The cold has driven us indoors, the garden is finished for the season, and it’s basically time to hibernate.
But, what about bringing some of the outdoors inside to help get us through the holidays and into the new year? Decorating the house with treasures from the outdoors is a great way not only to get outside for a brisk walk but to also think about how we can renew our spirits with natural materials surrounding us.
So, bundle up, take a large basket or bag and a pair of sharp pruners and let’s go find some garden gold. The materials we’ll look at fall into two categories: things that are dried and will remain in the same state for a long time, and those things that are a bit more ephemeral and will have a shorter life indoors.
Let’s start with some of the perishable materials. You will need to time bringing these indoors so that you get the most beautiful use out of them for the longest time. In other words, if you are decorating for Christmas, cut evergreen boughs to grace the mantle only about two weeks before the big day. You can certainly cut more later and do a rotation to keep yourself in greens for months.
Holly berries and rose hips make beautiful accents in wreaths and arrangements and will usually last about a month. Branches of crabapples will last a couple of weeks if kept cool. Be cautious before bringing in other berries because some of them will begin to have an unpleasant odor when they warm up. Viburnums are a good example.
Many of the woody herbs such as thyme, sage, and lavender are still in great shape for snipping, They can be used for advent wreaths or as accents with evergreen boughs or table arrangements. They will usually dry intact but you can make them last longer if you put them in water. Tuck small bowls of water beneath your evergreens and put the herb stems in them.
Vining plants such as vinca and English ivy, because of their leathery leaves, will last a couple of weeks when brought indoors. So, again, time your snipping so they will be fresh for when you want their display.
The selection of dried materials is endless, from hydrangea blossoms to grass seed heads to milkweed pods to clematis seed pods. A walk through the garden or woods will give you plenty of ideas. These can be glued onto grapevine wreaths or wired onto green wreaths. Or, use them in arrangements, on swags, or simply as a collection on a table. One of the most beautiful simple arrangements I’ve ever seen was stems of milkweed pods (empty or you’ll have seeds everywhere) with red rose hips in a tall vase on the hearth.