Finding fresh greens can be a challenge. Most of us don't have many evergreen trees and shrubs in our gardens nor many plants with berries.
According to Kathy Bender at Roland Park Florist, florists and professional flower-arrangers get their Christmas stock from wholesalers, who in turn get most of theirs from Newfoundland and New Brunswick in Canada, or from Oregon, Washington state and North Carolina's Smokies.
Although there are many varieties of evergreens in Maryland, our climate isn't considered cold enough nor our elevation high enough to encourage growth of most lush evergreens for commercial volume. The exception is white pine, which is used for a lot of the roping sold in garden centers.
For fresh local evergreens, you might find a generous friend or a small garden center. arden clubs and school and church bazaars also sell fresh local greens, notes Margaret Wright, a landscape architect. Check the weekend section of the newspaper for tree farm ads; they often sell local greens and wreaths. Be sure to ask where the greens come from.
Ms. Wright also advises shaking them for needle loss and examining them for color -- yellowing and noticeable shedding of needles are signs of dryness.
Warning: Do not snip that tempting sprig of bittersweet or that swag of pine along state roads. State Highway Administrative spokeswoman Valerie Burnette says it's illegal to pick anything on state property. State Trooper Gery Kehs adds that it's against the law to stop on a state highway (even on the shoulder) unless your vehicle has broken down.
Fines for stopping unnecessarily are $55; fines for theft or malicious destruction of state property can reach $1,000. That might be a bit more than you want to pay for adorning your mantel and front door.