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Familiarize yourself and your staff with these tips for handling seasonal greens, and give your customers the longest-lasting arrangements in town.

coniferous evergreens
pines, firs, spruces, junipers, cedars, cypresses, etc.

Buying
    Branches of coniferous evergreens should be firm, moist and full of green needles. Signs of drying out include browning, yellowing, shedding needles and fading color.

Processing
    Immediately open boxes when evergreens arrive, and loosen or fluff the bunches so air can circulate between branches. If evergreens are dry, mist them with water. Place the bunches or branches loosely back into the boxes, and get them into a cooler immediately. Allow the boxes to sit in the cooler with the plastic lining open until the branches are as cold as possible, to avoid condensation and rot, and then close the boxes.

Cooler storage
    Store coniferous evergreens in moisture-retaining boxes or bags in a floral refrigerator at 33 F to 35 F with a minimum of 85 percent humidity.

Outside storage
    Conifers can be stored outside if temperatures stay below 40 F, but they should not be stored at temperatures lower than 30 F. Store boxes in a spot sheltered from wind and direct sun, and keep them on pallets to increase air circulation. Sprinkle evergreens with water if it’s above freezing.

Inside storage
    Storage in a cool room is an option if the temperature is below 50 F and you aim for quick turnover. Use a humidifier to increase the humidity. Keep evergreens damp and boxed or bagged.

Hydrating
    Condition evergreens for at least two hours before using them in designs. Give stems a fresh cut (don’t mash or split them), and place them into a hydration solution. Flower foods won’t hurt evergreens, but they provide no benefit aside from preventing bacterial contamination of the water.

Arranging
    Greening containers with coniferous evergreens should be done less than a week in advance to maximize vase life in consumers’ homes and offices. Place greened containers or arrangements into the cooler, and add fresh flower-food solution daily.

Preserving
    After designing with evergreens, spray them with an antitranspirant to minimize moisture loss. Do not use antitranspirants on juniper berries, silver fir or blue spruce; doing so can change their distinctive colors.

Vase life
    Depending on the genus and the care they receive, coniferous evergreens can last as long as two weeks in arrangements.

Ethylene
    Conifers usually are not affected by ethylene gas, so no pretreatment is required. And contrary to widely held beliefs, most coniferous evergreens do not produce ethylene—unless they are infected by fungi.

leafy evergreens
holly
Although not a conifer, holly (Ilex) is an evergreen and, as such, has similar care requirements, but there are also a few special care needs.

Processing
    Upon arrival, open boxes and loosen branches for proper ventilation. Repack the branches in moisture-retaining boxes or bags, and place them into a cooler. Do not mist holly; the moisture can cause spotting or molding.

Cooler storage
    The ideal temperature range for storing holly is 33 F to 35 F. You can store holly up to three weeks if it is held at 32 F or 33 F, but never expose this foliage to temperatures lower than 32 F.

Hydrating
    Condition holly for at least two hours before using it in designs. Give stems a fresh cut (don’t mash or split them), and place them into a hydration solution. Flower foods won’t hurt holly, but they provide no benefit aside from preventing bacterial contamination of the water.

Arranging
    Do not green arrangements in advance with holly because it will not last well. Holly should be kept in a hydration or low-dose flower-food solution and added to arrangements just before sale.

Vase life
    The vase life of holly varies from five to 14 days, depending on the care it receives and the presence of berries. Holly without berries lasts longer.

Ethylene
     Because many species of holly are extremely sensitive to ethylene, this foliage requires treatment with an anti-ethylene agent before use to reduce berry and leaf drop. This is usually done at the grower or wholesaler levels or during transportation from the farm, so check with your suppliers to see whether treatment has been administered.

boxwood, oregonia
Members of the Buxus genus, boxwood (or box) and variegated boxwood (commonly known in the florist trade as oregonia), are broadleaf evergreens that require special care as well. Rather than storing these foliages dry in boxes, recut the ends of the stems with a sharp knife or pruners, place them into buckets containing a low-dose nutrient solution and store them in a cooler at 36 F to 41 F. Boxwood’s and oregonia’s vase lives can be as long as 14 days, depending on the care they receive. These foliages are moderately sensitive to ethylene, so pretreatment with an anti-ethylene product may be prudent. Again, this is usually done at the grower or wholesaler levels or during transportation from the farm, so check with your suppliers to see if treatment has been administered.

mistletoe
The care and handling requirements for holly also apply to mistletoe (Phoradendron), which grows parasitically on various trees. Although mistletoe is typically sold to retailers in consumer packs, if you buy it in bulk, be sure to follow the same procedures. Mistletoe berries can be toxic. Be sure to send a note regarding berry toxicity with every design that carries mistletoe.

Sources: SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual; Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflife.org; Home and Garden Information Center of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, http://hgic.clemson.edu.

Some images courtesy of The Hiawatha Corporation, Shelton, Wash.; www.hiawathacorp.com
 

the ethylene issue
    A common yet incorrect belief is that coniferous evergreens emit high levels of ethylene and, therefore, should not be stored in the same cooler as fresh flowers. The truth is that conifers do not produce enough ethylene to affect flowers and other materials stored in coolers with them—with the exceptions of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga) and redwood (Sequoia). And only a few leafy evergreens, particularly holly (Ilex), are sensitive to ethylene.

    This applies to healthy evergreens only, however; the presence of fungus can cause higher levels of ethylene to be produced. To reduce the incidence of fungus, keep storage areas clean, and follow proper air flow, hydration and temperature procedures.

popular holiday evergreens
For help identifying some of the most common holiday greenery, here’s a photo glossary.

Click here to download the Glossary as a pdf.


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