Landscape Logic column: How green do you deck the halls and walls?

Becky Garber
Landscape Logic

It’s traditional to deck the halls of your home during the holiday season with greenery all dressed up with bows and lights. There are also green paybacks to be had in your wallet and the environment based on how “green” you want to go. If you have pets, be aware that there are safety issues with some live green plants as well.


Artificial trees are less of a fire hazard and don’t drop needles to create a mess on the floor like the natural ones do.

Being pre-lit, artificial trees also save you time since all you have to do is plug them in and there are no lights to string around the tree. You don’t have to worry about getting this tree outside or delivered for recycling, either. For many, those factors are the tipping point for the artificial tree. And that’s a valid choice for many.

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On the other hand, if you love the smell of a fresh evergreen and keep it watered regularly to reduce fire hazard and slow the needle drop, a fresh tree might be the one for you. Even though it seems wasteful to remove a live tree from its natural habitat, you’re actually acting in a sustainable manner.

An artificial tree must be used for at least 20 years to have a lower carbon footprint than a natural tree. One acre of Christmas trees growing on a tree farm creates enough oxygen to support 18 people. So if you like the fragrance, control the mess and keep your tree fire safe, go for the natural one.


• LED lighting. Whatever type of tree you choose this holiday, light it up with LED lights. They are safe because they generate no heat and won’t ignite the tree. They require less power and many less outlets. Many strands can be plugged end to end and into one single outlet. They are energy efficient.

• Use what you have. Re-purpose the lowest branches cut off a natural tree to a vase and bring the evergreen fragrance to another room. Gather pinecones and branches with berries from your yard and make them part of your fresh holiday decor. Look for branches such as red twig dogwood to add interest in outdoor containers and indoor arrangements.

• Repurpose and make fire starters. Dip, dry and re-dip pinecones 4 to 5 times in melted wax to create fire starters for your wood-burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit. Put them in a basket to share as a gift.


Decking the halls with live plants is a sustainable decorating choice, but know the limits when it comes to pets. If pets chew on plants, avoid toxic plants in your holiday decor.

• Amaryllis plants are very toxic and the bulb more so.

• American holly has potentially toxic compounds that can cause gastrointestinal irrigation.

• Mistletoe berries and leaves can cause mild gastritis — but the most serious threat they pose to pets is that the plastic berries that are often included in the package can be swallowed. Many holiday vet visits are due to pets ingesting these berries.

• Kalanchoe, a flowering succulent, is popular at the holidays because of its showy blooms. It, too, can cause gastrointestinal problems for pets.

What about poinsettias?

Contrary to urban myth, the poinsettias are a safe holiday standby.

The bracts of poinsettia leaves are not seriously toxic and are a much safer choice if you have pets and young children in the house. Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic and Colorado State University confirm this fact.

Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors, of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.

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