Frosty nights and falling leaves announce the holiday time of year. As the weather moves to crisp, the holiday festivities move forward in our hearts and minds. There is a list of things to do in preparation for Santa, elves, reindeer, and family. One of those listed items includes outdoor holiday decorating. Holiday décor, inside and out, runs the gamut of non-existent to able to be seen from outer space, all different approaches to the magical season.
Almost every magazine cover, holiday ad and seasonal TV show has ideas for decorating. The most world-renowned decorator does not hail from New York City, Waco, or even Laurel. The decorator that introduced the focal point, and more, does not have a television show or fabric swatches. Christmas decorations created by Mother Nature are warm, inviting, and beautiful. It is her simple designs that draw our hearts to joy and nature.
Mother Nature’s theme is clear: clean, fresh, and natural. This theme is referred to as the deodorant theme, clean and fresh. Natural themes have a wide swath of colors; green in every shade, blue skies from a warm summer day to white blizzards, and reds from berries to pomegranates. Mother Nature supplies the paints, and you create the portraits.
When you plant a bed of flowers, the tallest ones go in the back. Your decorations should follow the same pattern. A solid start is greenery to provide your background. Greenery is abundant and makes a great base. In many areas of the US, holiday greenery was used all the way back to colonial times. Many gardeners wait until January to do their pruning while it is cold and the bugs are asleep. That makes you the recipient of fresh holiday décor, and if not in your yard, best ask for the owner’s permission. Overgrown boxwood, especially with red stems, is perfect. Cedars, firs, pines, redwoods, and junipers all make a fragrant backdrop. Holly and myrtle have berries and pretty foliage. Southern magnolias with their red berry clusters are stunning and everlasting.
Textures go hand-in-hand with colors. Plants, like Podocarpus (wispy and feathery), pittosporum (small leaves and black stems), viburnum (medium leaves and purple berries), and nandina (fall colors) will all provide strength and depth to any arrangement. To contrast all that green there are many available berries, dried flowers, pods, and cones. Acorns, pine cones, sweet gum balls, rose hips, pyracantha, and magnolia pods will all add depth, texture, and color to your decorations.
As you gather up your tools, pruners, loppers, and red flyer wagon for your neighborhood search, realize there are some steps to help preserve the plant cuttings. Fill a bucket with water for your cuttings and store the cuttings in a cool place prior to using. Maximum water intake allows the plant to look better and last longer in your decorations. Be prepared to freshen up the
plant material in case the greenery gets too dry. Always have permission before lopping off the neighbor’s prize maple. You want those good tidings to last through the New Year.
When using fresh cuttings always search for hitchhikers in the form of bugs and small reptiles, like cold blue belly lizards, prior to adding them to your holiday decor. Even acorns should be baked prior to using. Acorns with holes means someone has got to them before you. Discard those since bugs are using those acorns like little suitcases.
Put things together that you may not have seen before. Silver colored platters with handles may be used as wreaths. Hang your greenery and sliced citrus from the same handle that you hang the platter with, topping off with a large bow. Using vegetables from the garden that have been frosted over will provide color on your porch décor. Green and red tomatoes that are firm and tight, red peppers that have pinholes from bugs will add texture, sprouting onions in a pot will confuse the relatives — all fun choices that you won’t see everywhere. Re-use things with a new purpose to bring them to life for another round.
Mother Nature will be proud of your natural decorations. She is always happy to share her decorating ideas.
Written by the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Julie Silva of Tuolumne County