In the Garden:
If the leaves haven't fallen yet from the possum haw, remove them before using the branches for holiday decorations.
Decorations from the Garden
For me, the winter holidays have always been completely intertwined with the garden. Decorations throughout the house can be made from natural materials from all around the garden that gives the season a natural touch.
Pine trees and other conifers offer a windbreak, year-round green color, and an unending supply of fragrant holiday decorations and cones. Two added bonuses are the shelter they provide for birds and that wonderful rustling sound they make. White and Austrian pines (Pinus sylvestis and P. nigra) are the varieties most often grown in our region. But don't overlook the colors and textures of other conifers, such as spruce, hemlock, and cedar.
Using Pine Boughs
Pine branches offer longest-lasting decorations indoors and out. An inexpensive mixed bouquet of flowers is easy to arrange when combined with pine branches. A fast, simple way to decorate a table or buffet is to spread pine boughs along the top and set crystal or silver candlesticks and glass ornaments among them. You can also intertwine small lights.
Craft shops sell inexpensive wire frames that clamp on to pine branches for easy-to-make wreaths. For a last-minute door decoration, simply gather a few pine branches together, with the tips all pointing downward, wrap the ends with florist's wire, and add a beautiful bow.
Fill baskets and compotes with cones, either in their natural state or spray-painted silver or gold. You can also wire cones to wreaths and swags or make a wreath entirely of cones.
Using Evergreen Holly
Holly leaves and berries add another dimension to holiday decorations. Although English holly (Ilex aquifolium) has the glossiest leaves, our native American holly (I. opaca) has beautiful evergreen leaves and bright red berries. When decorating, don't overlook other ornamental hollies, such as the popular Foster and Chinese hollies.
Try Deciduous Hollies
For sheer colorful impact in the winter, few plants can compete with our native deciduous holly (I. decidua), also called possum haw. The plants may or may not have lost their leaves by this time of year, but the stems covered in berries are the prize. There are a number of excellent named varieties. Most varieties produce red berries, but some produce yellow or orange berries.
Other Garden Treasures
In creating wreaths, swags, or arrangements, don't overlook what might be considered "trash." I know a local artist who makes very expensive evergreen wreaths that are trimmed in weeds. Ornamental grasses are another great addition. One year I used dried corn tassels and okra pods, sprayed with gold paint, in all my decorations.
So bundle up, head out to the yard, and see what inspirations your garden has to offer during this holiday season.
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