With holidays approaching, our thoughts are filled with spending time with family and friends, creating joy and memories to cherish by sharing and giving. Wanting to make this year as special as ever and full of excitement, we start making our list of the so very many things to do. Being prepared allows us to relax and enjoy the festivities when they start.

To get started on implementing our list, decorating our homes first, brings warmth and fills the air with the holiday spirit. Decorating with items purchased from retail stores are lovely, but using items from nature that can be found right outside our doors, in our own landscape, allows us to express our individuality, saves on budget and saves time spent shopping. Items from nature add texture and contrast, while most will stay looking fresh up to 30 days. Consider a light occasional misting to help with preservation of your beautiful creations.

Collecting various evergreens are the basis of holiday decorating with wonderful choices of magnolia leaves, boxwood clippings, and holly. Variegated pittosporum and variegated ivy are great selections if you want to use white in your decorating. Variegated foliage works well with many color themes.

Don’t overlook using sticks in your decorating. Along with adding height and texture, they provide an artist flair with their natural shapes. Using cuttings from crape myrtles trees or river birch sticks are a couple of ideas to consider. If you want glitz in your decorations, spray paint sticks gold or silver. For outdoor decorating, purchased artificial snow in spray cans is not recommended and it will stay wet, instead, you may want to consider using white spray paint for your items.

Pine cones and berries are another staple of holiday decorating to tuck into your evergreens.  Nandina berries are a good choice and will do well for around 30 days. If you do not have any real berries to use, a few artificial ones will work just fine. Pine cones can also be spray painted to match your holiday décor.

If you have hydrangeas in your garden, save the dried blossoms when you trim them off at the end of their blooming cycle.  Spray painted gold or silver, they are a fabulous decorating item to tuck into the branches of your tree, added to wreaths, decorating your mantle or to enhance gift wrappings.

Including live flowers in your decorating adds softness and creates a festive atmosphere. For indoor choices, poinsettias have long been a good standard to use for adding glorious color. When selecting poinsettias for purchasing, look for dark green foliage without any signs of wilting or yellowing. Be sure to protect them from extreme cold while transporting them home. Place them in a cool, sunny location away from any drafts and water when soil is dry. Be careful not to over water.

Amaryllis are another good selection for dramatic color and very easy to grow from bulbs. If your bulbs did not come already potted, place the bulb in a sturdy container with the pointed end up. Add loose potting soil and press the soil gently in place about two thirds up the bulb with the pointed end left uncovered. Water lightly until the foliage starts to appear and grow several inches in height. Then increase the amount of water and be careful not to over water. This process takes about 4 to 5 weeks before blossoming, but the time could vary slightly.

Cyclamen are another great choice to consider for indoor or outdoor containers. Many new hybrids are available, giving you a much wider selection to choose from. Feeding them every two weeks gives a better guarantee of longer blooming and if used outdoors, they will need to be protected during a harsh freeze.

As the festivities begin, enjoy your beautiful creations along with the many other delights the holiday season brings.


Sharon St. John is a landscape designer with Petty’s Irrigation and Landscape in Tyler.