The holiday season is one of the best times to decorate your home and garden with all those landscape trimmings that you were planning to recycle. Just add a little creativity and ingenuity.
Save the prunings from your conifers (cedar, fir and pine) and from shrubs already decorated with winter berries (holly, pyracantha and toyon). Don’t overlook evergreens such as citrus, magnolia, osmanthus and pittosporum, as well as blooming camellias or other flowering plants.
Possibilities for natural holiday decorating are almost endless and include all types of cones, seed pods and even whole grasses. Rosemary, boxwood, ivy, acorns, rose hips, apples, milkweed, wisteria, gourds, bay leaves—overlooked choices probably abound in your garden. Consider statice, eucalyptus, grape and honeysuckle vines, juniper, manzanita, podocarpus and redwood. Chances are your garden is literally filled with natural materials for making the holidays cheerier. Even prickly pear cactus pads and dried chili pods can make striking decorations.
Accent materials could include California pepper tree foliage and berries, cotoneaster berries, deer brush, cushion bush, dried pomegranates, dried poppy pods, lacecap hydrangea flowers, persimmons and even oak galls.
Projects for your holiday look might include a tomato tree, a unique use for those tomato cages languishing in the potting shed. Turn them upside down and anchor them in the ground or in a pot with irrigation stakes. Starting at the top of the cage, weave grapevines, ivy or honeysuckle vines in and out around the wire of the cage. If you’d like to keep your tomato tree fresh and green for awhile longer, tuck the cut ends of the plants into the ground or into a saucer of water concealed inside the cage. Add some tiny white lights and you’re ready to shine.
Twig art is very popular at the moment in home decorating. Why not create your own twig stars? Make large, medium and small stars by wiring or tying together six straight twigs of the same length into two triangles. Then place one triangle on top of the other and wire in place. Suspend them with fishing line from branches in the garden or indoors as window, ceiling and wall decorations. Line a mantle with miniature versions of the twig stars woven with ivy and tiny lights.
Swags are a more traditional decoration for the holidays and should contain several types of fresh foliage with berries, flowers and fruits. To construct your swag, cut three or four 6- to 9-inch small branches of greenery. Wire the bunch tightly to a green plastic clothesline, leaving a length of clothesline at the end to make a hanging loop for your swag. Make a second bunch of greenery, overlap it over the stems of the first bunch and again wire tightly to the clothesline. Continue along until your swag is the right length, then add berries, pods, fruit or red peppers either singly or in clusters. Spaced along the swag here and there, they’ll add holiday style to any home.
Frames for wreaths can be constructed with bent coat hangers or heavy wire, or purchased foam or straw. Other necessities for your project include clippers, wire cutters, florist picks (like hair pins) and green florist wire, which comes either in strands or on a spool. Forms for topiary balls can be made from crumpled chicken wire.
When you prune, cut branches with many small branchlets attached, and remember to follow appropriate pruning practices. Don’t leave ragged bark or stumps, and maintain an attractive plant shape. When removing cuttings from a plant that blooms in the spring, take care not to destroy existing flower buds.
To condition your holiday greens so that they stay lustrous and the leaf color lasts longer, try this tip. One week before decorating, add one or two tablespoons of Epsom salts to one gallon of water. Using a spray bottle, spray the liquid on the branches you want to use in your project. The magnesium from the salt will make your branches shinier and brighter. A couple of days before you’re ready to start, cut the branches you’ve chosen. Crush the ends of the stems slightly to help them absorb water. Hang them for 24 hours to dry.
What’s the best thing about natural holiday decorations? They can go straight to your compost bin or recycling container. Your home will be cheerier filled with natural decorations, and after the holidays, you’ll have the most festive compost bin in the neighborhood.
Culled from The University of Califofornia-- Master Gardens