Decorating for Holidays with Flowers and Plants
How to Decorate Your Home with Fresh Holiday Greenery
You've heard about the holly and the ivy, but have you ever decorated with them?
Putting up festive decorations around the home is a winter tradition! And though you can buy artificial boughs of holly and sprigs of mistletoe from your nearest craft store, this year, why not try some easy, vibrant, DIY decor?
You don't even have to grow your own holly and ivy specifically. If you've trimmed your own hedges and trees, you know there's a wealth of decorating material right in your own backyard.
Here's how to turn those branches, stems, and other items into decorations to brighten your home at Christmastime or any other season.
Best Plants for Holiday Decorations
Even as long ago as the heyday of the Roman empire, people used cuttings from live plants to decorate for holiday celebrations. Plants like laurel and holly represented rejuvenation, growth, and other ideas that held hope in winter.
Throughout later centuries, other societies and cultures followed suit and added their own meanings and symbolism around certain plants.
These days, even if you don't grow traditionally symbolic winter plants in your yard, you'll still find that some of the most common landscaping shrubs and trees make great garlands and wreaths due to their texture, color, and longevity.
When it comes time to harvest your live Christmas greenery, be sure to choose materials from a variety of plants. This not only will add visual interest, but also will help you avoid depleting all the living green tissue on any one plant.
Common green landscaping elements that make lively holiday plant decorations include these:
Not everyone enjoys the scent of boxwood, so take care if bringing that into the house. However, any small branches trimmed from the base of a natural Christmas tree to help it stand will also work as part of your decorations.
Also, trim carefully! If you're not picking up greenery off the ground, you'll essentially be pruning your plants, and you don't want to weaken them with a heavy winter pruning. Take your cuttings from points far apart on each plant, and don't take branches or bunches that are too long.
If you live in a warmer climate, you might be able to use your hedge trimmer to get the material you need. If not, taking a more cautious approach with a pair of handheld pruning shears will be the better option for your plants.
While you're gathering the main materials for your decoration, you also can gather other natural materials (perhaps using a nut gatherer) to use as accents:
- Pine cones
- Sweet gumballs
- Twigs (birch, which has white bark, is a great tree for this)
- Fruits like crabapples (best for décor kept outside)
Note: the berries on mistletoe, holly, and yew are toxic. Keep these away from pets and small children.
How to Make Fresh Greenery Decorations
Types of decorations you can make include wreaths and garlands. Table decorations, swags, and mantelpiece décor (careful putting this near your fireplace!) can be made using the same techniques as you would for wreaths and garlands.
Before making your décor, soak any greenery you've harvested in water overnight to keep it as fresh as possible and improve its moisture retention.
If you want to include pine cones, some crafters recommend baking them in an oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes to an hour to eliminate any pests, then rehydrating them by dunking them in water.
You'll need the following supplies in addition to your greens:
- Wire cutters
- Floral wire (often recommended: 22-gauge or 24-gauge wire)
- For handmade wreaths and candleholder-type décor: round metal frames (found at a local craft store)
- For garlands, swags, table runner pieces, and mantelpiece décor: rope or thin-gauge floral wire (choose rope for a loose-hanging garland, wire for a garland you can shape)
With those supplies and your greenery ready, it takes just a few steps to assemble your decorations:
- Separate your greenery by type so that you can see how much of each kind you have to work with.
- Gather a small bunch of greenery. It can be mixed or can contain only one type-there are no rules or requirements!
- Attach it to the frame or rope by wrapping a 6" piece of 22-gauge or 24-gauge floral wire around the bottom of it.
- Attach more bunches by continuing to work along the frame or rope, overlapping the stems or bottoms of one bunch with the leaves of the next to cover any bare spots.
- Attach your accents. You can nestle materials like pine cones and branches inside the frame or into your bunches of greens. You also can insert screw eyes into cones and nuts and attach them to the frame or rope with your floral wire. Using a hot glue gun is an option as well.
- For handmade door wreaths: tie a thick ribbon to the frame to hang the wreath. For hanging garland: leave about two feet of rope undecorated at each end, and tie a knot and a loop on each.
Fresh holiday greenery generally doesn't last more than a few weeks; the closer to the big event you can make your decorations, the fresher it will look. To keep your greens healthy while they're on display, mist them with water periodically, and consider applying an anti-desiccant spray to prevent drying.
Also, always keep your holiday greenery away from direct sunlight and any heat sources! The last thing you want is to risk starting a fire anywhere other than your in your fireplace or on your tabletop candelabra.
Plants for Christmas and Beyond
You don't have to wait for or even celebrate any winter holidays to decorate with greenery. Change up the plants and colors to create festive décor any time of the year.
But once you know the basics, decorating with fresh Christmas greenery you harvest from your own yard is a sure way to make the holiday season bright.