You might be surprised what you can find for holiday decorating in your own yard. Check it out now to survey the possibilities for when the time is right. Pour yourself a holiday drink to put you in the mood, and try to look at your outdoors with new eyes. Have two drinks and you will! Remember that using fresh means that it has a “shelf life” and by cutting your own you get the freshest!
Any evergreen can work beautifully in holiday arrangements. Each has its own character and fragrance. Take advantage of your private source and design accordingly. Maybe something could use a little pruning? If so, wait until you’re ready to decorate before you prune.
Twigs are very popular for winter arrangements and red osier dogwood is a favourite because of its perfect deep red colour. However, any twig with an interesting bark will give you a great look: birch, paperbark maple, willow, curly willow and kerria are all great choices. Look at your trees and shrubs without the leaves with this in mind, and again, maybe something needs a little pruning.
If you have conifers in your garden, you have a source of cones. Spruce, pine and even the tiny cones on cedars are decorative. Cones can be arranged in a clear vase with berries added, or incorporated into arrangements for your table or outdoor urns and wreaths.
Don’t worry if you don’t have your own, you can still be crafty by supporting locally sourced greens from markets and independent garden shops.
Indoor Blooming Beauties!
If you enjoy long-blooming flowers indoors in the winter months, they don’t get more rewarding than Amaryllis. Most are native to South Africa and are sold in the fall for us to enjoy, potted up indoors. The larger the bulb, the more blooms — the topsize bulbs often give you two to three stalks each with five to seven flowers per stalk — what a show!
Planning is important as different varieties bloom at different times. There are a few varieties that will bloom for the holidays, but act fast as their bloom time is approximately six weeks from planting. These early bloomers come in crisp whites, cherry reds and combinations of the two — perfect for a holiday arrangement. Often they are planted singly, and can be placed anywhere, but a grouping of three or five in a large container makes a great feature centrepiece. For holiday bloomers, choose from some new arrivals this year: Vixen — a deep red; Comet — a white petal with red brush strokes; Blitzen — red petals with white accents; or Dancer — pure white petals with a green throat. Many other varieties are available that will bloom into the new year — perfect for winter enjoyment and for gift giving. There are more colours and variety options with the later bloomers. Colours such as chartreuse, deep red, pinks and lemon yellow are so welcome in the middle of winter. Later blooming choices also offer lush double petal varieties and novelty selections that are shorter and multi-flowering. They offer great value and last for weeks in bloom. For best and most reliable results, pot up your Amaryllis in a container with drainage, using fresh potting soil. Finish the pot with moss, cones or decorative stones.
Paperwhites are another favourite for indoor arrangements as they are very easy to grow and produce a great show. Customers have commented lately their strategy for Paperwhites is to buy extra bulbs and pot up some now (approximately six weeks to bloom from planting). Store the extra bulbs in the crisper for planting into the new year. Many love the sweet fresh spring fragrance, but if you find the fragrance too strong, place your arrangement in your foyer or somewhere you’re not sitting — they can take the cool drafts of the door opening and closing.
Paperwhites are typically not planted in soil. Using a dish or favourite container with no drainage, fill the bottom two to three inches with stones, pea gravel or glass beads, etc. Place the bulbs on the “stones” and top up with enough more stone to hold the bulbs in place (one inch). Fill with water to the bottom of the bulb and your work is done!
Surprisingly, both Amaryllis and Paperwhites grow best in indirect light and away from any heat source, so they make an easy to grow, perfect houseplant.
Using your garden as your private collection of holiday materials is both challenging and rewarding. You might be surprised with what you find and will very likely enjoy creating your own fresh arrangements. The Amaryllis and Paperwhites work well with fresh material for holiday decorating, as they give the complimentary textures and pop of colour.
Enjoy your holiday decorating and have a happy holiday season.
Rick Weingarden and Allan Watts own Anything Grows SEED Co. (www.anythinggrows.com). They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, and at various gardening events around the region.