Make your own topiaries
Not sure what to do with those heavy flower urns on your front steps that still have remnants of last fall’s mums? During the holidays you can transform them into beautiful topiaries that will impress all who come to your door.
Start planning now! In November or early December, go into your yard and cut two garbage bags full of evergreens. Put them in your unheated garage and they will keep fresh until you are ready to make your topiaries. Boxwood works best.
Materials for two trees:
Less is more.
- 8' of 24" chicken wire (more or less depending on the size of your garden pot)
- Two 30" straight branches from the yard (or garden stakes)
- Wire cutters and pliers
- Two garbage bags of evergreens cut from your yard
- At least 24' of heavy gauge wire to thread the ‘garland’
- Enough kumquats, fresh cranberries and brussels sprouts to thread on wire making two 36" lengths of each fruit and vegetable. (These are not attractive to rabbits or deer.)
- Two bunches of asparagus OR two large artichokes for topping the topiaries
- Two red bows
Avoid the pitfall of “decorating frenzy,” which usually results in everyone—your guests, your family—feeling overwhelmed by too much stuff. Keep it simple, don’t overcrowd items, and try to limit ideas to a few good ones.
The key to decorating success might be right in your own backyard. Grab a pair of clippers and collect a variety of nature’s wonders to fill window boxes and planters. White pine is easy to work with and can literally go anywhere. You might even have some nice neighbors who will let you take a snip or two of a holly bush or juniper. Cozy up to the evergreens that have the longest shelf life: Hemlocks tend to drop their needles quickly, while spruce holds its needles well.
Light it up.
Strings of miniature lights are a must. Wrap them around pillars and potted greenery, or edge a doorway or roofline. Use luminarias to create a magical pathway for a special occasion. To create luminarias, cut designs into lunch-size paper bags. Fill each bag with two inches of sand, and place votive candles or tea lights into the middle of the sand. This is a fun family project as kids of all ages will enjoy creating designs that light up the night.
Decorate ordinary urns with topiaries or small potted trees. Ilex, or red twig dogwood work well, and sculpted birch branch arrangements with colorful glass ornaments are elegant and easy to create. Make festive arrangements with the clippings from your yard supplemented with store-bought greenery and embellishments.
Wire ribbon makes decorating fun and easy. Even if you have two left thumbs, making a perfect bow is almost guaranteed. If you do end up with a flop, just smooth it out and try again. Wire ribbon is available in many beautiful colors and fabrics, and for instant color and flair, try draping the ribbon around garlands, wreaths, and window boxes.
Be bold and fresh.
Make a major statement with at least one large piece. Try a variation of the common circular wreath by experimenting with new shapes and textures. Square wreaths can be interesting for a change, or decorate a basic round wreath with personalized “treasures” that define the personality of your family. Tiny apples and berries add a hint of color.
String it along.
Use fragrant cedar or white pine garlands to frame a doorway or portico. Fresh garlands are available at area nurseries and are widely-available to order online. You can also wrap the garland around pillars, staircase railings, or a front yard fence. Embellish with bows or miniature lights but keep it simple and let the garland’s natural beauty take over.
Fan out your Resources.
For a classic, colonial look, try making a fruit-laden “Williamsburg Fan.” Simply cut a base out of plywood (or have someone do it for you) that will fit above a door (having a ledge above the door helps). Once the base is made, it is a matter of pulling out a glue gun and adhering fruit in a design of your making. Use pineapples, pears, grapevine, persimmons, lemons—whatever you fancy. According to Deena Powell of the Weston Garden Club, the real beauty of the Williamsburg Fan goes beyond the lushness of its fruit. The fan will usually last from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and can be put outside for the birds to feast on when the season ends.
Greet holiday guests with the sounds of a sleigh ride. Sleigh bells are widely available on straps to be hung on the outside or inside of a door or on a doorknob. Or make your own by sewing sleigh bells on velvet ribbon. One Wellesley resident reports that she leaves sleigh bells on the door all year round so she can hear her children coming and going.
Revel in tradition.
Find a special space and special container to store all of your holiday decorations and tools that you will be using the following year. Next season, you will have a “Holiday in a Box” ready and waiting. You won’t waste precious pre-holiday time looking for a wreath hanger or spend money needlessly buying items you already have. Everything will be so organized that you might have time to sit back and sip an eggnog in blessed tranquility.