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Holiday decorating, the easy and natural way

Evergreens such as rosemary and redwood, with a splash
of color from nandina leaves and berries, are the makings
of a holiday arrangement. Festive ribbon can tie it all together.
Be sure to soak the foliage first. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Use evergreens, holly and other garden clippings

Deck the halls with boughs of holly – and just about any good-looking evergreen.

For centuries, holiday revelers have brought pieces of evergreen indoors to bring in the scent of the season as well as add a festive natural touch to decorations.

These quick and easy decorations can be as simple as greens arranged loosely in a vase, tied with a bow. Get out your pruning shears and snip some evergreen foliage, such as 2-foot pieces of redwood, juniper, cedar, cypress, pine or fir. (These may come off the bottom of a Christmas tree, too.) Stems of citrus foliage or rosemary will work. Like evergreens, citrus leaves and herbs add scent as well as bright green color.

Don’t forget holly; its shiny foliage and cheery red berries almost shout, “Happy holidays!” With red-orange berries, pyracantha and nandina (heavenly bamboo) also make attractive accents.

Before displaying, soak the foliage in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then gently shake or drip dry. That bath rehydrates the needles or leaves and helps them retain their freshness.

Stick some stems of foliage in a vase with water; remove any leaves or needles that will be below the water line. Add a ribbon bow and it’s an instant centerpiece.

Pieces of evergreen can be turned into super-easy garlands. After stems have been washed and dried, lay stems on a mantle or tabletop, or weave them around stair bannisters. Tuck them around picture frames or mirrors. Bend, twist and braid stems into a rustic wreath. Use thin wire and ribbon to tie in place. Accent with more garden gleanings such as pine cones, seed pods and rose hips.

Another easy decorating idea the natural way: A bowl of red and green apples. The shiny fruit makes an instant (and edible) centerpiece in the colors of the season.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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