Decorating for Christmas (Holiday Season) Using Plants

Christmas is coming, if you like it or not. Countless vehicles have been spotted balancing a netted tree aloft them. The grocery stores boast giant pine wreaths with flat red bows, that dare you not to look at them as you enter. Colored lights are going up in the houses of well-meaning aunts, who try to find out on the sly what everyone wants this year.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, decorations for your holiday of choice are going up. If you don’t celebrate anything, (don’t let me assume, but) I bet you want something green in your house for the coming winter. Plants and greenery within the home help to combat seasonal depression at their very best. At their very worst, plants in the home require a certain level of responsibility or they may die. Wreaths of evergreen and cut Christmas trees will inevitably reach an end point of  peak greenery and lovely scent. In this way, you are set up for success at their fated failure.

For the eco-conscious and clingy-people, potted plants are a great option to decorate your home.

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You can even re-use annuals from your summer gardens by potting them up and bringing them inside.

This white dusty miller, shown above, was salvaged from an annual cutting garden. It is about to become the only living annual plant left from the ones I brought indoors at the beginning of October. This may be due in part to my feelings of wanting it to last as decoration for Christmas. It knows it is the prized chosen plant. Most likely though, its longevity has to do with being content with less available sunlight. God knows, I have placed it in an incredibly small pot, and forget to water it as I should. That reminds me; I need to re-pot all of these things so they are more comfortable in the long-term. (Check out my strategy for that, here.)

I love the pairing of the salvaged dusty miller with a grocery store purchased dwarf juniper. I thought this juniper was a baby fir tree when I made the impulse buy, due to a faulty label. I must have been pretty delirious after getting drunk on the smells of those pine wreaths at the front of the store, because I thought it was an entirely different kind of evergreen and that it had a smell. All in all, I am still happy I purchased it. It took me a long time to decide that this baby was the healthiest of the grocery store plants. Buying a small potted plant, such as this juniper, is much less expensive than a wreath and with proper care it will live a long while.

As a tip: Most grocery stores don’t water their potted plants frequently. In the case of a smaller potted plant, the more frequently it should be watered. Many of these plants suffer in transit and awaiting purchase. If the soil is not moist upon bringing your potted plant home, give it a good soaking in a tub (rinsed out yogurt container or salad bin) of room temperature water for about an hour before moving it to its final destination. Of course, water it as it needs from there on out. If you will be giving a potted grocery store plant as a gift a couple days or weeks away from the purchase time; unwrap the decorative foil from around it, soak it in a bin, and re-wrap the foil. Watering directly into the foil can get really messy for the recipient, or if the plant is knocked over in transit. TL;DR Water your plant.

Use foraged materials to make wreaths and centerpieces.

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In the North Eastern United States, the hemlock trees have been suffering a dismal fate from an invasive species (more about that here.) It is a very sad thing, but it also allows ever green branches that are easily gathered. Many of the hemlocks become weak and are easily knocked over in storms. The branches will remain lively for quite some time, and are now closer to ground level for gathering. I do not encourage you to go out and cut from live hemlocks or from tiny baby trees. Also, public land and sanctuaries have rules about leaving the land untouched. However, maybe you have a friend with a large property and some evergreens that would be happy to have a wreath making party. If a tree is already down from a storm, I don’t see too much harm in clipping a few branches to carry out with you. IMG_6008

These Dogwood tree pods would be gorgeous on a wreath or in arrangements if you live in a warmer climate, that drops them in late October or November (oh, to be so lucky.)

The pop of red I like to use for my wreaths comes from bittersweet vines.

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Normally, I hate bittersweet vines. They become a strangulatory vine with bright orange running roots. To get them out of a garden once they have fully matured can be a nightmare.

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This is the orange root of the bittersweet vine. This is a rather small, young plant. The roots can achieve a half inch diameter and length of multiple feet within a season. I have seen these vines take over entire sections of growth and brush on the sides of the road. Do not feel bad about cutting as much of this vine as you’d like. Feel free to yank it out of the ground if you want, you won’t get rid of it.

Give textural interest by mixing various evergreen branches.

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Green is green is green. There are very few times that I see a pairing of greens together that do not please the eye. Play around with mixing different types of evergreen branches together. It helps to have a base layer of branches and then use other types as accents. If the materials are the same color and in the same family, use a ratio of thirds. For example; upon filling the base layer with hemlock branches, fill one third of the wreath or centerpiece with pine, and one third with juniper. In this way, all of the branches are featured and work together.

Use barberry if you dare!

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I love the look of barberry this time of year. It makes up for how many times it has stabbed me while I was weeding throughout the season. If you would like to find a thorn in your finger at a holiday party after making your wreath, barberry is the decor for you.  It also makes a jam with a unique taste and some beneficial properties. I learned this from my Great Uncle’s book, Edible Wild Plants.

It is good to have options.

I am sure none of your houseguests would be offended if you brought out your regular tub of Christmas decorations. You would be completely contented if the amaryllis you purchased bloomed at the appropriate time. However, the non-traditionalist in you may come out and agree with me that if it is green, it is a holiday plant. So go ahead and wrap your basil plant in a red ribbon. Find a festive green fern that will last all year long. Cut some bittersweet vine and secure it above your doorway or mantle (get the whole root out while you’re at it.) Make a batch of barberry jam, and listen to some great seasonal music.

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How are you decorating this year?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

7 thoughts on “Decorating for Christmas (Holiday Season) Using Plants”

  1. Some lovely ideas here. I was researching dogwood fruits and was surprised to learn that some of them are edible.

    We have a friend who decorates Flying Dragon Trifoliate Orange by sticking gum drops in each spike and hangs it up over his dining room table for Christmas. I think you’d like that.

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    1. Ha! That is really creative! I knew that they were edible, but haven’t familiarized myself enough with them to try. One time I ate the skin of a passiflora pod before doing proper research (because I knew they were edible) and then found out it is only one kind that the insides are edible. I had ingested some cyanide this way.. no more than is in an apple seed though. So do your research.

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  2. Great ideas! I usually pick up whatever looks good from around my place and stick it into a wreath base of old clematis stalks I’ve had for years. In the cool weather, the stuff looks good for the holiday period and can be chucked in the compost when it starts to look ratty. Local and totally free!

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