Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2008
Regional Report

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My grapevine wreath is adorned with hydrangeas, milkweed pods, fern fronds, and grass seedheads.

Decorate Your Home with Garden Materials

With the economy doing its downturn, perhaps it will help give us a holiday lift if we talk about how we can save our resources and decorate our homes for the holidays using materials from the garden. All it takes is a little imagination and a walk outdoors.

I love to go out at this time of year and look for dried seedheads of all types. These can range from purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans to leeks and onions. These are all beautiful in simple arrangements or glued onto wreaths.

Speaking of wreaths, my pride and joy is a $2.95 large grapevine wreath that was thin and spindly (what could I expect for three bucks?). I took the wreath and wrapped it around and around with more grapevine from the woods, and it is now a substantial wreath base for all manner of dried flowers and seeds. A hot glue gun makes beautiful work by adding hydrangea flower heads, grass seedheads and milkweed pods. Who says you need to use only red, green and tinsel for the holidays?

Redtwig dogwood branches are a staple in my house, and cutting them at ground level helps the plant by renewal pruning as well. I fill every available container with the bright red stems and then add cuttings of evergreens, purple-white raspberry stems from the fields, sprays of rose hips, and feathery grass seed heads.

Another favorite is to spray sedum seedheads with white, gold, or silver spray paint. The stems tend to collapse, so be sure to wrap them in wire before using them, or just use the seedheads without stems.

Bowls of Pine Cones
A rustic basket or clear salad bowl filled with pine cones and small red and silver Christmas balls is beautifully simple yet festive. Tuck in a few euonymus or juniper sprigs. Clove-studded oranges added to the bowl will provide a wonderful scent, as will sprigs of rosemary.

White Lights for
Bring in shrub branches and tuck them in your dining room light or simply fill tall vases. Wrap them with tiny white lights for instant festivity. You can add glass beads or whatever your heart desires to increase the glamor.

Gift Wrapping
Wrap gifts in plain brown paper and tie with colored raffia. Add clusters of small pine cones, acorns, or hickory nuts with a glue gun for a natural look. Or, use simple white paper, tie with your choice of ribbon, and tuck lavender or rosemary sprigs into the bow for a fragrant, elegant gift.

Prune Evergreens Carefully
When you clip evergreens for your decorating, remember to keep in mind the plant's natural shape and prune accordingly. Most evergreens can afford to give up a few branches for indoor use. Be sure to rinse them before decorating to remove dust and insects.

Some of the best evergreens to use are spruce, pine, juniper, and arborvitae. Yews tend to lose their needles quickly although they add to the festivity if they have red berries (only on female plants). Beware that the seeds inside the berries are poisonous, however.

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