Looking to the outdoors for holiday decorations is a longstanding tradition. The use of fresh greenery started in the South in the Colonial days. when churches decorated with elaborate garlands of holly, ivy, mountain laurel and mistletoe. Herbs such as lavender, rosemary, bay and rose petals were used to scatter the scents throughout the display.
Decorating for the holidays with fresh greenery continues to this day. While you can buy fresh wreaths and garland to add a festive touch, a fresh supply of greenery may be as close as your backdoor. Many locally grown plants can be used to personalize your holiday decorating.
Greenery gathered from the garden is as fresh as it gets. But remember, you are pruning your plants. Consider carefully which branches to cut and which to leave. Make the proper cut and prune evenly around the plant to preserve its natural look.
Before heading to the yard with your hand pruners, think about how the greenery will be used. This determines the length and number of pieces needed. If you are holding the materials before decorating, place cut stems in water and store in a cool, shady location outdoors.
What to collect
Evergreens are the backbone of decorating, but don’t overlook deciduous twigs and plants with berries to add more interest to a design. Common plants include:
Pine: Great needle retention and fragrance.
Juniper: Fragrant, short green or silver foliage, oftentimes with outstanding blue berries.
Arborvitae: Bright light green color and unique form.
Spruce: Stiff branches and short needles. Blue spruce adds another color element.
Yews: Nice shiny green foliage to add texture.
Boxwood: Small rounded leaves that provide a different plant form. Note: some boxwood can have an odor.
Magnolia: The southern types have very large, course, shiny leaves that make a statement.
Holly: Traditional holiday green that may have bright red berries.
Nandina: Can have large hanging red berries resembling a cluster of grapes.
Viburnum: Various colors of red or blue berries.
Crabapples: Some varieties have persistent fruit that hang on into the winter.
Other landscape plants to consider include acorns, bittersweet, hydrangea blossoms, lotus pods, pine cones, pyracantha and sweetgum balls. Let your imagination flow. There are many dried seed heads or pods that can be used to create a wreath, garland or arrangement.
Purchased items either fresh or man-made can supplement your design. Spray painting the materials will bring a splash of color to the décor.
Let your creative side go and have fun. You say you’re not creative? Then search the internet or holiday magazines and borrow ideas using your homegrown materials. What fun it will be to be home for the holidays surrounded by your own creations from the garden.
Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to email@example.com or visit KCGardens.KansasCity.com