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Holiday Decorating from the Garden

By: Mike Darcy

While this may be winter (not official until December 22, but most gardeners would say this is winter), there are so many things we can harvest from our gardens to decorate our homes to help celebrate the holidays.  We have had several inches of rain in just the past few days here in western Oregon, with more expected, and this morning as I walked around in my very soggy wet garden I discovered that there was a bounty of materials to chose from.

Berried Winter Plants

The berries of heavenly bamboo look great outdoors or cut and brought indoors.

The berries of heavenly bamboo look great outdoors or cut and brought indoors.

Many of the plants that we can use for holiday decorating from the garden are readily available in our gardens–if not in your own garden, take a walk around your neighborhood.  You may have neighbors that would be happy to share some their plants; some selecting pruning might be welcome.  Two plants that are usually readily available in local gardens are Nandina domestica, (heavenly bamboo, not related to bamboo), and  Callicarpa bodinieri (beautyberry).  Both of these are well suited to winter arrangements. The Nandina has clusters of red berries and the Callicarpa has bunches of purple berries on bare stems.

Wintergreen arrangement

A festive wintergreen basket.

I am not a creative designer in our family, but I enjoy gathering branches and letting my wife create a holiday arrangement. Whether it is large or small, she seems to know just how to put it all together.  An example is her use of a simple small wooden basket which makes a very attractive feature for an entryway.   A pine branch, or one from another evergreen conifer, can be added. Red berries from a Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) added festive natural color and then she tied on a red ribbon for a finishing touch.  (Note: this Gaultheria is an example of how common names, while usually easy to say and remember, can be confusing.  This plant is sometimes referred to as winterberry as well as wintergreen, but true Winterberry is actually the holly, Ilex verticillata.)

Hydrangea 'Shooting Star'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Shooting Star’ makes a great potted plant that can be planted outside in mild weather.

Holiday Potted Plants

Recently, while visiting a local garden center and viewing their vast selection of poinsettias, dazzling white Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Shooting Star’ flowers were being offered among the sea of red.  The multi-petaled ‘stars’ shoot from the flowers like fireworks, hence the name ‘Shooting Star’.  An added bonus is that for many of us living in western Oregon and Washington, this is also a garden plant that can be planted out in the garden to become a permanent shrub.  This hydrangea looks beautiful planted in a decorative gold container with decorative conifer branches around the edges.  The look is simple but very effective.

Arrangement Ideas

During my weekly radio program last week, I asked listeners to send in photos of winter arrangements that they were made from local plants.  Here are two of my favorites.

Susan Bechtol arrangement in cup

Holiday mugs make cute seasonal vases for arrangements.

Susan Bechtol had a holiday decoration party during her work lunch hour with the theme of creating an arrangement in a cup.  Another was Nancy Wirth who created a lovely arrangement from plants in her garden  She used red branches from her Cornus sericea (red-twig dogwood) and evergreen branches are from her garden as well as some she found on the ground in a parking lot. (How is that for reuse?)

Gardeners tend to be a very imaginative group and are especially creative when using plants from their own gardens.  Try experimenting by using some plants from your own garden for a holiday decoration.  You might be surprised at what you can create!  Check out your local garden center to see what winter-interest plants you can add to your garden when the ground is still soft enough to plant.

Whatever you do this holiday season, take the time to enjoy it.  The New Year will be here before we know it.  Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!

Nancy Wirth arrangement

A mix of evergreen branches and red-twig dogwood brighten an outdoor pot.

About Mike Darcy


Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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