Find hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions in the gar­den

Houston Chronicle - - STAR - By Kathy Hu­ber COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Q: What ev­er­greens can I use in nat­u­ral hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions? Liz Briggs, Hous­ton

A: Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet walk in the gar­den or a scav­enger hunt with the kids, this is an ideal time to for­age for nat­u­ral hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions. There’s no short­age of green­ery, seed pods, cones and berries to cre­ate straight-from-the-gar­den wreaths, swags, top­i­aries and tree or­na­ments to en­joy in the weeks ahead.

And noth­ing's more green than us­ing what you have. Gather fresh green­ery, cones and berries the day be­fore you make your dec­o­ra­tions. (Check the back­sides of holly and mag­no­lia fo­liage to make sure its free of scale in­sects.) Also, use clip­pings from your Christ­mas tree if pos­si­ble.

Ev­er­greens can last about two weeks in­doors, es­pe­cially when in­serted into wet Oa­sis or used in a vase with wa­ter. Change the wa­ter as needed to keep it fresh.

Cool or chilly weather ex­tends the life of ever-

greens used in out­door dec­o­ra­tions. Oc­ca­sion­ally mist ev­er­greens in out­door gar­lands and wreaths when temps are warm.

To give long-last­ing life and depth to a front door faux wreath, I like to use feath­ery blue-green ‘Carolina Sap­phire’ cy­press; cryp­tome­ria stems packed with stiff, green nee­dles and small cones; and the slen­der, deep-green leaves of ‘Soft Ca­ress’ ma­ho­nia. These lasted through­out the hol­i­day sea­son.

For a beau­ti­ful ta­blescape, com­bine pine boughs, mag­no­lia leaves, ornamental red pep­pers, but­ter­fly vine seed pods, bur oak acorns, pine cones, nan­d­ina berries and moss to fill a gar­den bas­ket.

A bur oak acorn, bald cy­press fo­liage and round cones make a sim­ple hang­ing dec­o­ra­tion.

Plump, pot­ted poin­set­tias dress en­try halls, man­tels and din­ing ta­bles each hol­i­day sea­son. But poin­set­tia stems also make great cut flow­ers. They'll last up to two weeks if you change the wa­ter. Care­ful, though; they ooze a milky sap when bro­ken or cut, and it can ir­ri­tate skin. To stop the flow, im­me­di­ately dip the cut end into sim­mer­ing wa­ter for 10 sec­onds or hold it over a can­dle flame.

We found bracts lon­glast­ing when we sim­ply cut stems, re­moved fo­liage that would sit be­low the wa­ter line and im­me­di­ately placed the stems in a vase of cool wa­ter. Change the wa­ter when it clouds up. Watch the wa­ter­line daily; poin­set­tias are heavy drinkers.

You can also dec­o­rate your tree with sin­gle poin­set­tias in florist wa­ter vials. Check the wa­ter fre­quently.

John Everett / Con­trib­u­tor

For hol­i­day cheer, fill a gar­den trug with pine, mag­no­lia, bur oak acorns, but­ter­fly vine seed pods, nan­d­ina berries and red pep­pers.

Colo­nial Wil­liams­burg Foun­da­tion

A box­wood wreath can make a fes­tive state­ment with the ad­di­tion of an ar­range­ment of holly berries, or­anges and tulip bulbs.

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