By Brenda Bolton, Mobile County Master Gardener | MobileCountyMasterGardeners.org
Q: I see beautiful greenery decorating homes. How can I use things from my yard to decorate mine, and what plants work best?
A: Many suggestions follow on how to decorate from your yard, one of my favorite activities. But another alternative is finding greenery creations at the annual Master Gardener Greenery Sale, which includes below-retail pricing on wreaths and arrangements. Find the link to shop the sale at the end of this article.
Preparation: Back to your yard. Look outside your favorite window. That beautiful fresh greenery decor you see in magazines, whether used on a holiday mantel or a winter buffet table for Mardi Gras brunch, is often growing right outside in your own yard. Or maybe your neighbor’s. Winter is the perfect time to harvest greenery because the leaves are mature and have hardened off. If you try to use greenery with tender spring leaves, the tips wilt. Winter greenery is usually well hydrated from winter rains and cooler temperatures, so it will last longer.
In the days before harvesting them, deeply water the plants a couple of times. After cutting them, immediately place cut stems into warm water. Soak them overnight, recut the stems to their proper length and strip the leaves to clean the ends in the water. Refresh live greenery by daily watering and misting. Have realistic expectations for live plant material. Well-prepared material tended daily should last three to seven days indoors. Outside, shaded material can last several weeks if watered.
To enhance your decor, incorporate dried plant material: pinecones, interesting bare stems, seedpods such as magnolia or bog lotus, beautiful red winter berries, and even dried, leftover summer okra pods. You can also create a tablescape of winter blooms such as our heritage camellias, forced amaryllis or narcissus, colorful poinsettias, or even pots of pansies or violets.
Uses: Mixed natural materials are beautiful draping a banister or newel post; adorning a flat surface such as a mantel or table; as a wreath or embellishing a commercial wreath, tree or garland; filling a windowsill; or arranged in a vase or container. Upgrade artificial wreaths, garlands or trees by inserting fresh greenery nosegays.
When designing a container arrangement, use plant material that is foundational, structural, filling and accenting. Follow these steps:
– Place linear, structural stems to give the arrangement its shape (pyramid, triangle, mounding, rounded, etc.). Establish height and width first so other pieces can be cut and placed in relation.
– Build a bed of greenery as a foundation.
– Place feathery and fine-textured filler.
– Select and place accents, keeping a single main feature placed in a central position (some designers advise placing the main feature first).
– Continue filling in.
– To incorporate bloom, start with a container of bulbs or a violet placed into a larger container, using a floral wet foam ring around it to hold the addition of surrounding greenery.
– Incorporate blooms by making nosegays of accent flowers in water vials to insert into the arrangement, and swap out the nosegay as the blooms fade to extend the life of the arrangement or change the look.
Select long-lasting, varying textures and colors to fill each function. Look for:
– Stems with leaves that are shiny or hard-surfaced for longer-lasting greenery, such as boxwood, yaupon, holly, camellia, magnolia, pittosporum, cleyera, ligustrum or viburnum.
– Strong, linear stems for structure; feathery pieces to build foundations and fill vacant spots; and arching stems for form or accent.
– Long-lasting feathery evergreens such as Leyland cypress, juniper, arborvitae, cedar or cryptomeria for foundations or infill.
– Unusual pieces for accents or form, such as ginger, aspidistra, sago palm fronds, rosemary, small pinecones or seedpods, berry stems or even citrus-like kumquats.
Plan for the material to endure by:
– Preparing material properly.
– Using wet florist foam or a water vase.
– Extending freshness by using stem water vials, or making homemade water vials by wrapping stems in wet paper towels and covering them with a plastic baggie. Then wrapping them in green florist tape and attaching them with the tape to a florist stake for inserting into the arrangement.
Finally, enjoy the beautiful blooms of camellias and other strong-petaled winter flowers by preserving them in wax. Local camellia enthusiast Dr. Brenda Litchfield offers a “How To” video on YouTube to demonstrate this old-fashioned art. Visit youtube.com/watch?v=RWL7t-BYoWY.
Mix one pound of paraffin wax with 1/2 cup of plain mineral oil. Heat to an exact 138 degrees, using an accurate cooking thermometer. Slowly swirl the bloom into the wax (don’t “plunk” it in; gently fold in) until submerged. Immediately remove it from the hot wax, briefly shake excess off and turn it facing up to allow the wax to spread to the interior. Immediately swirl the bloom into a pan of iced water and leave for about 30 seconds. Remove to drain and dry, leaving a bloom that looks like porcelain! Do these a day ahead and refrigerate them for a party or hostess gift.
For Your Calendar:
What: Mobile County Master Gardener Greenery Sale,
Gulf Coast Herb Society, Mobile Botanical Gardens Holiday Market
Order online: Beginning Nov. 2
When: Order by Nov. 20 for discount pricing and best selections (prices increase by 15 percent Nov. 21-30); contactless pickup available; choose a time at checkout.
One-stop shop: MBGReBloomshop.com
In-person shop or pickup time (by appointment):
-Wednesday, Dec. 2 and Thursday, Dec. 3 (1-3 p.m.)
-Friday, Dec. 4 (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
-Saturday, Dec. 5 (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Where: 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile
What: Bellingrath Gardens Fall Events
Where: 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore
-Cascading Chrysanthemums, Nov. 1-30, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
-Christmas Masquerade Gala, Nov 20, 6:30-9 p.m.
-Christmas Lights at Bellingrath, Nov. 27 – Dec. 31, 5-9 p.m.
For more info: bellingrath.org
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