Tips on holiday decorating color schemes

Tips on holiday decorating color schemes

by Ellen Goff

Traditions define our December holidays, and none more so than decorating with fresh greens. For centuries, bundles of pine, fir and yew or stems of holly and magnolia set off with pieces of fruit were the standard choice.

In recent years, demand for a wider color palette has grown. Everyone - from home decorators to florists - wants tree, shrub and plant colors customized to their decor. Many non-traditional materials and colors can be found quite easily and are surprisingly familiar.

I like to start my non-traditional decorating by scouting out materials in my yard and, with permission, that of friends and neighbors. Thankfully many of the plants used for holiday greens, such as gardenias, camillias and southern magnolia grow readily in the southeast and similar warm climates.

I also find:

  • Light silver and green in eucalyptus and lamb's ears.
  • Reds in camellias, pyracanthus, red-twig dogwood, winterberry and traditional holly berries.
  • Medium greens in acuba, boxwood, cypress, gardenia, juniper and pine.
  • Dark greens in clethra, fir, holly, laurel, magnolia, rosemary and yew.
  • Pale blues in juniper berries and blue spruce.
  • Purple in beauty berry.
  • Copper and brown in the fuzzy reverse side of magnolia leaves.

I've found that by doing some discreet pruning (six to eight-inch pieces), I can collect a wide variety of interesting greens for decorating a table arrangement, making a wreath, embellishing roping, swags and even giving artificial greens a lift. The key is variety.

I supplement my gatherings with purchased live greens, dried berries or seed pod branches and fresh crabapples, pomegranates, kumquats and lemons for additional color and form.

I assemble these cuttings into small decorative bouquets, selecting several pieces with small leaves for the center, then adding greens with medium and large leaves or evergreen needles.

With a total of eight to 12 stems, I secure the bundle with florist wire. Fruits, ribbons and other decorations are added with separate pieces of wire. Then I anchor the bouquet into my decoration with an additional wire.

A good source for additional greens is your local florist. In Tampa, Fla., Moates Florist has decorated more than 100 Christmases since their founding in 1901. Head designer Barbara Reagan says the traditional greens and color schemes remain popular yet some new introductions are gaining interest.

"The silvers, even copper colors, are requested," Reagan says. "We bring in most of the traditional greens from other parts of the country. Locally, our princess pine remains popular with its wonderful fragrance."

Reagan encourages people to start their decorating early. "Greens generally hold up so well you can start your holiday decorating with them and enjoy them through New Year's," she says. Be creative this holiday with new and unexpected greens in your decorations.

Regardless of style or color scheme, your displays will be more personal and an interesting expression of the season.

Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She's passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.

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