Nancy Brachey

Use your landscape to deck the halls

Beautiful hollies have red berries and green foliage that look perfect for indoor decorations
Beautiful hollies have red berries and green foliage that look perfect for indoor decorations File Photo

Plants that were just there through the year suddenly get important in December. That’s when we look to our landscape for ways to make the house look festive.

You may be surprised at how much is out there that is useful and beautiful. Evergreens with leaves that are broad and shiny or light and feathery.

Berries that are yellow, orange or red. Crazy looking seed pods and woodsy pine cones. The well-stocked Piedmont garden should provide some of these things to use for winter decorations indoors.

Use them to make a plain evergreen wreath of magnolia leaves or cedar branches or a more extravagant centerpiece with candles and ribbon for the dining room.

Many of our most popular evergreens such as aucuba, pine, magnolia, ivy and cedar as well as the bright berries of holly, pyracantha and nandina make excellent choices for these projects.

As a beginner, you should start simply, perhaps by covering a mantel or table top with short branches of pine and magnolia leaves accented by pine cones and candles. Do this as close to your party or Christmas as you can so that the greenery will look its freshest then.

If you have an elegant or rustic vase, consider filling it with evergreens of varying shape, texture and color. Then pop in stems of holly berries or nandinas. Because the stems are in water, they will last a few weeks. Aucuba cuttings will even start to produce roots in a vase. .

I know that not all of you possess a landscape, but you can buy greenery, including stems of holly berries, at Christmas tree lots.

When you are cutting outdoors, select the foliage carefully, looking for the most perfect leaves. Take care too, when cutting not to create a lopsided plant. Evergreens are dormant now, but will spring into growth in March and all signs of the removal will be gone. Before you bring the foliage indoors, look over the leaves and branches and select the cleanest ones. Wash them off with the hose if necessary, but take extra care with hollies to avoid knocking off the berries.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q. Someone gave me a tropical sword fern. Can I keep this outside if I put a lot of mulch around it?

A. This tropical plant will not survive winter outdoors in Charlotte. You could dig it up and put it in a pot for the winter. Indoors, be sure to mist it this winter to keep the humidity up. Place it away from heat sources such as working fireplaces and furnace outlets as well as cold drafts when you open an outside door.

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