Holiday Decorations from Nature

December is all about decorating for me. I usually have several craft projects going at once. Right now I’m working with all the small shells I brought back from Mexico.  My poor relatives. After so many years, their walls are covered with art projects but they always look forward to one of my wreaths to brighten up the front door or an inside wall.

I make several styles of wreath. The quickest and easiest is made by attaching dried hydrangea flowers to a grape vine wreath or a metal frame.  Even a coat hanger can be bent to make a frame.  If you have grapes or honeysuckle vines, you can make a frame yourself. Coil several 3-6 ft lengths of vine together then wrap with more vines until you get a wreath as thick as you want. Allow the wreath to dry. Then attach the flowers with thin floral wire.  You don’t even have to cover a natural wreath frame completely and if your blossoms aren’t completely dry when you harvest them you can finish them off inside.  I also tuck hydrangea flowers into my Christmas tree and use some to decorate an evergreen outside.

From the redwood canopy to the forest floor there is an abundance of foliage, berries and cones that make beautiful holiday decorations. Choose long lasting foliage from juniper, Southern Magnolia, redwoods and pines.  Deodar cedar and spruce drop their needles too quickly.  Be sure to prune to a well placed branch that is at least a third as big as the one you are pruning. Boxwood, citrus leaves, English laurel, red-trig dogwood branches and camellia leaves also hold up well in a wreath or swag.

Berries provide color in the winter garden, food for birds and other wildlife and are attractive in wreaths, swags and arrangements inside as well.  English holly is a classic but stems of cotoneaster, iris foetidissima and nandina berries will hold up well indoors for 10 days or more.  Toyon, a California native shrub, is covered with red berries at this time of year which look beautiful against the handsome green foliage.  If the robins don’t get them, the berries also hold up well inside.  For best berry production, clip branch tips lightly after berries finish but before buds form.  Berries for outdoor color includes Strawberry tree, crabapples, beautyberry, Hawthorn trees, pyracantha and skimmia.

Pointsettias also hold up well inside either as a cut flower or a living plant.  They need a very bright spot in the house and allow the soil to dry slightly but not completely between waterings .   Deprive them of either of these requirements and the lower leaves will yellow and drop.  Also be sure they aren’t sitting in water at the bottom of the container.  Pointsettias are brittle but if you break off a branch, sear the end of the stem with a flame and it will hold up quite well in a vase or arrangement.  It’s too cold here in the mountains for pointsettias to survive outside at night usually.

But aren’t pointsettias poisonous?  Ohio State University conducted extensive research and concluded that although pointsettia leaves and flowers might give you a stomach ache if you ate them, they wouldn’t kill or seriously hurt you.  With this in mind, you should still keep pointsettias out of the reach of small children.

Happy Holidays to all my faithful readers.