Holiday décor unearthed
Nov./Dec. 2013 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Pat Rubin
Photos by Matt Salvo
Go au naturel with ornaments discovered in your own yard
For the ultimate "green" Christmas tree, make ornaments from Mother Nature's bounty. Ideas include seedpods, citrus fruit, nuts, dried blacked-eyed Susan flowers and mini-pomegranates.
There are years that not a single jolly Santa, nary a glass bauble, no fake icicles nor artificially dyed garlands hang from my Christmas tree.
Instead, the freshly cut pine sports swags loaded with Meyer lemons and locally grown mandarins. Thin, curling wisteria stems weave in and out. Spiny chestnut seedpods – split open to reveal dark brown nuts inside—rest on the limbs. Tiny pine cones from majestic Ponderosa pines and prickly sycamore balls dangle from branches. Papery mimosa seedpods and clusters of silvery money plant seedpods give the tree a shimmering, ephemeral appearance. Stems of red toyon berries and green agapanthus flower heads, sans petals, add a pop of color.
Look closely, and you'll see the tree is a cornucopia of garden gleanings from the yard. The only nod to modern civilization is a strand of white lights.
I've always made wreaths out of the grapevines in the yard and decorated them with tiny red pomegranates, bay leaves or whatever strikes my fancy, so it seemed only natural to take the next step and use the garden as inspiration for the tree. My only caveat: The material must come from the yard. Luckily, over the years I've included plants with colorful bark, interesting dried flowers, huge leaves and intriguing seedpods.
Guests are curious about the plant material. It pains me to realize how most folks have lost touch with nature. Many simply have no idea how to grow anything and don't recognize much of what they see. It pleases me to be able to reintroduce the wonders of Mother Nature into my friends' lives and gardens. Most people go home with a cutting, an interesting seedpod, even a plant.
I believe there's a wealth of Christmas tree decorating material, wreath fixings and table decorations in everyone's yard, neighborhood—or even the local farmers market—if you just take a look.
Use what you have: grapevines or other vine stems for swags, dried black-eyed Susan flowers, magnolia seedpods, miniature pomegranates, dried persimmons, oranges and nuts. Use your imagination. As long as it comes from the garden, it's bound to be beautiful and will certainly elicit questions and comments from holiday guests.