With the holidays fast approaching, many are fine-tuning their gift lists, addressing cards to loved ones and pulling out box after box of decorations from their closets, attic or crawl space.
One way to cut down on the number of decorations needing to be unpacked and re-packed (or tossed back in the box) is to incorporate natural elements into holiday decorating this year. Bringing the outdoors in is creative and economical and it also adds a bit of symbolism to the decor. Evergreens in particular are commonly used to adorn homes and churches during the holidays because they symbolize everlasting life.
Living in the Lowcountry, we're fortunate to be able to walk outdoors and hand-pick fresh decorations. Everything from evergreen trimmings to branches, pinecones, moss, vines and berries are ideal for decking the halls.
“All you have to do is stop and look around to find unique items in your own backyard to incorporate in your holiday décor,” said Margie Fox, owner of The Garden Gate in Bluffton.
Fox said the easiest way to start this “nature-inspired” theme is to add items from your yard to a live or artificial wreath and/or Christmas tree.
A staple in Lowcountry holiday wreaths, swags and garlands is the magnolia leaf. If creating the arrangement shortly before the holidays, the magnolia leaves should last through the season on their own. However, to make a magnolia arrangement for use year after year, experts suggest preserving the leaves with a glycerin solution first.
Another plant common to the Lowcountry is the boxwood, which can be found in most yards. Because this shrub is so hearty and abundant, the trimmings make for an easy addition to any mantel or centerpiece. For a coastal look, Fox suggests merging oyster shells, starfish and other sea treasures with traditional decorations.
Leah Grogan with The Greenery’s Nursery and Garden Center on Hilton Head Island said it’s all about noticing what “catches your eye” when it comes to bringing outdoor elements indoors.
“I love discovering what I can use from outside in my decorating,” she said.
Grogan said this can be as easy as finding interesting branches, placing them in unique vases or containers and hanging small ornaments from them. Grapevine makes the perfect base for a statement wreath, Grogan said. She and a co-worker, Sue Roderus recently created a grapevine wreath for the Garden Center in which they added small cedar branches and ligustrum with berries. They sprayed the wreath with a silver glitter to give an extra sparkle.
Grogan and Roderus created a few other holiday pieces recently using whatever they had available in the garden center or their own yards. Starting with palm fronds, they turned them upside down to use as the bast for swag for the front door. They fanned out the fronds, wired them together, then added pieces of white pine and cedar branches and seed pods from a butterfly vine. The swag was finished off with berries and a holiday bow for color.
What to know before you bring the outdoors in
According to Clemson Extension Service, put the cut ends of any greenery immediately in water until ready to use and soak them in water overnight to keep them from drying out fast. Also, keep them away from heat sources such as vents and sunny windows. Check the greenery every few days for freshness and discard dry greenery to reduce the fire hazard.
Moss is a great space-filler when creating ornamental displays. However, if using Spanish moss, be sure to heat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds first to kill any bugs that might be hiding.