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Use your back yard for holiday decorations

Favorite greenery

Submitted photo Magnolia leaves are a traditional decoration in the South.

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

You can create imaginative and fun decorations for the holidays right from your own backyard. Walk around your landscape and look for potential materials to create your magic.

Look for greenery, colorful fall leaves, seed pods, berries, interesting bark, nuts, acorns, pine cones, moss, dried blossoms and flowers, etc.

Always remember when you are clipping materials, you are actually pruning the plants. Carefully consider where you make cuts and look at the overall shape of the plant before you start to prune. Be sure to preserve the natural form of the plant.

To keep the greenery material fresh:

  • Use sharp, clean pruners
  • Immediately place cut ends into water
  • Keep material out of sunlight
  • Immerse the greenery material in water for 24 hours before using in decorating. This allows the cuttings to absorb a maximum amount of moisture.

Dried plant material can become flammable when in contact with heat sources. Use caution when using the material around candles, fireplaces, space heaters and lamps. Check your decorations every few days and discard or replace them if they become dry or begin to shed.

To make a wreath, a simple coat hanger can be formed into the wreath shape, with branches wired onto it with some florist’s wire. Other options include grapevine wreaths, straw forms or Styrofoam. All of these are available from craft stores. Then start attaching the greenery to your form.

Herbs make a wonderful background for your wreath, and can dry naturally. Swags or garlands can be made by wiring the greenery together. For your greenery selections, try using cedar, pine, magnolia, boxwood, juniper, fir, holly, ivy, nandina or pyracantha. Then you can decorate these wreaths and swags with an assortment of nuts, berries or fresh fruit.

Look for fruits like bittersweet, acorns, pine cones, rose hips, nandina or holly berries. Seed pods of okra, sweet gums, golden rain trees, milkweeds and wisteria can be used naturally or spray-painted silver or gold for added attraction.

Sumac and magnolia cones give you bright colors, and dried hydrangeas can also work well. The woodier seed pods can be dried first, then sprayed with a clear shellac or fixative to keep their shape through the holidays. Even small bare branches or small clippings of evergreens can be spray-painted gold or silver to add some festive color.

Other fruits and vegetables can also make interesting decorations. Fresh fruits and vegetables from the grocery store such as lemons, limes, oranges and pineapples make interesting archway arrangements — reminiscent of Williamsburg. Or simply scatter fruit amidst greenery or wreaths to give texture and color to the arrangement.

Dried red chili peppers can spice up any holiday decoration with their texture and color. For more information, contact your county Extension center at 704-216-8970 or on the web at http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu

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