Decorating for the holidays does not necessarily require a trip to the nearest big box store. Just step outside and look around your yard. Pinecones, evergreen boughs, holly and even galvanized buckets, burlap and cloches can all be pressed into holiday service free of charge. Here are a few ideas for making the most out of what your garden already has. 1. Red Twigged Dogwood Wreath. Wreaths made from evergreen boughs inevitably dry out and begin to shed their needles, which is why I love this big, bold DIY wreath from Sunset magazine made of red twig dogwood. Red twig dogwoods have fabulous ruby colored branches that are slightly flexible and they retain their color for months after they are cut.
2. Bucket Tree Stand. We always end up with the tiniest tree in the Christmas tree lot because our living room is so small and narrow. We use a galvanized garden bucket filled with sand to hold up our tree, but I love Country Living's idea of setting a Christmas tree atop a vintage wooden crate. It's a great way to give a small tree a bigger presence--and get it up and out of the way of wagging dog tails.
3. Sparkly Glass Cloches. Glass cloches help keep newly planted seedlings warm in spring, but they can pull double duty as holiday décor indoors. Martha Stewart Living recommends dressing up the cloches by filling them with ornaments, but they also look pretty filled with pine cones or beads. Here's a quick tip: fill your cloches with ornaments (or whatever you like) and then place a thin piece of cardboard over the bottom of the cloche. While holding the cardboard firmly in place, flip the cloche over, set it gently on a flat surface, and then slide out the piece of cardboard.
4. Easy Place Card Holders. Branches studded with berries look pretty in the garden or on the table as a simple place card holder. This example from Sunset uses snowberry, but holly, winterberry, heavenly bamboo, and viburnum all have pretty berries that persist into winter.
5. Pretty Pine Cones. Pine cones are plentiful and can be used in so many ways. Set them on the table as a place card holder, spray paint them silver or gold and fill a footed bowl with the cones, affix them to a wreath, or take a cue from Martha Stewart Living and use them as rosettes on either end of a swag of evergreen boughs (you can find the instructions for making the rosettes here).
6. Ice Lanterns. Every Christmas Eve my mom makes ice lanterns and sets them on the sidewalk that leads from the street to the front door. They are so pretty when set into drifts of snow and they help party guests find their way into the house and under the mistletoe that hangs inside the threshold. Ordinary Life Magic has great directions for creating your own ice lanterns. Other than freezing temperatures (or a walk-in freezer), all you need are buckets, water, greenery and berries from the garden.
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Willi Galloway writes The Gardener column. She lives in Portland, Oregon and writes about her kitchen garden on her blog DigginFood. Her first book Grow. Cook. Eat. A Food-Lovers Guide To Vegetable Gardening will be published in January.