COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Holly and bling can make your house sing

The first week of December is the time to start humming a certain carol, make like the Victorians and deck the halls with boughs of holly. But don’t forget about the cedar, fir, nandina and camellia greens. Here in western Washington we have the glorious greens to celebrate the season with less money and more tradition – and at the same time accomplish some serious winter pruning.

Decorating with garden greens means you won’t raise your power bill. A lack of funds shouldn’t mean a lack of fun for the holidays. If you have a garden or someone that will let you prune their garden, then you have all the makings for a festive, beautifully-decorated home, thanks to the evergreens that thrive in our climate.

When pruning any plant this winter follow a branch to a joint, use sharp tools and cut close to the main branch so you don’t leave a protruding stump or Pinocchio nose.

Greens for a Victorian Christmas: Holly and bling make the house sing!

Start pruning your holly plants because we all know what Charles Dickens saw in merry old England during the Christmas season – halls were decked with holly for good reason, not only do the glossy leaves of holly last indoors for days and outdoors for months, but holly loves to be pruned in the winter. Stick some sprigs of holly into a vase and you’ll have great foliage and red berries that will stay fresh for up to a month.

December is a great month to prune all types of holly shrubs including Osmanthus or false holly and the stiff green branches of Helleri or Japanese holly. The cold weather has put these evergreen plants into dormancy so when you make the cuts the plants won’t feel a thing.

Add some Christmas bling to your holly bowl or holly garland and you’ll really be channeling Queen Victoria. If you’re short on silver punch bowls to fill with holly or don’t have a set of silver candlesticks to add to a mantel of holly just substitute shiny silver or gold ornaments or a garland of old-fashioned tinsel from the thrift store.

Greens for a Country Christmas: Cedar, twine and burlap for simple pleasures.

Our evergreen state is full of western red cedar and this is the easiest-to-use evergreen for holiday decorating. Cedar is the tree with flat, scale-like greens rather than prickly needles. The branches cut from cedar trees are easy to turn into swags that can gracefully bedeck all your outdoor spaces. Use cut cedar tips poked in winter floral arrangements and any floral bouquet will look like Christmas.

Next, to really give your cedar greens a country Christmas look use burlap (yes, burlap) to wrap the base of potted plants or even your gifts. Burlap is the newest fabric to hit the interior decorating world and rustic rope, garden twine and bright red yard wrapped around burlap packages or wrapped pots will fit in with the down-home, back-to-basics look of a country Christmas. Mix in plants with bright berries or add recycled ornaments for more color. Cedar smells great and plays well with others. You can even cut the fronts off of Christmas cards, punch a hole, add a yarn loop and then recycle the cards and a bit of cedar as ornaments or gift tags.

Greens go modern: Mix foliage colors for a contemporary vibe

If you’re serious about winter pruning than get out the wheelbarrow and loppers and start collecting a diverse mix of greens, branches, berries and sticks from the garden. You won’t hurt the mahonia, rhododendrons, pieris japonica, camellias, nandina or magnolias by trimming them now and you’ll end up with a barrow full of greens for some creative decorating.

Try adding a mix of cut greens to the base of your porch pots or poke your pruning crumbs into left over hanging baskets and window boxes. Make a mixed garland of greens by stapling cut segments of evergreens to a length of rope or twine. Then don’t be afraid to “stick it,” using branches.

Adding bare branches or sticks to your gathering of winter greens gives any arrangement a more contemporary vibe. You can go white by spraying your sticks with artificial snow or go wild by spraying the twisted branches of contorted filbert, willow or robbinia with bright red, green or even deep purple spray paint. Eggplant purple is the new black when it comes to modern twists on holiday colors. Pair purple with pink, lime green or gray ribbon and nobody will accuse your decorating of being traditional.


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