Winter holidays give us wonderful opportunities to embellish and celebrate. Be it gift giving, parties, menus or décor — there are many uses for a favorite seasonal staple, evergreens. Whether you’re welcoming Christmas, Hanukkah or the New Year, you can find ways to bring green to everything from buffet tables and packages to mantles and doors. So open your home or office to gatherings of this season’s ‘greenings’.
Using evergreens around the Christmas season has deep roots in legends such as hope for the return of spring. That fresh evergreen scent is always appealing too, and reminds us of the great outdoors. Romans celebrated the winter solstice (December 21, the shortest day of the year) in remembrance of Saturnus, the god of agriculture, by decorating their houses with various evergreens. They also used lights and lamps to signify the light for one’s journey through life and exchanged gifts that included coins to signify prosperity.
With the help of those legends, today we find, for example, that around 25 million to 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year. In addition to popular Christmas tree species such as Frasier Firs and Douglas Firs, several evergreen plants and trees can be used to decorate — being symbolic and aromatic at the same time. Balsam firs in particular have branches that resemble crosses, and are a popular green for holiday decoration for that reason.
If you’re lucky enough to have some evergreens on your property and can part with a few of their branches and boughs, you have a good start on gathering your greens. Some ideas include placing boughs on shelves or tables to ‘nestle’ photographs, candy dishes or vases of assorted ornaments.
Bring outdoors in
Branches from the following plants and trees are good choices for bringing the outdoors in:
u Juniper branches
u Cedar branches
u White pine boughs
u Balsam fir boughs
u Douglas fir boughs
u Frasier fir boughs
(Check with local Christmas tree farms and florists for availability.)
Remember to protect surfaces from pine sap, scratches, etc., by putting down felt or another appropriate barrier between your decorations and the surfaces.
To embellish your green decorations on packages, wreaths or tree, consider using:
u Eucalyptus branches
u Tree/bush branches
u Dried lotus pods
u Dried flowers
u Dried or artificial berries
u Dried, artificial or real fruits
u Cinnamon sticks
u Small ornaments
(These items, found at most craft stores can be gathered in small bouquets and tucked between branches or added to bows.)
Wreaths, of course, are a favorite decoration for doors and windows; if you have a lot of what could be embellishments from previous years, you may opt to buy an undecorated wreath so that you can add your own personal touch from those recycled items. Even a bare grapevine or straw wreath can be dressed or greened up. Wiring or hot-glueing small decorations on a bare wreath will save you a little money and you’re being ‘green’ with your greens at the same time!
Another way to use a wreath (artificial recommended) is to affix it horizontally facing down from a chandelier or lighting fixture, perhaps above a dining room table. To do this, you can place an appropriately sized wreath upside down on a table under your fixture, figure out three or more places to securegreen florist wire to the frame of the wreath and then attach it to the bottom of your lighting fixture, away from any bulbs. You can then hang ornaments from the ‘front’ of the wreath that is now the bottom of your fixture. This display makes for a nice conversation piece as well.
You can incorporate greens into indoor and outdoor décor by assembling roping, garlands and swags or just by gathering various greens on a windowsill.
A few quick and easy ways to ‘green up’:
u Use a small wreath as a candle ring around pillar candles with hurricane glass to protect the candle.
u Rope together greens for decorating stairways (do not hinder the hand-grabbing areas).
u Green a plastic container by inserting fresh floral foam into the container (secure with floral tape) and add greens (3” of stem with no needles) into the foam. Keep watered for freshness. Ideal for sideboards and tables.
u Artificial greens are more suitable for mantles, since dried needles are a fire hazard.
u Green up a windowsill with varied textures of different greens and top with pomegranates, apples, pineapples, etc.
u Gather a favorite holiday collection (figurines, snow globes, etc.) on a table or plant stand or otherwise unused space and surround with greens.
u Hang a mini-wreath on a doorknob.
u Group small artificial trees together on a front porch or table.
If you have the ambition to be a little more involved, mini boxwood trees are long lasting and make a great accent piece to your home. They don’t require a long time, just a little patience, a bag of boxwood sprigs (various lengths), a plastic container, fresh floral foam, and floral tape. Supplies can be found at most craft stores, and fresh boxwood may be found at your local florist if you don’t have one growing in your landscape.
To assemble a mini boxwood tree:
Stand the rectangle of foam upright and trim the top to taper it a bit reducing the corners. Don’t go for a true pyramid shape with a point here; leave enough of a flat top to insert greens. Secure the foam with tape after you have wet it. Clear boxwood sprigs of bottom leaves for insertion.
Put a mid-length (5 to 6 inches or so) twig in the center top of the foam.
Next, green the bottom with lengths of 8 to 10 inches. Work your way up the tree with shorter pieces of the boxwood, using the shorter sprigs as you move toward the top — giving a fresh cut to each twig to allow twigs to ‘drink’. Once you have a full tree shape, the decorating possibilities are endless. Several small bows, small ornaments, mini-pine cones, etc. will give that extra touch. Keep the tree watered for freshness. You’ll be surprised at how long this boxwood tree will last. Specific directions abound on the Internet; check out ehow.com for one.
Important things to remember when working with fresh greens are to keep them in cool places, away from direct sources of heat and light, and to wear gloves to protect your hands while working with them (especially when roping and bending/cutting branches).
Have great fun decorating, and Happy Holidays!