Liven up your holiday decor with lights, a bit of glitz and some colorful blossoms this season. Now is the time to put on your gardening shoes, grab the pruners and get started decorating for the holiday season ahead.
Start by gathering greenery from your yard. Use needled evergreens such as pines and firs, broadleaf evergreens such as boxwood, holly and evergreen magnolia as well as junipers and arborvitaes to create wreaths, swags, centerpieces and garland. And don't forget to include cones, holly berries, crab apples and the bluish-colored fruit of junipers.
Be selective as you prune your trees and shrubs when collecting these materials. Use sharp bypass pruners that have two sharp blades to make clean cuts that close more quickly. Make your cuts above a healthy bud, where the branches join another branch or connect to the main trunk. Take only a few branches from each tree or shrub to maintain the plants' beauty.
Place freshly cut greens in a cool location away from heaters, fireplaces and open flames. Set them on colorful fabric or paper to catch the sap and avoid damaging your woodwork and furnishings.
Check your greenery for freshness every few days. The needles, leaves and stems should bend, but not break. Replace dried greens with fresh materials.
Brighten up the display with some cool-burning LED lights. Create a mantle display or centerpiece with the help of LED pillar lights, or add a string of LEDs to your garland.
If you have artificial greens that could use a facelift, add fresh berries, cones and seedpods for a more natural look. Increase the glitz with silver and gold metallic paint or glitter. Paint milkweed, lotus and other pods, and then tuck them into the greens. Painting allium seedheads white will add the appearance of flowery snowflakes in your indoor arrangements and outdoor container gardens.
Don't forget fresh flowers and flowering plants. Poinsettias are a perennial favorite, but you may want to change things up with amaryllis, spring flowering bulbs and lily of the valley. Look for unusual varieties or combinations to increase your enjoyment. Combine large flowered amaryllis with small flowering bulbs such as star of Bethlehem. Or go for a unique size, shape or flower color like that of the honeybee amaryllis with its beautiful yellow flowers that are sure to brighten your days.
Add a few flowers to your greenery and houseplants for some instant color. Stick your greenery and flowers in dampened floral foam to create a long-lasting holiday centerpiece, or place cut flowers in floral picks and set them in dish gardens and houseplants to brighten things up. Swap out the flowers as they fade. Consider making a few extra planters or centerpieces to give as holiday and hostess gifts this year.
Gardening expert, TV and radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has a master's degree in horticulture and has written more than 20 gardening books, including "Can't Miss Small Space Gardening" and the "Midwest Gardener's Handbook." She hosts The Great Courses "How to Grow Anything" DVD series and nationally syndicated "Melinda's Garden Moment" segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site, melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos, podcasts and monthly tips.