Feeling creative this season? Evergreen decorations have been a part of winter festivals since ancient times. They have been used for centuries to represent everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. Take a walk around your own yard to see if there are some good candidates for decorative holiday greenery: Southern Magnolia, Holly, Junipers, Cedars, Firs, Spruce, Mountain Laurel, Pine, Cryptomeria, Yew, Boxwood, Pyracantha, Leyland Cypress, Arborvitae and Nandina (many more!) may all be pruned to provide Christmas greenery. There are a few points to remember when collecting these decorative materials:
1. Remember that you are pruning and in the wrong season. Remove the branch or stem at its base where it intersects another branch or stem. Prune with an eye toward thinning the entire plant towards your goal shape for better air and light circulation in the growing season.
2. When you bring your collection inside, re-cut the ends of each stem or branch and then split them either with a knife or by smashing with a hammer just before plunging them into warm water. The greenery needs to remain in warm water for 8-24 hours. Allow to dry and then spray all foliage with “Wilt-Pruf.” Do not use antitranspirants on juniper berries, cedar or blue spruce. The product can damage the wax coating that gives these plants. Keep completed wreaths, garlands and arrangements in a cool location until use. Display fresh greenery and fruits out of the sun and away from heat.
3. Poisonous berries are found on holly plants, yews, mistletoe, ivy plants, Jerusalem cherry, bittersweet and crown of thorns. The pearly white berries of mistletoe are particularly toxic. Keep all these plants out of the reach of children and curious pets.
Plan to replace greenery and fruits throughout the holiday season if they become less than fresh. Never keep dried out greens near a lit fireplace.
Decorating with Greens
Many different types of decorations can be made with fresh greenery. Some traditional types are garlands, swags, tabletops, kissing balls, and wreaths. A number of different types of forms can be stuffed with sprigs or branches to create topiaries. Kissing balls are a safer alternative to the usual mistletoe sprig (beware of mistletoe berries).
How to Make a Holiday Kissing Ball
The easiest way to construct a kissing ball is to use a round potato for the base. The moisture in the potato will help keep the cut greenery fresh. Soak greenery to be used in water overnight. Insert evenly sized sprigs of the selected green into the potato until it is completely covered. If you have difficulty inserting the sprigs, make a starter hole for each with a metal skewer. Make the evergreen sprays form an even, well-rounded ball. After the ball is completed, decorate it with ribbons, berries, mistletoe or whatever else you wish. You can find a huge selection of mini-decorations at craft stores and garden centers’ Holiday Shops. Fasten a long piece of wire to the ball so it can be hung from a chandelier, doorway, or window.
How to Make Mini Christmas Trees or Topiaries
Foam forms are available at craft stores. Prepare boxwood as described above and take sprigs of it or smaller leaf evergreens and push into the form until covered. Once it looks like a miniature christmas tree or the form you choose is fully covered decorate with ribbons, bows, mini-bulbs and ornaments, even strings of mini-lights you can get at local craft and garden centers. Keep in a shallow dish or festive pot (bonsai pots from garden centers are a good choice) and water once a day to keep the form moist.
…or take the busy Washingtonian route: just go to your local Garden Center for huge selections of already prepared greenery. Regardless of where it comes from, greenery crowns your house with nature’s simple reminder that you are uniquely blessed and there is always hope and renewal in the new year. Have a great holiday season – from WHW.