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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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