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Montgomery column: Decorating for Christmas from your garden

Betty Montgomery
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Burford holly.

Christmas is a special time of year. It is a time when traditions are most important. With the virus raging more than ever, we are all finding ourselves being at home more. This makes it a perfect time to venture into your garden and see what you have that can be brought inside and used in decorating your home for Christmas. Using greenery, berries and branches from your garden will save you money, but more importantly, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that you have created it yourself.

What you can use to make your home more festive is limited only by your imagination. Cedar, boxwood, pine, spruce, camellia, smilax and ivy are some of the greens you can use to add a festive touch as well as a fresh scent to your home. My husband always loves me to bring in cedar because of the fresh clean fragrance it provides. Bringing the outdoors into the home, and filling your house with the sights and smells of fresh greenery, helps to bring on the spirit of Christmas.

Of the greenery I grow, boxwood is a staple. Boxwoods need to be pruned and using it at Christmas is a time to do a little shaping of your bush. Do not be scared to cut it. Go deep inside the bush and cut longer branches. This will help open up the bush to let light and air inside while giving you a nice piece of boxwood to use at the same time. You can make traditional wreaths of boxwood and add fruit or berries to give it color. Boxwood will also last a long time, especially when placed in water or an oasis.

Of all the greenery I grow, magnolia is my favorite. It lasts a long time, has shiny leaves that sparkle and makes any home look more elegant. The older varieties have bigger glossy leaves and are great for larger spaces. Some of the newer varieties have smaller leaves and work nicely in flower arrangements. I use magnolia all the time and especially at Christmas, on our mantle and in a vase just by themselves.

If you like red berries, there are many different kinds of shrubs that have a perfusion of berries. Nandina is a great shrub because it is easy to grow, and the more you prune it, the larger the bush will become. The clusters of berries are large and showy and certainly stand out. The leaves are also ideal to use when wanting to have flat greenery as a base under other greenery. Many of the newer varieties of nandina have leaves that turn red as the weather cools and can make a dramatic creation.

Winterberry holly in a vase by itself or with different evergreens makes a stunning design. You can also use Burford holly and remove the leaves to give you a completely different look.

Items from nature can be left natural or sprayed gold or silver and placed with greenery. I have used stems of millet and okra pods that I have sprayed gold and added to an assortment of greenery. If you can find cotton bolls, the base of the boll resembles a flower and makes a fabulous addition to a wreath. Nuts, cones and large feathers give a bold and masculine touch to decorations too.

When on a walk recently, I spotted an interesting weed in among some broom straw. I cut several of these weeds and sprayed them gold and added them to an arrangement I had made with deodar cedar, Thuja green giant and magnolia. It was just the right addition to make the arrangement come alive.

Dried hydrangeas have a special place in our home, especially since I published a book about hydrangeas. I use them natural or sprayed and they add to any design. Visiting a friend during the holidays last year, I was fascinated at how he had used the blooms of his limelight hydrangeas in his Christmas tree. He had taken the dried blooms and put them in among the branches of the Christmas tree to fill in spaces in the tree. It looked terrific.

Smilax is an evergreen vine that is spectacular to use in all kinds of ways in the home. I always cut some from my sister’s garden when visiting her or my friend Harriet brings it to me. I drape it over a mirror in the front hall or put it down the center of the table and add camellia blossoms when blooming. Ivy can be used in a similar way if you have long pieces not attached to the ground.

Make sure you do not get overwhelmed during the holidays. Do not make things too difficult for yourself. One big focal point in a room will set the tone. Take your time and enjoy the festive season and make sure you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy your creations. What a sense of satisfaction you will get and it is a lot less costly, too.

Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy,” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at bmontgomery40@gmail.com.

Winterberry holly put in a green plant to give it more color.