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Posted: October 29, 2011

For fresh holiday decor, step outside and gather

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By Katie Leslie

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Looking for a fresh look for holiday decor? Step outdoors and take stock of Mother Nature.

"I try to use materials you can get from your yard or your neighbor's yard," explains Justin Branton, garden center manager at Habersham Gardens in Atlanta.

His go-to decorative embellishments include holly sprigs, branches sprayed a snowy white, in bloom leatherleaf mahonia and, of course, fresh green wreaths.

Branton is leading a series of free holiday decor classes this Saturday and next at Habersham, focusing on creating fresh pine wreaths, succulent wreaths and holiday container plantings. He shares these easy tips for creating seasonal magic at home.

Indoor holiday container:

Materials: English ivy topiary, poinsettia, Maidenhair fern, Christmas cactus, ornaments of choosing, decorative moss

How: Choose a sturdy, attractive indoor container in a holiday color. Fill with styrofoam popcorn if the container doesn't have holes for drainage; if it does, place a saucer underneath to capture moisture. Fill three-quarters of the pot with a basic potting soil. Place tallest plant, such as the English ivy topiary, in center or side. Next, place poinsettia beside the topiary. Fill in remaining space with ferns, Christmas cactus and other indoor-appropriate plants. Interesting objects, such as ornaments, can be placed throughout for holiday interest. Cover soil line with moss.

Maintenance: This indoor container needs bright, indirect light to thrive. Water only when soil feels dry to the touch when placing finger one inch into pot.

Tips: If you prefer, many of the plants can be left in their individual containers. For an instant arrangement, place them inside the soil-filled container and hide plastic containers with decorative moss. After the holiday season, transplant the plants to a permanent home.

DIY wreath

Materials: Basic wreath of your choosing, such as Fraser fir or boxwood, holly sprigs, colorful plant cuttings such as leatherleaf mahonia, sticks sprayed to color of your choosing, found objects such as faux birds, ribbon, floral wire, water picks (tubes that hold a stem in water) and whatever else you'd like to use for decoration.

How: For live plants such as the leatherleaf mahonia, use water picks to keep the cuttings fresh throughout the season. Use floral wire to secure larger elements into place in the wreath. Next, place in holly and small branches and secure if necessary. Ribbon and found objects, such as Branton's woodland owl, should be placed on the wreath last.

Maintenance: Live wreaths should be spritzed daily to combat drying out. Branton also suggests refilling the water picks daily for the first week to ensure the cuttings are thoroughly saturated.

Easy centerpiece

Materials: 16-inch wreath, floral foam, water picks, saucer, poinsettia and holly sprigs or other plant materials for embellishment. You may also use a gazing ball, oranges or candles for the centerpiece.

How: This easy-to-make centerpiece begins by placing a small live wreath atop a saucer. After soaking floral foam (cut to the size of the center of the wreath) in water, place foam in the center of the wreath. Candles may be placed into the foam, followed by live plant materials such as poinsettia or holly. Branton suggests to place the poinsettia stems in water picks. Fill in the open space with evergreen cuttings or moss. The center may also be filled with ornaments or a gazing ball for holiday shine, or oranges with cloves for a natural, scented statement.

Maintenance: This centerpiece may only look its best for a few days, Branton says, but should be spritzed to prolong its life.


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