest bathing” are therapeutic, using evergreens indoors is beneficial, too. Evergreens give us a healthy dose of phytoncides when we take a deep breath. These wood essential oils are the same airborne chemicals that trees and other plants give off in nature.
Pine scents and forest atmospheres not only remind us of the holidays, but they benefit our health physically, mentally and physiologically, according to the Michigan State University Extension.
“Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile compounds produced by plants for their own defenses. It is not entirely clear how those scents affect human brains and bodies, but early research suggests they reduce stress hormones and enhance white-blood activity that boosts immunity and make us less susceptible to disease.”
This season, when you can’t get to the forest for a brisk walk, consider adding fresh evergreens throughout the house. Look for enclosed spaces where people gather, like the entry way, kitchen, dining room, study, family room, bedrooms, game room and even bathrooms.
Interior designers suggest tying small bunches of fresh greens to cabinets, placing on counter tops, filling bowls of greens on desks and side tables, draping swags to top window dressings and creating indoor hanging baskets.
Evergreens for the best scent include pine, cedar, balsam and juniper. Gardeners can clip from the landscape or look for fresh and aromatic branches at garden centers. Avoid any boughs that are already dry and brittle.
Experts recommend treating indoor branches like fresh lilac stems by keeping them in water to make them last the longest.
Use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut woody stems at a 45-degree angle and split the bottoms of the stems with the back of the clippers or small hammer. Strip the foliage that will be submerged in water.
Keep greens away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Treating them with an anti-desiccant plant spray or misting daily with water will help keep the foliage on the stems.
This season, forget the scented holiday candles and use fresh fragrant pine or cedar branches to lower stress and get in the holiday spirit during this busy time of the year.
Text and images by Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005