Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2007
Regional Report

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This antique planter is filled with redtwig dogwood and silvery eucalyptus for a divine holiday decoration.

Let's Decorate From the Garden!

I'm going to try to convince you to do something, even if it sounds a little crazy. Even though the weather is chilly, let's get outdoors for at least half an hour every day. Besides being terrific from a health point of view, another great benefit to doing this right now is to see all the natural materials from the garden and woods that make beautiful holiday (and post-holiday) decorations.

It's actually a lot of fun cruising the yard looking for materials to use. In fact, even my neglected grapevines and multiflora roses in the wild area at the back of my yard will provide me with lots of vines and pretty scarlet rose hips.

Redtwig Dogwood
In an effort to do a little of the pruning I have awaiting me next spring, I took the loppers with me the other day and pruned out some of my redtwig dogwood branches at ground level. I took the twigs and filled pots and urns all over the yard and house. The bright red stems need nothing else to look festive, even though I may add a few rose hips and sprays of spruce.

Black Raspberries
I have a fairly large wild area filled with black raspberries. I love harvesting the berries every summer for jam, and in order to produce the maximum number of berries, the stems need to be cut back. Snipping the stems accomplishes the pruning and gives me beautiful decorating materials. The unique arching silvery purple-black stems are lovely combined with greenery and silver stems of artemisia in large vases on the hearth.

I'm lucky to have a wonderful selection of greenery to choose from, and when I prune I'm careful to select branches that don't show when taken out of the plant. I tend to use greens from plants that can spare a few branches and leave my Colorado spruce alone. I have quite a few established junipers and arborvitae that should provide me with plenty of decorating material. I may also judiciously choose some white pine, Austrian pine, and douglas fir from my woods. As long as I keep in mind good pruning principles while I'm collecting, the branches shouldn't even be missed in the landscape.

Broadleaf Evergreens
I grew up with confederate jasmine for decorating (from Texas) and have always loved that look, so here in the north I use purple leaf wintercreeper and green euonymus vines to duplicate the look of broadleaf vines. I wind them through grapevine and drape it on the mantel. Tucking in a few seed heads of Autumn Joy sedum, coneflowers, astilbe, and hydrangea make a natural garland that is unmatched by anything you find in the garden stores.

So, let's get outside. It's amazing how the imagination takes off while wandering. Just think what you can come up with to decorate your house for the entire winter!

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