Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
November, 2006
Regional Report

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The berries of this 'Brandywine' viburnum are just a sampling of what you can find to decorate your home, indoors and out.

Fall Scavenger Hunt

Just because last week was in the 50s doesn't mean winter is taking a rain check. But the recent warm temps have given those of us who might wish to pretend it's early spring instead of early winter an excuse to go putter in the garden, mess around with the compost pile, even go hunting for more sale plants (such as a golden threadleaf false cypress shrub for the ridiculous price of $3.) This spell of mild weather before winter hits hard is also a good time for a favorite fall ritual: scavenging for natural decorations.

First, berries. I have some beautiful 'Red Sprite' winterberry shrubs planted next to my driveway that are laden with berries. I like to have some branches in the house but I don't want to remove any of these bird magnets from my yard. So yesterday I pulled on high, waterproof boots, grabbed my pruners, and headed for a roadside stand of tall winterberry shrubs loaded with red gems.

I visit this area twice a year -- in the spring for our town's Green-up Day, when we clear out all the garbage accumulated over the winter, and in the fall to gather branches. I had a momentary "Uh oh" when my feet started sinking lower than usual in the muck and I wondered how long it would be before my family missed me. But I managed to clip a few branches without any personal sacrifice.

Bayberry, highbush cranberry, chokeberries, and burning bush, among others, also have attractive berries and can take some early-winter pruning. Or perhaps you have a particularly grand producer of rose hips, which would be beautiful in a vase.

Next, greens. Powerfully high winds a few weeks ago downed lots of trees on my road, including some tall pines. The branches are laying about just waiting to be useful. Walks in the woods always turn up fallen branches, as well.

Colorful branches. Red-twig dogwood is a very useful shrub because it not only has showy red stems in winter, you also can cut it back now to encourage colorful new growth in spring, and use the prunings in holiday decorations. I cut branches from these plants in a wild part of my yard and also have a small specimen in a large planter by the front door that I string with white lights in winter.

Wild grapevine is also relatively easy to find in many areas, and you can use it for wreaths and garlands, inside and out. Keep your eyes open for attractive seedpods that can be woven through the vines. A visit to a local craft shop can give you ideas about natural materials that display well with a bit of cleaning up -- even a coat of gold spray paint, if you like the look.

So, in your wanderings to work off the upcoming holiday feasts or just to get your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun, take along a pair of pruners and gloves, just in case.

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