Find Holiday Decor in Your Garden

An image of a porch pot decorated with holiday greens

Cut evergreen stems form a foundation for winter decorations that can be accented with dried flowers, festive berries and ornaments.

By Abby Lapides

(This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener Winter 2019 issue)

Cut evergreen stems form a foundation for winter decorations that can be accented with dried flowers, festive berries and ornaments. Many of the common trees and shrubs found in our own backyards can be used to create festive holiday decorations. The yard is a treasure chest of holiday decorations just waiting for an artistic touch.

Many Evergreens Provide Greenery for Decor

An excellent cut green for their lushness and abundance is ‘Green Giant’ Arborvitae. This giant forms into a large cone shaped tree that when planted in rows create one of the very best privacy hedges for St. Louis. Its stems, with lush green foliage, drape gracefully out of containers or form excellent door swags. A fast grower, it will quickly replenish bare areas made from cutting once the growing season begins.

Long perky needles on pine trees along with their rubbery stems make delightful small bouquets and beautiful roping. One of the longest-lasting fresh greens for indoor use, pine will give your house that sought after Christmas tree fragrance.

Spruce trees have dense spiky needles that give wreathes or bouquets good fullness. Spruce does best outside-they tend to drop their needles quickly indoors.

The soft green needles on cut yew stems add an elegant touch to mixed arrangements. When we think of Christmas trees we usually think of the classic cone shape of a fir or spruce, but a yew was actually the very first Christmas tree.

Boxwood stems work well indoors, but only last about a week– cut just a couple days before a holiday party. Boxwood may be preserved using a glycerin solution, which last for years if maintained properly.

Red Berries from Winterberry and American Holly Add Color

A picture of winterberry shrub in snow

Winterberries in the snow. Photo by Robert Weaver

With their red berries and unique foliage, holly trees scream Christmas. But once cut, holly leaves do not respond well to extreme temperatures. When using traditional holly for decorating assume that holly will only last for a few days. Luckily for us the winterberry shrub can add some holiday red. The native winterberry is a type of holly that loses all its leaves in winter, leaving bare stems covered in bright red berries. The cut stems look excellent mixed with evergreens or left alone to create a bright festive display. Cut winterberry usually lasts a few weeks inside and out.

Red Twig Dogwoods Make Great Accents

A picture of red twig dogwood

Red Twig Dogwood, photo courtesy Monrovia

Another colorful choice for winter decorations are the bright stems of red twig dogwoods. I prefer the ‘Garden Glow’ variety for its golden leaves, which brighten up shady areas. Once winter comes and the leaves fall, the showy burgundy stems make a delightful display in the garden. Red twig dogwoods benefit from a hard shear. Winter is a great time for pruning as you get to enjoy the bright stems in winter arrangements while giving your plant a much-needed haircut.

Fresh Greenery Care Tips

Most cut greens like to stay cool. The cooler the temperature the longer the greens last. Immediately after pruning place cut portion of stems into a bucket of water until ready to use. If buying cut greens, once home trim off about ¼ of an inch from the bottom of the stem and then place in water and leave submerged for about an hour.

Expect greens indoors to last about 2 weeks. Placing them out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources will keep them fresher longer. Outside cut greens may last for many months if the weather stays cool and they are regularly watered. Anti-desiccant sprays seal pores in leaves and stems to hold in moisture, keeping them greener longer.

The fragrant beauty of fresh cut greens will welcome guests – and yourself to a festive and happy home.

Abby Lapides is owner and a speaker at Sugar Creek Gardens Nursery in Kirkwood, Missouri. She has degrees from the University of Missouri, and is a member of the Landscape and Nursery Association of Greater St. Louis.