Whether you want to make like a pioneer or just save some money, fashioning outdoor holiday decorations from natural materials is a great way to go.
Garden club members who decorated Wheatfield Village shared these tips for creating natural decorations:
• Gather a variety of greens from trees, shrubs and even ground covers such as ivy and euonymus. Ideally your arrangement should have variety in color and texture, said Kent resident Meg Calby, a member of the Sunday Afternoon Garden Club. Make sure the greens have a strong enough structure to give them stability in an arrangement.
If you don’t have access to greenery, check a local tree lot, Calby suggested. Often the trimmings from the bottoms of trees can be had for free.
• Look for other elements that have beauty or winter interest. For example, Bath Gamma Garden Club incorporated wheat stalks and the colorful twigs of red twig dogwood in its decorations, member Mary Anne Slattery of Bath Township said. The brilliant berries of winterberry holly make beautiful accents if you can find some the birds haven’t ravaged, or use less-showy rose hips, she said.
Pine cones are classic accents, but newly gathered cones may still be tightly closed. You can encourage them to open up by drying them in an oven set to 200 degrees, said Sue Dahl, a Kent resident who belongs to the Sunday Afternoon Garden Club.
If you had enough foresight to dry the blooms from hydrangea bushes, you can incorporate those, too. Calby said hydrangea blooms can be gathered when they still have color and either hung upside down or just laid on a shelf to dry in a cool place such as a garage or basement.
• Avoid delicate elements that can’t hold up to outdoor conditions, especially if they’ll be displayed in an area that’s subject to a lot of punishing wind and rain.
• Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop to keep needles and other leaves from losing moisture, and spray dried materials with cheap hairspray to keep them from flaking and shattering, Slattery said.
• Use floral foam as a base if you want an arrangement with a more sculpted look. Slattery prefers to use Oasis, a foam that absorbs water to keep greenery fresher. The precipitation this time of year usually is enough to keep the foam moist, she said, but you can water it if necessary or bring it inside and soak it.
• Bind greenery and other elements together with green florist wire. Wrapping the wire with florist tape first keeps the wire from cutting into delicate stems, Calby said.
• Use floral picks to extend items that need more length. The picks have wire on one end to attach to the flower or other element, and their green color blends in with the arrangement.
• Give pine roping more presence by doubling it and adding embellishments, such as bunches of holly, boxwood or spruce. Calby said zip ties are a great way to attach roping to fence rails, but she recommends covering those attachment points with embellishments such as bunches of pine cones or berries.
• Attach decorations to the bottom of a double-hung window by wrapping two or three wires around the foam base, leaving tails about 12 inches long. Close the window onto the tails to hold the arrangement in place. If the arrangement is heavy, you can attach a couple of finish nails on the inside of the window and wrap the wire tails around them, Calby said.
• Don’t have an eye for design? Calby suggested getting inspiration from someone else’s work. Libraries, community centers and other organizations often offer classes, or just search online sites such as Pinterest for designs you like.
— Mary Beth Breckenridge