Decorating for the holidays

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener
     Last week, we talked about pruning and using the cuttings for decorations for the holidays.  This week, I would like to discuss some ways I use the cuttings here at Sandhill Gardens.  It is important to remember that these cuttings will lose moisture and could become a fire hazard, so precautions are necessary.
     Of course, the easy way to keep any greenery hydrated is to treat it the same way you would a bouquet of flowers—put it in a vase with water.  I have done a lot of this recently, including making individual place settings for a Hoosier Hillsides Master Gardeners dinner.  I wrapped soup cans with a nice foil Christmas paper and put some moist peat moss in the cans.  I filled the cans about half way with the peat.  The peat will add a little weight to keep the arrangements from tipping and the moisture will keep the cuttings hydrated.  If you are keeping such an arrangement inside for more than a couple of days, you will need to add some water to the peat moss about every day.  I then began filling the cans.  Since I was making 19 arrangements, I wanted to use different material,so that they would not all be the same.  I had made some pretty extensive cuts on a leather-leaf viburnum that was creating a hazard when pulling out of the driveway, so I decided to use those olive-green, rough leaves as the base for the arrangements.
     Nothing says “Christmas” like conifers, so I had cuttings from some spruce, cypress, false cypress and juniper.  Most of those were darker green than the viburnums, but some were blue and others were variegated with bright yellow.  I picked about three springs of the evergreens for each bouquet.  By this time, the cans were looking pretty full, but obviously needed some color.
     I found many ways to add color to the bouquets.  The abelias have turned burgundy with flecks of yellow and orange.  Some of the cans received a few stems of abelia.  I did not take many cuts from the mahonia, but these deep wine-colored holly-like leaves were too pretty to pass up, so some of the arrangements got some mahonia stems.  No Christmas arrangement would be complete without some holly.  I have several types of holly, but the China blue hollies need to be trimmed and shaped, so the cuttings were plentiful.  Every can got a few sprigs of holly, complete with some bright red berries.  A little texture interest can come from bare stems.  I took some cuttings from yellow and red-twig dogwoods, coral-bark maple and birch to add to some cans.  A few cans got twisted cuttings from the contorted filberts and contorted mulberry.
     The crowning finish to the arrangements came from the winterberry deciduous hollies.  These shrubby native trees lose their leaves, leaving stems covered with berries.  I have both red and peach-colored varieties.  They are definitely covered with berries this year and a sprig or two of the winterberries add a focal point to each of the arrangements.  One could add a ribbon, but I decided that would actually detract from the beauty of the berries.
     All in all, I had spent a couple of dollars on a roll of wrapping paper.  I had the peat moss on hand, but that would have been a minimal cost.   The rest came straight from my garden.  It took me a couple of hours to wrap the cans, harvest the cuttings and do the arranging, but it was well worth the efforts.  Each of my fellow Master Gardeners were able to take an arrangement home.  If they remember to water them, they should have this little decoration until the New Year.  If they are lucky and keep the cans watered, some of the cuttings may take root and give them new plants to add to their own gardens.



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