Nature’s elements make fun containers

Whether they are called holiday containers, outdoor arrangements or porch pots, creating them is one of the things I enjoy most while decorating for the holidays. I am an outdoorsy individual, so gathering the materials just gives me an excuse to spend more time there.

Beyond the “thriller, filler and spiller” base of greens, it is the added extras that can make the container uniquely yours.

There is no need to visit the craft stores since nature provides ample materials. With a bit of tweaking, and sometimes — OK, often — spray paint, they can be eye-catching.

Here are a few suggestions.

Branches add height to an arrangement. Red twig dogwood is a landscaping shrub, and the red color is festive.

However, I use silky dogwood shoots that grow along our creek and have a mellow dark red color. They can be placed standing upright or bent into arches in an arrangement. The arches will support greens that don’t easily stand up.

Curly willow is always interesting if available. Even wild cherry or maple branches will act as thrillers and can be spray painted to stand out.

Staghorn sumac adds color and texture. Cut the “horns” to add a dark red accent to your greens.

If deer are a problem, you may want to use deer repellent since the “deer candy” often seems to disappear overnight from my arrangements.

Perennial gardens are another source of material. I have used allium seed heads because, when painted white, silver or gold, they remind me of stars. The dried flower heads of upright sedums, penstemons and hibiscus take paint well and are durable.

Hydrangea flower heads add a big pop of color when spray-painted, but I like them natural against the green. Dried sunflower heads sprayed gold are a new thing for me this year. The spore stalks of ostrich and sensitive fern appear beaded when painted. Cat tails and ornamental grasses need to be sprayed with lacquer so they do not release seed then can be painted.

A bag of cranberries can be strung into a garland and woven among the greens.

Small, ornamental gourds left outside over the winter dry and turn a neutral tan. I wash them, drill a hole, then insert and glue bamboo skewers into them. Painted, they look like ornaments when placed among the greens. The skewers hold them in place.

We all have “stuff” stashed away that can be repurposed. I painted solar lanterns that no longer work. They are the right size to place in a bed of greens, and a battery candle inside added an extra touch. I lettered “jingle” on a piece of old wood, then hung a cluster of bells underneath. My pot had a mixed message for the holidays. One year, a ceramic Santa bank was the focal point of an arrangement. Unfortunately, his paint was not weather resistant.

The point of all this is that decorating for the holidays should be a fun. Enjoy and let your creativity soar.

For more information on decorating with natural and live items, go to http://go.osu.edu/greenery .

Steffen is an Ohio State University Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County.


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