Doing the Holidays Naturally

Delaware is alive with plants that make great seasonal decorations. Local experts tell what they are and how you can use them to spruce up your home.

The folks at Hagley Museum suggest using fresh greens to decorate your home. Seashells and other natural items can be used to dress things up.Wondering what to do with the pine cones and tree prunings from your yard? Before throwing them in the compost pile, consider turning them into seasonal decorations or holiday pieces for your home.

The holiday season is a great opportunity to show off your creative side and create projects that can be fun for the whole family. The experts at local craft stores, the Delaware Nature Society and Hagley Museum, which is well-known for its beautiful Christmas displays, have a few suggestions.

For the indoors, there’s more than the usual mistletoe. The people at Hagley suggest using fresh greens such as white pine or evergreen to decorate stairways and mantles. Other natural materials, such as seashells and dried fruits, can be used to supplement the greenery.

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If you want to add scent to your holiday gifts, Candie Davis, a floral design specialist at Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store, suggests gluing cinnamon sticks and-or pine cones onto the packages. Avoid ribbons and bows by going all-natural with raffia.

Every year the Delaware Nature Society decorates a tree with all-natural ornaments. John Harrod, the society’s backyard habitat program coordinator, says gathering natural ornaments can be a fun craft for children. Ornaments can include items such as pine cones and seed pods. Renee Huber, a gardener at Hagley Museum, suggests using baby’s breath, along with lights, to spruce up the tree.

Of the many creative ways to decorate your dinner table during the winter, one simple but attractive centerpiece suggested by Julie Pederson, a floral design specialist at A.C. Moore, is to drape lights around pine cones arranged in a basket. Davis suggests dipping fresh grapes into egg white, then dusting them with sugar. When dry, they will look frosted. Place them in a decorative bowl to tempt your holiday visitors.

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Along the same lines, Debra Hughes, the curator at Hagley Museum, describes a frosted boxwood. Dip a small boxwood clipping in egg white, roll it in sugar, then bake at a very low temperature to dry.

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Hagley uses dried fruits, seashells and pheasant feathers to decorate. Then there is dusty miller, a plant you might find in your backyard, that has an attractive silver-white color. When hung and dried, the plant serves as a nice contrast to other colors.

Michael Petrie of Handmade Gardens likes winterberry holly as an accent for garlands and floral arrangements. He also likes wild rose hips, which, considering they’re a pervasive weed, are something you can pick up on the side of the road for free.

Harrod suggests native grasses that are good for creating interest in your winter yard and for supplementing arrangements. They include little bluestem, East Coast inland sea oats and New York iron weed.

Considering Milton was once the holly wreath capital of the world, the Milton Garden Club naturally has some recommendations for keeping holly looking fresh. Simply spray it with floor wax to help maintain the shine of its leaves and to preserve its freshness. Hair spray can also be used to keep berries looking bright.

For making wreaths, the experts suggest wild grapevine and willow branches as especially good materials. If you’re feeling daring, you might even make a wreath out of pine cones or dried fruits. For accents, weave in fragrant pine, or add a dash of color with winterberry holly and wild rose hip.

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There’s more to decorating outdoors than lights. Christy Beckman of the Delaware Nature Society suggests freezing nuts and berries in water bottles of various sizes, then hang your “icicles” in the trees.

Kathryn Greig of the Milton Garden Club suggests gathering assorted greens, tying them together with a piece of jute and making a loop for hanging, then adding a colorful bow. Use the piece to decorate fence posts, lampposts and mailboxes. She recommends using cedar (which has blue berries), holly (with red berries), arborvitae, pine or Leyland cypress.

Natural products will bring an elegant accent to your home. So the next time you’re about to plug in the light-up Santa, take a second look at that pine cone lying next to it.


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