Decking the halls

Deck the Halls with boughs of holly-fa la la…what? How do I deck the halls, and where do I find boughs of holly?

Start by taking a walk in the woods.

Look around; nature will give you inspiration. I have a holly tree in my backyard. The birds love it. They may eat the berries, but I always cut a few springs of that recognizable leaf to use in arrangements. 

After a windy day, it is easy to find sticks and small branches to collect. They will help to stabilize your designs and add interest to the greenery. It’s a major score if you happen to find white birch branches.

With the white birch, you can add a bit of green or pine cones, a few white lights, and have an instant arrangement for an outdoor container, a welcome at the front door, or a fireplace basket. Having trouble finding them on your hikes? Don’t worry, I always see them for sale with other Christmas trimmings.

Yes, of course, you can purchase the pine roping for garland, bags of pine cones, seedpods, magnolia leaves, and bundles of twigs from local vendors. I supplement what I cannot find, but there is something fun about searching through the backyard or woods. 

For the last few years, I have taken a wreath-making class at Valley Gardens. It’s fun, and Chris Higgins makes sure everyone walks away with a beautiful creation. Last year after class, I had a spare red dogwood twig and brought it home, then stuck it in a pot. Seriously, I just shoved it into an empty container, and now it is growing like crazy. Although they will be small, I may harvest a few of my red twigs this year. 

If your schedule doesn’t permit you to take a class, don’t worry. Consider adding fresh lemons, oranges, or other fruit to basic arrangements. Try roses or other blooms you might find in the grocery store floral department. This is your chance to express yourself. I often buy a bouquet then enhance it with clippings from my yard. 

I have baskets of pinecones that I save from year to year. Oh, I add a few here and there, but it is fun to fill my pinecone baskets and think about all parties they have seen or visitors they have greeted. I like traditions. I also like to tweak them and add a new twist to the holidays.

Did you happen to dry hydrangea blooms this year? They make a lovely addition to the Christmas tree. I have heard a spritz of hairspray helps keep the blooms intact, but I have not tried this and just take my chances that they will last through the season.

Remember those twigs you gathered in the yard. Don’t be afraid to give them a shot of spray paint and a dab of glitter to help your design. Get the kids involved, enjoy the mess and memories you will make.

After a day inside, I find great joy in working with my hands and bringing designs to life. Sometimes I just can’t help myself when I spy a pile of greens and an empty pot.

For several days last week, I walked past a collection of greenery so beautiful I would slow down and almost droll over the variety. Birch branches, pine, juniper berries, cabbage plants and so much more. All of this by an empty urn was just too much temptation.

I stopped in my tracks, tossed my work tote to the ground, and began arranging. I was having so much fun, I forgot about the cameras—rookie mistake. I was caught on screen. Gardeners don’t think of these things when inspired. Luckily, the landlord is a nice guy who was understanding and even sent an email thanking me for jumping in to help. 

Walk through your yard, the nearby woods, the Christmas tree lot, or even the craft store.

Gather, create, and deck the halls in new and interesting ways. Maybe decking the halls with nature will become part of your family traditions.