Holiday Decor From Your Garden

Sheila Gutierrez – Halton Master Gardener

A natural look and fresh fragrance for your home this holiday season isn’t too far away. A fresh cut supply of holiday greenery may be as close as your own backyard. So how does one bring nature indoors to adorn your space?

Gathering Greenery

Greenery gathered from your garden is as fresh (and affordable) as it gets. You’ll need gloves, pruners, and a bucket to place cut stems. When gathering greenery it is important to keep in mind that the plants are actually being pruned. Most evergreen trees and shrubs need little to no pruning but a little pruning can keep shrubby evergreens well proportioned, play a major part of maintaining the health of trees and continue to keep the tradition of decorating with fresh greens alive. Consider carefully which branches to cut and which ones to leave by following the THREE C’s basic guideline. Look for branches that are competing for the same space, crossing, and/or crowded.

Consider carefully which branches to cut and which ones to leave by following the ‘Three – C’s’ basic guideline.

Look for branches that are COMPETING, CROSSING OR CROWDED.

The Right Tools

The right tools will make pruning easier. There are many pruning tools but a good pair of pruning shears, lopping shears, or a hand saw will suffice.

  • Pruning shears may cut up to ¾ inches in diameter
  • Lopping shears, have a long handle and provided great leverage for branches up to 1 ½ inches in diameter
  • Hand saws are very important for cutting any branches over 1 inch in diameter

What to Collect

Evergreen boughs form the backbone of most holiday projects but do not overlook deciduous twigs and plants with berries to add colour, texture and interest to your design. Below are some suggested, more common plants:

  • Pine: Great needle retention and fragrance.
  • Cedar: Has a wonderful fragrance and texture
  • Juniper: Fragrant, short green or silver foliage, oftentimes with blue berries. The needles are often sticky.
  • Firs: All firs have a wonderful scent and good tolerance of hot, dry indoor conditions. The needles are short and flat with excellent color and needle retention.
  • Spruce: Stiff branches and short needles, blue spruce add another color element are especially attractive in wreaths.
  • Yews: Nice shiny green foliage to add texture.
  • Holly: Traditional holiday green which may have bright red berries. Leaves and berries may blacker with freeze
  • Nannyberry Viburnum:  They produce flat white flowers in spring followed by red berries that ripen to blackish colour in the fall. The berries stay on the plant through the winter and are great for wildlife and adding interest in holiday decor
  • Crabapples: Hawthorns are smaller and red.Ornamental crab apples come in a variety of sizes but are often smaller. Note: Most, but not all, Sweet Crabapples have small thorns on at least some branches.

What NOT to Collect

Become knowledgeable about some of the highly invasive plants in our region. Many of these may have attractive seed heads or structure, however by visiting a site where these plants are growing you may inadvertently transfer seeds on your footware (or with any furry companions) to your home landscape or other natural areas. The seedheads themselves may then be distributed by wind, water or small animals seeking food. Unfortunately many of these plants are growing unchecked in natural areas because there are no natural predators, pests or diseases. The overall result is that they supress plants which natrally grow in that ecosystem.

Some to watch for:

Keeping it Fresh

  • After pruning branches with clean, sharp tools, immediately put the cut ends into water until ready to use
  • Immerse greenery in water to allow cuttings to absorb moisture
  • Keep finished decor out of direct sunlight
  • Plan to replace shriveled fruit throughout the season

Decorating Safely

  •  Never place greenery near heat sources such as heaters, candles or vents
  • Some popular plants used in holiday decorating such as yews, mistletoe, bittersweet can be poisonous for small children or pets

Let Your Imagination Flow

With your fresh supply of plant materials and a creative touch, you can begin to create your own, very unique holiday decorations including: wreaths, garlands, planters and centrepieces. You will be able to take pride in the fact that you gathered your own plant materials from your garden. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different textures, seed pods, berries, colour and form.

Additional Sources

Pruning Evergreens

Evergreen Pruning Calendar

Holiday Decorating with Fresh Greens

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