Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Natural Decorating for Christmas
Have you decked the halls? Consider your backyard and garden for a ready source of interesting greenery, berries, dried flower heads, and seedpods. See what nature has to offer…
If you don’t think it is worth the effort, check prices online and you’ll find that the green in Christmas refers to the color of money! It is time for nature’s green to make a comeback. Take a holiday from spending and head out to the garden to see what’s all around you.
Let’s start with the common evergreen branches—which will enhance any wreath, swag, garland, or arrangement.
Glossy greens such as holly, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, vinca, and boxwood look great mixed with evergreens such as cedar, fir, yew clippings, spruce, or balsam.
(Some plants, like yew and holly, can be toxic, especially to young children and pets, so be aware of what you are using if your kids are likely to munch on a fallen sprig or berry.)
Grapevine, artemisia, red twig dogwood, and stems of aromatic herbs make excellent wreath bases.
Red sumac heads, rose hips, winterberry, viburnum berries, and fresh or dried fruits will jazz things up.
Cones from evergreen trees like hemlock, spruce, and pine along with interesting seed pods from milkweed, iris, daylilies, peonies, rue, nigella, and poppies make attractive focal points. If the pine cones you find are too large for your purpose, just snip an inch or two off the tip to use.
When choosing natural ingredients, look for color and freshness. Gently bend the needles or leaves on the fresh greens and cut them only if pliable. Avoid using brittle, limp, or faded material. When harvesting branches of broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendron or andromeda be aware that you may be cutting off next year’s flowers, so choose them judiciously. This is a good time of year to trim up overgrown yews; their deep green needles make a fine wreath background or arrangement filler.
By now herbs such as artemisia, santolina, lavender, and sage will have dried on the stem. Instead of evergreens we call these ever-grays. Hydrangea flowers also dry well on the plant and make excellent accents. Silver or gold edged euonymous add extra color while dried sprays of ornamental grass lend charm and personality to a holiday arrangement. Arborvitae lasts a long time without dropping its needles but holly stays freshest if kept in water. Mosses, lichens, and strips of birch bark add a rustic touch. Use materials you have at hand.
You can also turn to the kitchen for inspiration.
Fruits including apples, oranges, lemons, and limes can be sliced and dried in a low oven or dehydrator. Thin slices dry fast. Whole nutmegs or cinnamon sticks not only look good but also impart their spicy aroma. Nuts from the pantry and even whole bay leaves can be used in a wreath. Don’t be afraid to improvise.
Keep it simple so you don’t upstage the natural beauty of the plants. Think texture and combine opposites—smooth with rough or round with spiky. Make the most of nature’s gifts and take a natural approach to your holiday decorating this season.
About This Blog
Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.