Winter décor and holiday decorations often feature evergreen foliage. Evergreen branches contrast beautifully with winter landscapes. Green foliage also shows such colors as red, blue, silver and gold to their best advantage. Use evergreen branches to create wreaths, centerpieces and mantel decorations. Properly preserving fresh evergreens will result in decorations that will last throughout the season.
Make the glycerin solution. Mix one part glycerin with two parts water in a container. The container should be large enough to hold the foliage. Stir well to blend the ingredients thoroughly.
Cut fresh evergreen branches with pruning shears. Cut the branches at midday when the water content is lowest.
Smash the ends of the stems with a hammer to expose more of the wood's surface area. This will help the branches absorb more of the glycerin solution.
Place the evergreen branches in the glycerin solution with the smashed ends down. Leave the foliage in the solution until the leaf edges darken. This signifies the foliage has absorbed enough solution. This process may take as many as two weeks.
Spray the evergreen foliage with an anti-transpirant, which will protect the foliage from drying out quickly. Follow the directions that come with the anti-transpirant spray.
Dip your pruning saw into a mixture of 70 percent denatured alcohol and 30 percent water to sterilize your pruning tool as recommended by the Northern Eastern State and Private Forestry offices. Sterilize your pruning saw in the mixture in between cuts to prevent spreading harmful pathogens.
Cut off competing leaders to reduce the height of the tree and maintain a healthy main leader. A main leader is a horizontally growing branch that has an even amount of side branches. Make a 45-degree angled cut near the branch collar or swelling near the trunk.
Prune the main leader to the height that you need to shorten your tree. Cut side branches, so that they are 4 to 6 inches shorter than the main leader of the tree. Continue cutting back the side branches to achieve a pyramid-shaped tree.
Remove any branches that are rubbing together or making the evergreen uneven. It is important especially after cutting down the main leader to keep the tree even to reduce the risk of it falling over.
Cut off any branches that look diseased or damaged. Discolored needles, spots on leaves or swelling in branches indicate the tree has contracted a fungal disease.
Identify what kind of evergreen shrub you have. There are three basic types of evergreen shrubs: awl-like, needle-like, and scale-like. Their classification is based on how their needles appear.
Reduce the bulkiness of the evergreen shrub in March or April by selectively removing a few branches throughout the shrub using your pruning shears.
Prune your evergreen shrub in June or July. This is after the majority of the growth has occurred but also before the shrub has set new buds for the next year. Some species, like pines, will not grow any further from a specific branch if the bud is pruned off.
Cut the branches that you want to remove deep into the evergreen shrub. The other branches will then fill in the empty space and become more robust. This will lead to a healthier shrub.
Put on safety goggles and work gloves before working on your evergreen. Sharp branches or needles may hurt the hands and eyes.
Remove dead, diseased and broken wood at any time of the year to prevent disease from spreading. Clean the pruning shears after each cut using an alcohol swab or a clean cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Stand back from the tree or shrub and inspect the general shape of the tree. Decide on the shape you want before making any cuts.
Cut narrow leaf evergreens just above the needle whorls for the species that have them. Some narrow leaf evergreens also have non-whorled growth.
Make cuts on non-whorled narrow leaf trees and broadleaf evergreens anywhere along the branch, trying hard not to cut into the older wood. Cut back to a side shoot when pruning to ensure new growth.
'Little Gem' Norway Spruce
A miniature cultivar of Norway spruce, 'Little Gem' (Picea abies 'Little Gem') grows just a foot high, with a rounded form. It has dark green needles and a dense growth habit. 'Little Gem' grows just ½ to one inch per year. It is rated through U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone three.
'Sherwood Compact' Pine
With either a globe or pyramidal shape, the named cultivar 'Sherwood Compact' pine (Pinus aristata 'Sherwood Compact') is also known as “bristlecone pine.” It grows best in full sun and tolerates drought. It has bluish-green needles that are often dotted with white pitch. Hardy through USDA zone five, bristlecone pine grows only one to three inches per year.
'White Imp' Cedar
A pyramidal shaped evergreen, 'White Imp' cedar (Cedrus deodara 'White Imp') slowly grows to three feet tall and three feet wide. Unlike other varieties of cedar that have grayish-green needles, 'White Imp' has green and white variegated foliage. Cedars are reliably hardy through USDA zone three.
'Gentsch White' Canadian Hemlock
Growing only four feet tall by four feet wide if never pruned, the Canadian hemlock 'Gentsch White' (Tsuga canadensis 'Gentsch White') can be kept at half this size when sheared regularly. 'Gentsch White' grows best in partial shade and evenly moist, well-drained soil. This evergreen cultivar has exceptional winter interest because the new growth from the previous spring becomes creamy-white during fall and winter, standing out against the dark green older foliage.