Merry On The Inside

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Hydrangea paniculata
Hydrangea paniculata (Photos by Josephine Borut)

Dressing the house with wreaths, centerpieces, trees and mantelpiece garlands will become the priority for next few weeks. 

My friend Gus in Levittown is not able to put up a Christmas tree this year, but he still wants to brighten up his home for the holidays. I suggested that instead of purchasing plastic poinsettias and artificial materials why not bring his garden into the house. Go natural.

Then, I offered to take my garden shears to his garden and cut branches of holly and juniper berries, dried seed heads, grasses, interesting twisted branches of other shrubs or small trees and pick up pine cones from both his and my garden. I do not want to spray paint the lovely natural colors of the material from his garden. We decided that we would combine fragrance, shape and color with ribbons and bring a lovely, sophistication to our hallways and rooms.

Holly berries
Holly berries

Some of the items we decided to cut were: dried hydrangea flowers, salvia and baby’s breath which would make a striking arrangement. Wonderfully fragrant pine cones or some quince fruit could set off a centerpiece with euonymus, lavender, rose hips, and evergreen sprigs. A large red bow tied to a few branches of pine or juniper with hot, red peppers will decorate our staircase or doorway. A bowl filled with pine cones could if joined with cloves and cinnamon sticks to perfume the entrance of our homes and immediately set the holiday mood.

The dark purple seed pods of False Indigo are punctuation marks mixed with dried grasses and herbs in arrangements. The dried silvery foliage or Artemisia, combined with rosemary and roses will offer a sweet, subtle fragrance to rustic hanging branches tied with a simple bow. Remember to keep dried arrangements out of direct sunlight.

To get your imaginations in full swing, think outside of the box. For instance, everyone who comes into my garden exclaims “what is that bush with the purple berries?” Callicarpa dichotoma (Beauty Berry) is an aptly named shrub for it really is a beauty.  Beauty Berry is a standout in any arrangement with other natural materials such as dried grasses. However, be aware if using in dried arrangement that the leaves do not dehydrate prettily so you will need to remove them before using the dried berry branches.

Rose hips
Rose hips

You may say, “but I don’t have a holly bush in my yard or a pine tree” or some of the other plants that I have mentioned.  However, even a few cuttings of the plants mentioned could make a lovely small arrangement. Also, I had hoped to tease you into thinking about the plants in your garden. Start planning now for next year. Remember the plant requirements, for instance, you need both male and female plants of holly for the female plant to flower and set fruit, those lovely deep red shiny berries.

Here are some other shrubs that bear fruit as a gift for gardeners and are easily maintained as well. Consider adding the following to your garden if you want striking berries and catkins next fall: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Witch Hazel  (Corylopsis), Quince (Chaenomeles), Chokeberry (Aronia), Roses and Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). These shrubs are eye-catching in your garden once your spring and summer plants have all faded. They are gems that reward your patience and work by attracting birds, bringing color to the fall & winter garden and as an added bonus are useful for your indoor decorating endeavors. What more can you ask?

Peppers
Peppers

The Long Island Horticultural Society Holiday Event will be Sunday, Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. (doors open at 12:30) at the Conference Center at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. Our speaker will be Marion Romeo, award-winning Floral Designer and National Garden Clubs Master Judge doing a “Holiday Arrangements Demonstration.” There will be a Chinese Auction with many wonderful prizes to bid upon. Refreshments will be served. All Long Island gardeners are welcome to attend the meeting free of charge but must be preregistered. You may call 516-210-6717 or email ligardens-events@yahoo.com, please provide your name and the number of people in your party. For more information, go to www.lihort.org.

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Josephine Borut is on the Board of Directors of the Long Island Horticultural Society. She is also a member of The American Rose Society, The Herb Society of America and The American Horticultural Society. Her monthly columns for Anton Media Group provide insight into growing and maintaining healthy gardens on Long Island.

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