Beyond Poinsettias

This year, consider decking your halls with fresh greenery and other items from your garden.

You don’t have to hire a Kardashian-level decorating squad to add some holiday flair to your home. It’s surprisingly simple to bring your garden indoors, sourcing decor from what’s already around your home. It can be as easy as white roses or magnolia leaves from your garden—spruced up with a few stems of berries in a festive container, or enhancing a fresh or artificial store-bought wreath or garland with treasures from your garden.

If you’re not sure where to start, try searching floral designers’ and local florists’ websites. Wedding examples tend to be the most prolific, so imagine deconstructing the bridal bouquet, laying it out as a table runner or mantle garland—or, of course, rearranged in a vase. Consider the range and proportion of materials, colors, and type, then substitute any spring or summer colors for fall’s earthy palette.

With those images in mind, walk around your garden and see what stands out. Even fallen leaves or pine cones can make a simple and festive tablescape.

Some home-grown favorites that are particularly suited for the holidays:

The versatile Magnolia (Magnoliaceae)—with its stunning, two-sided leaf of a deep shiny green top and delicate cinnamon, soft underside—is a popular basic plant material for holiday decorating. Bundle cuttings with berries, pine cones, fresh greens or herbs, and flowers to enhance your garland or wreath. Magnolia leaves are also striking as a simple stand-alone in a bowl or vase.

Hydrangeas (Hydrangeaceae) are a terrific dried or fresh-cut flower. If you haven’t cut back your fall blooms, you’ll notice that they’ve taken on an antique patina as they fade into winter. Attach them to a garland, adding a few small pine cones and a pinch of fresh greens, and finish arranging with candles for a stunning presentation for your mantle, sideboard, or table.

Annuals/Perennials: Marigolds (Tagetes) should also be trimmed back in late fall, but don’t toss them out. Their array of fall colors makes them perfect for a Thanksgiving bouquet alone or with greenery and other flowers. Cut long stems and remove the leaves to limit their strong odor. Dahlias (Asteraceae) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum) also provide color and interesting texture.

Camellias (Theaceae or tea family) are in full bloom to brighten up the holidays as fall turns into winter and your summer garden fades away. There are over 250 species in shades of red, pink, white, and yellow. They are just as pretty in an arrangement as they are floating in a festive bowl. With 3,500 camellia plants, Descanso Gardens has the largest collection in North America.

Bougainvillea (Nyctaginaceae) has been trending for its cost-effective luxurious display of color. Actually, the color is in the leaves, called bracts, that surround the tiny white flower you barely notice. There are thornless dwarf varieties such as Miss Alice (white) and Silhouette (lilac) and semi-thornless Singapore Pink (pink-lavender).

Fruits and vegetables are the holiday cornucopia. They add a variety of design styles and are becoming popular throughout the year with floral designers. It’s effortless to arrange your cuttings of greenery with fruit in a bowl or vase or mixed with other greens and candles as a table runner or mantle display.

Herbs provide interest as foliage and a delightful fragrance. When creating an herb swag, start with the longest herb first, like rosemary, and layer different herb bundles as you work upward, topping with a holiday ribbon. Take a spa break from the holiday stress with an aromatherapy swag of eucalyptus with lavender, flowers, or a sachet pillow to hang in the shower.



-Cut stems on an angle early in the day when moisture is present and immediately place in a bucket of water, located in the shade, with an added floral preservative to increase hydration and food and inhibit bacteria. Soak wreaths overnight in enough water mixture to cover the stems.

-Consider an anti-desiccant spray to prevent water loss.

-Spritz fresh foliage every two to three days for hydration and fragrance.

-Remove all leaves from stems that will be submerged in water to avoid bacteria.

-Refrigerating flowers after cutting slows down their metabolism, which lengthens the time before they wilt and die.

-Arrange cuttings for a bowl container with a gird of florist tape over the top or push down a ball of chicken wire secured over the top with tape, then arrange among openings.

-Insert florist wire through the flower and down the stem for support if top heavy.

-Avoid placing your arrangements in direct sunlight.


Floral design classes in-person or online using floral kits shipped to you.

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