Holiday time again. Many people stress out, wanting everything to be perfect. Others stress out due to family interactions — old and new. Almost everyone overspends their budget, another source of stress. It’s easy to tell yourself that you are going to be relaxed this year, but far harder to do it.
Numerous studies demonstrate that the relaxation process is helped by connecting to the natural world. This is great news for us living here in the sunny southwest. Take a sanity break in your own back yard, and ideally, bring some of the nature outside into your home.
Fill a vase with evergreen boughs. Prune your evergreens, or volunteer to do those of a neighbor. Pines such as Aleppo and Afghan pines are commonly sold as living Christmas trees and make lovely yard trees. They typically need little pruning (one of their attractions as a yard tree), but you may be able to find some branches that need trimming. Stores that sell fresh Christmas trees may let you have some trimmed boughs to decorate with.
There are a number of other evergreen cousins. Trees and shrubs commonly called cypress, cedar and juniper were all typically planted in older neighborhoods. All will last a week or so in a vase. Try to find branches with the bright blue “berries.” Actually the “berries” are tiny cones, and the seeds inside are well loved by many local birds.
Greens don’t have to be traditional holiday evergreens either. Technically, any plant that does not drop its leaves is an evergreen. Rosemary is evergreen, and it is related to mint. Citrus trees are evergreen, and make lovely additions to indoor arrangements. Pyracantha doesn’t lose it’s leaves in winter and is adorned with bright reddish berries right now. Nandina, also called heavenly bamboo has red berries and green leaves as well. The Texas mountain laurel tree is evergreen with silvery seed pods. One of my favorites to bring indoors is boughs of our native creosote bush. All of these will last at least a week in a vase and look very festive.
Yule logs are a British Isles tradition. A mesquite log can take the place of a Christmas tree. Glitter can be sprinkled into the bark crevices. Use a drill to bore several holes for candles. Decorate with evergreens and bows. If you want to be traditional, the Yule log is burned on Epiphany, January 6th, or in an older tradition, on the Winter Solstice, December 21st. Do not burn the evergreens when it is time to light your Yule log. The evergreens are full of highly volatile oils and can cause a house fire instead.
Above all, remember to relax and enjoy the season. Old expectations may rattle their chains and try to haunt you, but take it easy, and take it slow. Surround yourself with as much as possible with the natural world. When you start to feel stressed, take a deep breath, and rest and refresh your eyes and spirit with the beauty of nature.
If you would like help with care and planting of your yard, I work as a “Garden Coach” helping you get the most out of your yard. Please contact me, Jacqueline, at 909-3474. Feel free to leave a voice message.