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Holiday decorations bring garden indoors

Dried twigs become magical, displayed in glass vases and strung with ornaments. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
Deck your halls with twigs, foliage, pine cones and more

Need some indoor cheer? Festive holiday decorations may be as close as your backyard.

Remember: It’s the little touches that turn dead twigs into something magical. Never underestimate the power of ribbon and little twinkly lights. Anything that glitters or glows adds a special touch.

These nature-based decorations can be as simple or layered as your time, taste and supplies allow.

The easiest? Greens 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.

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. Use thin wire and ribbon to tie in place. Accent with more garden gleanings -- pine cones, seed pods, rose hips, or berries, such as heavenly bamboo (Nandina) or pyracantha.

Twigs or small branches can look special, strung with twinkly lights or small ornaments. Or spray paint the twigs white; they look instantly more elegant. A bouquet of white twigs in a vase makes a striking accent without any extras.

Photographer Jamie Sandberg, my sister, has no room for a tree in her California bungalow, but she adds lots of nature to her holiday decorating.
Sprigs of evergreen and lacquered berries add holiday cheer.

Her mantle is covered with vases of birch twigs. To give them a wintry touch, the twigs were sprayed with glue, then rolled in crumbled white plastic foam. It looks like little bits of snow and ice clinging to the stems. The twigs stand in clear glass vases and vintage jars filled with glass beads. Small glass ornaments and white porcelain birds hang from the branches. Little LED lights are strung behind the vases and around their bases. Jamie added crystal perfume bottles to the display. With the back lighting, all the glassware glows like a starry night.

Similar festive touches fill her small living room. Around one of her photos of a snow-covered fir tree, Jamie tucked pieces of evergreen along with lacquered berries and battery-operated lights, then added a big plaid bow. A silver platter is filled with pine cones, votive candles and glass ornaments.

Another good thing about dried twigs and pine cones: They can be used again next year.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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