Stepping up your Christmas décor

Natural decor ideas for the Christmas season using evergreen shrubs and berried plants.

Personally, I don’t like using the ‘C’ word much before Dec. 1, but given that, no matter where I go in public – be it the coffee shop (darn you Starbucks) or the supermarket – Christmas decorations are in full force.

So I guess I will just have to go with the flow. This mad rush to celebrate is just fine my wife, Pauline, who has already persuaded me to put up the outdoor lights and conquers one part of the house daily – with the fireplace mantle already being home to a miniature winter village and the stair rails wrapped in holiday garland.

Of course, all this early decorating works well for artificial pieces, but those true Christmas icons – the cut holly, the fresh wreath on the door and, of course, the aromatic live tree – these need to be waited upon, unless of course you like dead stick décor on Christmas Day.

The other thing I dislike about artificial greens is that they look the same every year and get even worse as they fade. So I am suggesting that you pull a Martha Stewart and go out in the garden to find a little more natural inspiration for your Christmas decorating ideas.

Most evergreen shrubs, be they coniferous (Red Cedar) or broadleaf evergreen (Magnolia grandiflora) are potential garland or décor accents.

Many of us also have berried plants such as Callicarpa (Beautyberry) or English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) in our gardens, as well as deciduous shrubs with attractive stems – be it the twisted branches of a Corkscrew Hazelnut (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) or the bright red and yellow twigs of shrubby dogwoods (Cornus).

Pine cones or conkers from Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus) also make nice accents – so between you and your neighbor’s garden, you probably have ample base materials to attempt your own Christmas décor project.

The possibilities here are endless: you can convert that old hanging basket into a winter greens display; fashion a unique Christmas wreath for the front door; create an elegant table centrepiece; and, if you’re really ambitious, braid some homemade garland.

The supplies you need will be minimal. You can raid the husband’s tool box (you have my permission) for some needle nose pliers and wire cutters, you can find supplies, such as centrepiece bases, oasis flower foam and floral wire, at your local garden centre or florist, and who doesn’t own a glue gun?

These projects are also a lot of fun for kids or grandchildren, so make sure they get to enjoy this part of your festivities – after all, Christmas is really more important to them than to us older folks.

So now that I’ve spoken my peace, it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is and, in the true spirit of doing something new, I’ve created a southern-themed Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) wreath, complete with real oranges and lemons.

The colour palette here is dominated by the natural glossy green uppers and rusty-brown reverse of the base foliage, avoiding those often overused bright reds and blues – which makes for a refreshing seasonal change.

I’ve downloaded easy step-by-step instructions (with photos) on my website at (www.mikesgardenguide.wordpress.com). Look under ‘Creating a Magnolia Christmas Wreath,’ and if you click on the ‘Planter Design’ icon, you’ll also find numerous recipes for Christmas containers and hanging baskets.

After all, there’s only a mere 32 decorating days left.

 

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

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