Magazine article Sunset

Ask Sunset: Have a Question about Life in the West? We Have the Answers

Magazine article Sunset

Ask Sunset: Have a Question about Life in the West? We Have the Answers

Article excerpt

0: We have two big fir trees and a holly hedge. I'd like to collect some of the greenery for wreaths but I don't want to butcher my plants. Any tips?

-L.M., KIRKLAND, WA

DEAR L.M.: Taking greenery from your own garden for holiday decorations is a win-win. You're getting beautiful boughs for free and you're pruning at the perfect time of year, when trees are dormant. Still, you don't want your plants to look like Dr. Seuss has trimmed them. The key is to shape them at the same time you're getting your raw materials. To force growth upward, cut and harvest just above an upward-growing branch; to force growth laterally, cut above an outward-growing branch. And--important--to maintain symmetry, harvest in different places around the plants. That last rule applies doubly to holly. Of course, you'll want cuttings with red berries. But keep in mind that buds for next year's berries are on the branch ends in front of this year's clusters. So spread your cuts around or you'll have blank spots next year.

Q: I like giving wine as presents, but this year * . it's stressing me out. I need ideas for three people. First, my boss, a wine snob--I need a red (what he likes best) that is really good but that he doesn't already know. Second, my son, who's finished college and is trying to appreciate wine after four years of beer. Finally, my aunt, who likes sweet wines but who is embarrassed by them--anything grown-up for her? -C.R., TEMPE, AZ

DEAR C.R.: Let's start with your boss. If he's a red wine aficionado, he's probably big on Cabernet Sauvignon--specifically Napa Cabs. So surprise him with a superb Cab from a lesser-known region. Just north of Napa, Lake County is producing impressive Cabs: Obsidian Ridge Vmeyard's are full of ripe, bright fruit. Paso Robles is also coming into its own: Daou Vineyards' Cabs are dark and intense. For your just-out-of-college son, think Zinfandel. It's a grape that can hang with frat-friendly fare like pasta and steak, but also possesses the sophistication he'll appreciate as he moves further into his 20s. Here, you can't go wrong with Ravenswood Dickerson Vineyard Napa Valley or Ridge Lytton Springs. …

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