Holiday time again. Many people stress out, wanting everything to be perfect. Almost everyone overspends their budget. One way to save your nerves and your budget is to do some free to low cost decorating with living or cut evergreens. There are positive health benefits of filling your home with nature and plants. Plants are “green” decorations in more than mere color. Plants are environmentally friendly, and if cut, recyclable.
If you don’t get a living pine tree, as I discussed in this blog a few weeks ago, then evergreen branches are a wonderful way to decorate. They will last two to three weeks, filling the air with their fresh fragrance. Don’t feel like a decorator diva? No worries!You can simply put them on the table!
Cut boughs can also be placed in containers of water. Just get a size that won’t tip. Anywhere from small vases to large buckets. Pines, cypress, arborvitae, and juniper will all last several weeks in a dry arrangement too. “Dry” means a wreath or swag that isn’t watered.
Where to get evergreens? All the tree cutting places I have ever asked at will let you salvage the left-over cut branches. It saves them from hauling them off to the dumpster.
Create a Swag
Swags, wreaths or vases of evergreens can be “spruced” up in many ways. Use branches of pyracantha which are covered in bright red-orange berries right now. Or you could get creative with Southwestern items like agave pods, yucca stalks, hesperaloe pods, mesquite beans, small colorful gourds, dried poppy pods, or use those Ponderosa pine cones from your last trip up Mt. Lemmon (named after Sara Lemmon, a botanist).
Use fresh fruit in wreaths and swags. Try lemons, small oranges, tangerines, or limes. Run a thin wire or floral pick into the fruit for attaching to your creation. Recycle this decoration later – place it the yard for the birds to feed on. The needles will dry and fall, adding nicely acidic organic matter to your soil, a good thing with our alkaline desert soils.
Take a Walk
Go out for a walk and see what wild plant pods you find. Painted or gilded seed pods and flower heads can be a creative game for children. Really test the creativity of the kids – try to find the most unusual mesquite bean or Texas mountain laurel bean shape. Can you find a camel? How about a giraffe or a “wiener” dog? With some pipe cleaner legs and wiggly eyes, you can have a truly unique nativity scene with all sorts of animals. Some animals may need some painting, but most animals are “natural color.” Of course, you can also visit the hobby store for pine cones. Kids love to coat them with glue and glitter.
String Some Fun
Have you ever strung cranberries and popcorn? Or cranberries alone? It does look pretty, and the birds will recycle it for you after the holidays. Perhaps you could even decorate an outdoors tree just for the birds. Popcorn and cranberry strands are easy to make with a darning needle and mint green dental floss. The secret is to put the needle through the cranberry “eye” not the middle. They stay strung better.
The main thing to remember is to relax and enjoy the season. Old expectations may rattle their chains and try to haunt you, but take it easy, and take it slow. Surround yourself with the natural world. When you start to feel stressed, take a deep breath, and rest your eyes and spirit with the beauty of nature.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
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