You Never Know What Is Just Outside Your Door
Deck the halls with boughs of holly! And lots of other great stuff. Between your garden and those of your gardening buddies, there likely is a surprising amount of interesting greenery, berries, dried flower heads, seedpods and cones.
These natural items mixed with fresh-cut, leftover branches from fitting the Christmas tree to fit the stand will perk up this seasons wreaths, swags, garlands, and arrangements. A study by Dr. Kristen Malecki, assistant professor of population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health indicates that “higher levels of green space were associated with lower symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.” It is time for nature’s green to make a comeback. Says Malecki. “If you want to feel better, go outside.” So take a stress break from holiday shopping and head out to the garden to see what nature has to offer.
Glossy greens such as magnolia, holly, laurels, camellia, cleyera, abelia, and boxwood look great mixed with clippings from evergreens such as junipers, white cedar, arborvitae, or wax myrtle.
Some plants, like yew, holly and especially Mistletoe, can be toxic, so know the properties of what you are using if your children or pets might try to eat a bit of decoration.
Grapevine, English ivy, creeping jasmine, red twig dogwood, and even wisteria sprigged with stems of fragrant herbs like rosemary make excellent wreath bases. Holly berries, wax myrtle berries, Red sumac heads, rose hips, hawthorn and viburnum berries, and fresh or dried fruits will add just the right focal point of color.
Cones from evergreen trees like pine, cryptomeria, and red cedar along with interesting seed pods from crape myrtle or even sweet gum make attractive focal points too. Keep your eyes open and look for color and freshness that will carry your decorations through the season. Gently bend the needles or leaves on the fresh greens before you trim for your collection. Only cut stems if they’re pliable. Avoid using brittle, limp, or faded pieces. When harvesting branches of broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendron or Pieris be aware that you may be cutting off next year’s flowers, so choose pieces scattered throughout the plant to camouflage spaces of lost future blooms. This is a good time of year to trim up overgrown Japanese Plum Yews; their deep green needles make a fine wreath or arrangement background.
Did you grow any sage, wormwood, santolina, or lavender, this year? These gray toned foliage plants can add a blue tone to complement your decorations. “Silver king Euonymous”, “Gold Dust Acuba”, Goshiki Osmanthus or “Gold mop Threadleaf False Cypress” add extra color while the dried blooms of ornamental grasses add airy texture to a holiday arrangement. Arborvitae and cryptomeria last a long time without dropping needles but holly stays freshest if kept in water. Mosses, lichens, and strips of peeling bark add a touch of country. A winter walk with an eye for texture will show you the resources you have at hand.
Don’t forget what’s in the kitchen. Dried lemon or orange slices pinned with whole cloves, and bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with holiday ribbon can be interesting focal points if you use just a few. Mix your textures and combine smooth with coarse, or round with bristly. Bring the outdoors inside for a beautiful and natural approach this season. As of December 21, it’s officially a winter wonderland to go walking in, no snow required.
Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.