Ask the Superintendent – ‘Tis the Season!

Ask the Superintendent – ‘Tis the Season!

It is finally December in DFW, and that means it’s time to decorate for the holidays. Some people and clubs go small … and some go BIG! No matter the extent of your decorating, there are life-long memories to be made this time of year, and the holiday decorations – whether at the club or at your home – will be the canvas that many of your special holiday memories will be painted on. 

Now I know what you are probably thinking: why is the golf course superintendent giving us advice on holiday decorations, even if they are plant-based? I covered this topic a few years ago, but it seems that, at least around our club, there is a need for a refresher with a few new twists. I would also offer, as a bit of topic, credentialing that I have worked both as a florist and an interior plantscapes manager. More importantly, we did grow Christmas trees on our family farm in Indian Creek, Georgia. So I know a thing or two about holiday decorating and using your outdoor landscaping to craft some festive holiday decorations. So, this month’s Ask the Superintendent question is, “what are some holiday decorating tips for plants and greenery?”


Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) make great accent plants for the holidays and come in white, pink and the traditional red. Keep them watered properly and they will last from Halloween till New Year’s (some brave souls keep them year-round). 

Here are some tips to take poinsettias from good to great. First, make sure that you are getting your poinsettias from a quality supplier and that they are in good health and disease-free. Note, also, that poinsettias are tropical, and they hate cold weather, so any exposure to cold weather is damaging and you should avoid placing them near doors, windows or other drafts that may damage the foliage. Be sure to inspect the plant thoroughly, especially under the leaves. 

Poinsettias look great when placed in clusters, especially if you mix the colors, but this can make watering difficult.  We tend to over water the outside plants and under water the interior or middle plants. Watering is key, so even though you may get busy, and your placement may make it hard to water each plant properly, remember that poinsettias do best when they stay evenly watered. Drought stress can quickly wilt the foliage, and the foliage is the star of the show. Watering every other day or so, depending on temperature and size of the plant, is recommended and you may want to invest in a hand-held moisture meter to keep tabs on the moisture level in the pots. 

My grandmother was famous for her poinsettias, and she would often say that poinsettias bring extra joy to the holidays. I hope that you will use these poinsettia tips to bring an extra measure of joy to your family this holiday season. 

Wreaths and Greenery

Over the years, I have often found our F&B staff borrowing holly limbs and cedar boughs for center pieces and wreaths. There is something to the smell of fresh-cut flowers and greenery, especially during the holidays. 

So let’s start with a few basic tips on making wreaths, centerpieces and other holiday fare from items found in the landscape. First, be safe. Use proper pruning shears/saws to cut holly branches, etc. Watch your fingers and make good clean cuts to allow the plant to heal properly. Be sure not to disfigure your trees or shrubbery.

Second, remember to check anything that you bring into the house for unwanted passengers. Aphids, beetles, ants and mites are often hidden deep into stems and leaves and will become quite active once inside the warmth of your home or office. Inspect gathered plant materials closely: shake, wash or blow carefully to make sure your spectacular centerpiece doesn’t start moving about the table. 

Lastly, watch for potential fire hazards; dried stems and leaves and the open flame of a holiday candle can be a dangerous combination. It was a hot, dry summer so check the moisture and viability of your cuttings. Be diligent in your preparations and let your creativity guide you to make perfect holiday memories. 

O Christmas Tree!

Now on to the star of the show, the Christmas tree. In an effort to be fair, synthetic trees have many advantages, such as cost, safety and reusability. That said, the smell of a freshly cut cedar, spruce, fir or pine connects most of us to the holidays of yesteryear, and that is a powerful thing. 

So our focus will be on things that will help you choose, maintain and dispose of your “live” Christmas tree. There are so many tips for this one; the best way to cover the topic is to arrange them in order from selection to recycling. Here are some trade secrets for your MVCT (Most Valuable Christmas Tree) of 2022. 

Whenever possible, get the freshest cut trees. Visiting a Christmas tree farm and cutting it yourself is a fun way to do this. A Google search will quickly show multiple options around North Texas.

Bring a few items for the tree-buying process, such as a tape measure to make sure the tree is the right height and width for your space: 10-foot trees are a problem for 8-foot ceilings. Rope/string to secure the tree is also helpful in transporting your tree safely.  

If you are buying a tree from a precut tree vendor, be sure to run your hand firmly down several branches. If more than a few needles come off in your hand, keep looking. You can also do the traditional shake the whole tree to make sure the needles are still secure.

If something comes up and you cannot address setting up the tree properly, store the tree outside in a bucket of water to buy some time before bringing it in doors. 

If you buy a precut tree, be sure to make a fresh cut (about an inch will do) before placing it in the tree stand. This will help the tree absorb water. Sap will start filling the cut in just a few hours, so a fresh cut helps move water up the tree.

Fill your tree stand with water as quickly as possible … the sooner, the better. Definitely within 24 hours and monitor the water level daily. Note that clean water is really all you need. The addition of soda or other items to the water is a great theory, but generally good old H2O works best, and try to get a stand with at least a one-gallon capacity or larger, depending on the size of the tree. 

Secure the tree as needed (cats and other pets may test your skills in the area). Social media is full of Christmas tree fails, so do not be afraid to use string or rope to secure the tree.

Try to position the tree away from heat vents, fire places, radiators and windows that get direct sunlight. Try to keep the room cooler than normal once you set up the tree. If you can, turn down the thermostat, or close or partly close the room’s heat vents. This slows down the tree from drying out as fast

Decorate and enjoy the season. Be sure to bring in as many family/friend experts as possible into this process.

When the holidays end, carefully remove all decorations from the tree and drain the water from the holder. Check with your city or other sanitation services for recommended tree pick-up or recycling opportunities. Usually, a quick visit to their website or phone call will provide all of the information that you need.

The last few years have been tough in many ways, and now more than ever it is important to be in the present and live your best life. Club life is meant to enhance all things that are social, and the holiday season brings out the best of the best. 

I hope these tips will help you have the best holiday yet. Thank you again for being an avid reader of our “Ask the Superintendent” column … remember, we never run out of answers. Until next year, play golf as the weather allows … and do not forget to thank your golf course superintendent.