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Natural Christmas Decorations

Plants, Kissing Balls, Snowmen

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Picture of Christmas kissing ball, completed.

Picture of Christmas kissing ball.

David Beaulieu

Natural Christmas decorations spice up the outdoors during a time of year when, in the North, there’s just not a lot of color otherwise, many of our plants having deserted us till spring. As the last leaves fall from the trees and rotting flesh disfigures our Halloween jack-o-lanterns, is it any wonder that folks flock to the stores to buy the outdoor Christmas ornaments that will replace autumn's natural splendor with the glitz and glitter of the winter holiday season? For example, inflatable Christmas decorations, despite their detractors, have been growing in popularity during the 21st century. For a more tasteful and traditional (yet still store-bought) option, some set up outdoor Nativity scenes (see Page 3).

But if you prefer a more natural look, remember that not all your decor has to be purchased at the mall. Examples abound of plants that don’t bail out on us as winter arrives. There are many shrubs and trees that provide evergreen foliage and/or berries that will liven up your winter yard, either while still alive or after their boughs have been harvested (for use in crafts). I furnish examples in my photo gallery of Christmas decorations using greenery.

And don't forget a natural material that Old Man Winter often furnishes in abundance: snow, which you can easily turn into a knockout snowman worthy of an adult's efforts (see below).

How to Make Kissing Balls With Natural Materials

Have you ever seen a Christmas kissing ball hanging from someone's porch roof and thought, "I have to buy one of those someday"? You're right to be attracted to kissing balls, but wrong to think you have to buy one. Why not make your own? It's really not that difficult. And the best part is that you can "go natural" to a large degree in this project. For more, see my tutorial on kissing balls:

How to Make a Kissing Balls

How to Make a Snowman

Am I pulling your leg? No, you adults who think you're too "grown-up," I'm not joking. Climb down from your high horse and consider making a snowman to decorate your Christmas landscaping (provided, of course, that there's snow for you to use). What, afraid the neighbors will laugh? Tell them to lighten up! If you put some thought into outfitting your snowman, the result can be a satisfying natural Christmas decoration.

How to Make Snowmen

Shrubs as Natural Outdoor Christmas Decorations

Perhaps the shrub we most associate with the holidays is evergreen holly shrub, a mainstay in the winter décor of the United Kingdom for centuries. As live plants, evergreen hollies can be used as specimen plants or grouped together in foundation plantings. Cut holly branches, which can include bright red berries, make for popular accents in door wreaths and kissing balls. For more, please consult the following article:

Holly Shrubs

A neatly trimmed hedge of evergreen boxwood shrubs offers much-needed landscape structure and greenery in winter, while evoking images of colonial Williamsburg. The cut sprigs of boxwood are used in door wreaths, garlands and kissing balls. For indoors, arrangements called “boxwood trees” are popular. For more, please consult the following article:

Boxwood Shrubs

Like holly and boxwood, mountain laurel shrubs are broadleaf evergreens. Used to frame an entryway, laurel shrubs will welcome guests to your door all winter with their inviting glossy-green foliage. The cut stems of laurel are fashioned into the “laurel roping” (a type of garland) popular in outdoor Christmas decorations. Florists use cut laurel in winter window boxes and cemetery logs, in which cases the laurel is commonly sprayed gold or silver (since the leaf structure will hold up on the cut sprigs, but not the natural color). For more, please consult the following article:

Mountain Laurel

There’s another holly that is not evergreen, called “winterberry” holly. Winterberry loses its leaves in fall, but displays masses of attractive red berries in their place. If your winter lawn is graced by a winterberry holly bush, its berry-laden branches will be the talk of the neighborhood! The cut branches of winterberry holly are prized by arts and crafts enthusiasts for use as accents in door wreaths, kissing balls and winter window boxes. The berries will shrivel in the extreme cold, so cut winterberry branches are best used in late fall and early winter décor. For more, please consult the following article:

Winterberry Holly

A final shrub to note is mistletoe, although it is a rather odd example of a shrub. For mistletoe is the “shrub of the heavens,” a parasite that lives on the branches of trees. Yet an article on outdoor Christmas decorations would be remiss without mentioning mistletoe, as it has been hung up over doorways for decades in hopes of snagging a few kisses during the holiday season. Mistletoe is, of course, the ultimate material for a kissing ball, and it’s also used as an accent in door wreaths. The mistletoe used by Americans for holiday decor is Phoradendron flavescens. Mistletoe is not as hardy as the other plants I’ve discussed above, being a native from New Jersey south to Florida, so it’s best to treat its sprigs with a preservative for use in outside. Make a fresh cut on the bottom end of the branches and dip in glycerine. For more, please consult the following article:

Mistletoe

Now that we've looked at shrubs used natural outdoor Christmas decorations, on Page 2 we'll glance at trees that can be similarly used....

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