Today is the day to steep yourself in the crisp scent of cedar and fir while fulfilling holiday decorating fantasies. The elves at the Washington...

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Today is the day to steep yourself in the crisp scent of cedar and fir while fulfilling holiday decorating fantasies.

The elves at the Washington Park Arboretum have been busy crafting wreaths, swags and gifts. Or if you prefer to do it yourself, here are all the raw ingredients for decking the halls.

The fragrant boughs are freshly cut, and a huge selection of berried branches, cones, hydrangeas, eucalyptus and corkscrew willow is on offer. Come for inspiration and leave laden with one-of-a-kind botanical treasures. All sales benefit the arboretum.

Greens Galore is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Washington Park Arboretum’s Graham Visitors Center, 2300 Arboretum Drive E., Seattle. For information or directions, call 206-325-4510 or

Hollies revisited

Hollies aren’t just for Christmas anymore.

If you think of these eminently garden-worthy plants as nothing more than prickly green trees dotted with red berries, expand your holly horizons with “Hollies for Gardeners,” by Christopher Bailes (Timber Press, $34.95).

Weather watch

Call ahead to confirm events. Some schedules may change due to weather conditions.

Hollies are a vast genus with a surprising variety of foliage and fruit, including a sophisticated gray-leafed species that looks more like eucalyptus than the familiar notion of holly. (Ilex crenata ‘shiro fukurin.’) Some have leaves variegated with yellow or white; others lose their leaves in winter. Foliage can be twisted, toothed or smooth, sporting berries in vivid gold and orange, or even black.

The book is packed with color photos, cultural information and possibilities for using hollies in the landscape.

Gardening with nature

Do you wish your garden were more in tune with nature and easier to care for?

Learn how to design a low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly garden at free workshops sponsored by King County and Seattle Public Utilities.

The naturescaping classes include information on attracting birds and other creatures to your garden. You’ll also learn environmentally safe methods of eliminating weeds and caring for lawns.

Workshop attendees will be invited to join in a native plant salvage on Dec. 9, at a site scheduled for development, where they’ll be able to dig up plants to take home.

You can register for either of the following workshops by calling 206-386-4162 or by e-mail to

The workshops are from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Viewlands Elementary School, 10525 Third Ave. N.W., Seattle; and from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Beaver Lake Lodge, 25101 S.E. 24th St., Sammamish.

Poinsettias galore

Remember when poinsettias used to come only in red?

Revel in more than 40,000 poinsettias in shades from cream through amber to nearly purple at Molbak’s’ 31st annual Festival of Poinsettias, continuing through Christmas Eve.

Perhaps because they grow their own poinsettias at their nearby farm, Molbak’s offers the biggest, plumpest and showiest of these Christmas mainstays.

Festival highlights include activities for kids, and a 10-foot tall poinsettia tree to use as backdrop for holiday photos. Fourteen new kinds of poinsettias, including Cinnamon Candy and Winter Rose, debut this year, with names as delicious as Molbak’s’ complimentary Danish pastries.

Molbak’s is located at 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville. Holiday hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. For a schedule of events, go to

Valerie Easton also answers questions in Wednesday’s Plant Talk in Northwest Life. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.