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Jet Ski Club :: Garden Guru: Create family memories by planting a living Christmas tree

Christmas is a special time for making memories. Not all the memories come from gifts, although those slippers that look like giant stuffed roosters from the farm certainly make a lasting impression.

Christmas trees have a way of making a lasting memory just like the special ornaments that adorn them. Other than using a camera, one way to capture and make that Christmas memory last is with a living Christmas tree.

When living Christmas trees are mentioned, your first thought may be decorating one indoors and then planting it outside. That certainly can work with a little care. In recent years, however, the living Christmas tree idea has shifted more to just the landscape. There is certainly good reasoning here as your evergreen of choice can be for specimen-type plantings that will serve as a focal point. It can give you good bones and structure in the garden if it’s informally clustered.

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens you can see living Christmas trees used to perfection during the December Nights and Holiday Lights. With dramatic new designs and dazzling lights now numbering close to 750,000, the event is a memorable experience for the whole family. The first ones you will notice are the hollies with staggered heights in the circle as you enter the new Andrew Visitor and Education Center parking lot.

Hollies are great Christmas trees and the photo op of your visit may be the 18-foot-tall Emily Bruner holly, which is the focal point in the Formal Garden. It is majestic in the daytime — but at night, lighted with giant snowflakes and berry red lights, it is festive beyond imagination. Oh, and did I say this holly is surrounded by more than 10,000 icy white lights?

But as you walk the trail through the Rainbow tunnel and down the Crape Myrtle Allee guarded by nutcracker soldiers you will soon see five oak leaf hollies with that idyllic Christmas tree form providing a dazzling display in the Rose Garden. This garden, sponsored by The Garden Club of Savannah, has become a hit not only for blooming roses but the lights, too.

Hollies, like Festive, Little Red, Cardinal, Robin, Mary Nell and Nellie R. Stevens, all have that classic conical shape that with minimal maintenance will provide a lifetime of Christmas tree enjoyment. They may prove to be a little prickly when placing ornaments, but the look is truly outstanding. Shiny, metallic garland and lights look great on hollies as the leaves provide an extra reflection.

If you want a living Christmas tree but can’t wrap your mind around the idea of a holly, then choose a conifer like the native Eastern red cedar, deodar cedar and the exquisite blue-gray Arizona cypress.

Here at the garden we have already incorporated leading Arizona cypress varieties like Carolina Sapphire, Blue Ice and Chaparral in various locations like the White Garden, Xeriscape Garden and even in the Palm Collection. None is more photogenic however than the Chaparral in the White Garden. But if you look closely you will notice we are also using small ones in temporary clusters of three. These are lighted and placed in large containers with a sea of matching gray Spanish moss on the surface.

Make a special celebration with your family in planting a living Christmas tree this season, and the memories are sure to come. You’ll remember how old your children were when the tree was planted, and you can watch the tree grow as they grow. Doing this each year gives you a living ledger or diary of memorable holidays with the family.

December Nights and Holiday Lights is annual family tradition. Join us as we light the Gardens with dramatic displays with an estimated 750,000 holiday lights. Saturday night pictures with Santa, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, and a nightly train display courtesy of the Coastal Rail Buffs will have the whole family talking.

Check schedules for local church choirs and musicians that will fill the Gardens with holiday music. The lights are open Nov. 27 to Dec. 24 — from 6 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday through Sunday night. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 children 3 to 12. Children under 3 are admitted free. Wednesdays are $5 for ages 3 to 103! For more information and possible weather closings call 912-921-5460.

For more info: http://savannahnow.com/accent/2015-11-27/garden-guru-create-family-memories-planting-living-christmas-tree

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