De­signer brings nat­u­ral el­e­ments into hol­i­day decor

The Sacramento Bee - - Home & Garden - Wash­ing­ton Post

Greg Lehmkuhl, the creative direc­tor of the gar­den, home and out­door life­style brand Ter­rain, joined staff writer Jura Kon­cius last week on the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Home Front on­line chat. Here is an edited ex­cerpt. Q: I’m look­ing to buy win­ter planters. What’s your fa­vorite tree or bush that will last?

A: My fa­vorites are va­ri­eties that have in­ter­est­ing sculp­tural char­ac­ter. For ex­am­ple, at­las cedars or de­o­dar cedars. Weep­ing Alaskan cedars also make a dra­matic state­ment. Of­ten you can get young trees for a great deal at the end of the sea­son, so now would be the time to look. Q: I al­ways hang wreaths on my front win­dows for the hol­i­days. I change the rib­bons oc­ca­sion­ally, but do you have any other ideas to jazz up this clas­sic look?

A: If you’re look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive to clas­sic rib­bon, I use red-striped uphol­stery band­ing or torn strips of cot­ton vel­vet. Any­thing with more hum­ble ori­gins is nice. In our trav­els over­seas, I have no­ticed fewer looped bows, which I find re­fresh­ing. The flour­ish of a sim­ple rib­bon wrapped once around a wreath is quite el­e­gant. Q: What wreath ma­te­ri­als do you think will be pop­u­lar this year?

A: We have some un­usual fresh bunches com­ing in this year. I’m ex­cited about the rose gold eu­ca­lyp­tus and bleached pine cones, and – for a more dra­matic fo­cal point – dried protea blos­soms are mak­ing a strong show­ing. Q: We’re host­ing Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. What’s your fa­vorite way to make a din­ing ta­ble feel fes­tive without clut­ter­ing it?

A: One of my fa­vorite

dis­plays in the Ter­rain store uses our wreath hanger sus­pended above the ta­ble, so you’re not over­crowd­ing the ac­tual ta­ble. I also like to start with a wreath with a sim­ple base of honey­suckle vine, dried and fresh fes­tive green­ery, and some bat­tery-op­er­ated lights. Q: The deer in my front yard eat ev­ery­thing. What can I put on my steps that would look fes­tive for the hol­i­days and not get eaten?

A: There’s al­ways box­wood, but if you want to go with some­thing in the pine fam­ily, deer typ­i­cally stay away from firs. I like Korean fir, which is known for hav­ing many cones on a ju­ve­nile tree. Q: I or­der amaryl­lis bulbs ev­ery No­vem­ber for the hol­i­days. Any ideas for show­cas­ing them?

A: Pair bloom­ing amaryl­lis with ar­ma­tures of var­i­ous win­ter stems. I like “Mid­win­ter Fire” dog­wood, be­cause of its or­ange-to-red col­ors, and curly wil­low for its bright or­ange. These stems add a grow­ing struc­ture that pre­vents the flow­ers from fall­ing over, and also in­cor­po­rate color to the ar­range­ment be­fore your bulbs bloom. Q: I’ve bought myrtle top­i­ary trees sev­eral times for my man­tel. What is the best way to keep these alive? They dry out so eas­ily.

A: Keep them in a shal­low tray of wa­ter to main­tain hy­dra­tion. I also rec­om­mend a self-wa­ter­ing pot that has a reser­voir with a wick­ing sys­tem. You can ac­tu­ally make your own with torch wicks and a pot that sits el­e­vated in­side a larger pot. Q: How can I con­vince clients that they will en­joy the hol­i­days more if they sim­plify their food, dec­o­ra­tions, par­ties and gifts?

A: The sea­son is about shar­ing and find­ing a happy medium. In my fam­ily, the way we nav­i­gated through those sit­u­a­tions was to com­pro­mise. One year my dad would get to dis­play his over-the-top col­lec­tion of fam­ily heir­loom Ger­man glass or­na­ments (there were at least 1,000), and the next year my mom would get to dis­play her Scan­di­na­vian birch-bark or­na­ments for a sim­pler tree. As kids re­spon­si­ble for putting up and tak­ing down all of the or­na­ments, we al­ways liked the sim­pler tree. Q: What are some hol­i­day ideas for our empty win­dow boxes?

A: If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, try mak­ing a minia­ture for­est with a row of black spruce tips. Q: What fam­ily tra­di­tion do you most look for­ward to around the hol­i­days?

A: When I get home to Wis­con­sin on Christ­mas Eve, it’s my job to put lights on a fresh-cut Christ­mas tree out­side near the road. Q: I like to start plant­ing amaryl­lis bulbs that will bloom dur­ing Christ­mas week. How many days be­fore Dec. 25 should I start ?

A: Gen­er­ally, the rule is six weeks be­fore Dec. 25, so you would want to start them on or around Nov. 11. Q: I bought some bat­tery­pow­ered can­dles for my win­dows last hol­i­day sea­son, and they ended up look­ing pretty lame. Do you have any rec­om­men­da­tions for this look? I’d pre­fer not to have to plug them in, but I do have out­lets avail­able near the win­dows.

A: We have a bat­tery­op­er­ated mov­ing flame that’s beau­ti­ful but best ex­pe­ri­enced up close. But I find that a cool-burn­ing 4-watt night-light bulb is the best from a dis­tance to give the most re­al­is­tic color of a real flame. I also would avoid any­thing or­ange. Q: What is your fa­vorite way to dec­o­rate out­side for the hol­i­days – es­pe­cially if you want your house to stand out?

A: The good news is that it can be fun and re­ward­ing to come up with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach each sea­son. The im­por­tant thing is to look at the ma­te­ri­als you have dif­fer­ently and re­mem­ber that na­ture pro­vides the best in­gre­di­ents.


Apilco’s Tui­leries dishes. De­sign ex­perts agree that white dishes can be used for daily meals as well as spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

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