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Bring Nature Inside: Decorate From Your Yard

BY: Brenda Bolton, Mobile County Master Gardener |

Q I see beautiful greenery decorating homes. How can I use things from my yard and what works best?

A Many suggestions follow on how to decorate from your yard, one of my favorite things. But another alternative is finding greenery creations at the annual Master Gardener Greenery Sale which includes below-retail pricing on wreaths and arrangements. At the end of this article is the link to shop now online and check it out.

Preparation: Back to your yard, look outside your favorite window - that beautiful fresh greenery decor you see in the magazines, whether used on a holiday mantel or a winter buffet table for Mardi Gras brunch, is often growing right outside in your own yard. Or maybe your neighbor’s. Winter is the perfect time to harvest greenery, because the leaves are mature and have hardened off. If you try to use greenery with tender spring leaves, the tips wilt. Winter greenery is usually well hydrated from winter rains and cooler temperatures, so it will last. Deeply water the plants for harvest a couple of times in the days before cutting it. Immediately place cut stems into warm water, soak overnight, recut to proper length and strip leaves to clean the ends in the water. Refresh live greenery by daily watering and misting. Have realistic expectations for live plant material. Well-prepared material tended daily should last 3 to 7 days indoors. Outside, shaded material can last several weeks if watered.

Incorporating dried plant material enhances your decor: pinecones, interesting bare stems, seed pods such as magnolia or bog lotus, or even dried, left-over summer okra pods, and beautiful red winter berries. You can also create a tablescape of winter blooms such as our heritage camellias, forced amaryllis or narcissus, colorful poinsettias, or even pots of pansies and violets.

Uses: Mixed natural materials are beautiful draping a banister or newel post, adorning a flat surface such as a mantel or table, as a wreath or embellishing a commercial wreath, tree, or garland, filling a windowsill, or arranged in a vase or container. Upgrade artificial wreaths, garlands, or trees by inserting fresh greenery nosegays.

Design Tips

When designing a container arrangement, use plant material that is foundational, structural, filling, and accenting:

-Place linear, structural stems to give the arrangement its shape (pyramid, triangle, mounding, rounded, etc.) Establish height and width first so that other pieces can be cut and placed in relation.

-Build a bed of greenery as a foundation

-Place feathery and fine-textured filler

-Select and place accents, keeping a single main feature placed in a central position (some designers advise placing the main feature first)

-Continue filling in

-To incorporate bloom, start with a container of bulbs or a violet placed into a larger container, using a floral wet foam ring around it to hold the addition of surrounding greenery

-Incorporate blooms by making nosegays of accent flowers in water vials to insert into the arrangement, and swap out the nosegay as the blooms fade to extend the life of

the arrangement or change the look

Select long lasting, varying textures and colors to fill each function

-Use stems with leaves that are shiny or hard-surfaced for longer lasting greenery, such as boxwood, yaupon, holly, camellia, magnolia, pittosporum, cleyera, ligustrum, viburnum

-Use strong, linear stems for structure, feathery pieces to build foundations and fill vacant spots, arching stems for form or accent

-Use long-lasting feathery evergreens such as Leyland cypress, juniper, arborvitae, cedar, cryptomeria for foundations or infill

-Use unusual pieces for accents or form, such as ginger, aspidistra, sago palm fronds, rosemary, small pinecones or seed pods, berry stems, even citrus like kumquat

Plan for the material to endure:

-Prepare material properly

-Use wet florist foam or a water vase

-Extend freshness by using stem water vials, or make homemade water vials by wrapping stems in wet paper towel and covering with a plastic baggie, then wrap in green florist tape and attach with the tape to a florist stake for inserting into the arrangement

Finally, enjoy the beautiful blooms of camellias and other strong-petaled winter flowers by preserving them in wax. Local camellia enthusiast Dr. Brenda Litchfield offers a “How To” video on YouTube to demonstrate this old-fashioned art:

Mix 1 # of paraffin wax with 1/2 cup of plain mineral oil. Heat to an exact 138 degrees F., using an accurate cooking thermometer. Slowly swirl the bloom into the wax (don’t “plunk” it in; gently fold in) until submerged, immediately remove it from the hot wax, briefly shake excess off, and turn it facing up to allow the wax to spread to the interior. Immediately swirl the bloom into a pan of iced water and leave for about 30 seconds. Remove to drain and dry, leaving a bloom that looks like porcelain! Do these a day ahead and refrigerate them for a party or hostess gift.

For Your Calendar:

What: Mobile County Master Gardener Greenery Sale,

Gulf Coast Herb Society, Mobile Botanical Gardens A HOLIDAY MARKET

Order Online: Beginning Nov 2, 2020

When: Order by Nov 20 for discount pricing and best selections

Contactless pick-up available, choose time at check-out.

One-Stop Shop:

In Person Shop or pick-up time: By Appointment

Wed Dec 2 and Thurs Dec 3 (1 pm - 3 pm)

Fri Dec 4 (9 am – 3 pm)

Sat Dec 5 (9 am – 1 pm)

Where: MBG, 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile 36608

What: Bellingrath Gardens Fall Events

-Cascading Chrysanthemums, Nov 1-30, 8-5 daily

-Christmas Masquerade Gala, Nov 20, 6:30-9 pm

-Christmas Lights at Bellingrath Nov 27-Dec 31, 5-9pm

For More Info:

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