KC Gardens

Dennis Patton: Holiday decorating tips from your own garden

A front door display using greenery from garden and lawn.
A front door display using greenery from garden and lawn. Submitted.

Decorating the home for the holidays has been a tradition for generations. The use of fresh greenery started as a southern tradition in colonial days and eventually moved north. Southern 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.

Today decorating for the holidays with fresh greenery is a continuing tradition. Fresh pre-made wreaths and garland can be purchased and used to add a festive touch to the holiday décor. Purchasing these items is not always necessary as a fresh cut supply of holiday greenery may be as close as your backdoor. Many locally grown plants can be made and used in holiday decorating.

Gathering greenery

The first and best place to look is in your landscape. Greenery gathered from the garden is as fresh as it gets. When you gather branches and bows remember that in reality you are pruning your plants. Consider carefully which branches to cut and which ones to leave. Make the proper cut and prune evenly around the plant to preserve its natural look.

Hand pruners are all that will be needed for cutting the limbs. Before heading to the yard think about your needs and how the greenery will be used. This will help determine the length and number of pieces needed for the decoration. If you are holding the materials before decorating place cut stems in water and store in a cool, shady location outdoors to reduce drying out.

What to collect

Evergreens are the backbone of the decorating. But don’t overlook deciduous twigs and plants with berries to add even more interest to a design. Some of the more 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 to add to the arrangement.

▪  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: this shrub can have large hanging red berries resembling a cluster of grapes.

▪  Viburnum: various colors of red or blue berries may be snipped and added for interest.

▪  Crabapples: some varieties have persistent fruit, which means they hang into the winter.

Other landscape plants to use would include acorns, bittersweet, hydrangea blossoms, lotus pods, pine cones, pyracantha, and sweetgum balls.

These are just a few examples. Let your imagination flow. There are many dried seed heads or pods that can also be used to create a wreath, garland or arrangement. Purchased items either fresh or man-made can supplement your design. A little spray paint might also bring a splash of color to the décor.

Let your creative side take over and have fun. You say you’re not creative? Then search the Internet or holiday magazines and borrow their ideas using your homegrown materials. What fun would it be to be home for the holidays surrounded by your own creations from the garden?