Using nature's gifts for holiday decorations

December 12, 2009|By CELESTE MAIORANA / Special to The Herald-Mail

As the days shorten and cool, the holiday season moves us to give thanks and give gifts.

We should be especially thankful to trees and other plants, which use sun, air, water and soil to provide the foundation for our lives. Day in and day out, plants purify our air and water, provide shelter, and produce flowers, nuts, berries, cones and leaves. These plant products might be eaten, might sprout and grow, or might decompose into air, soil and water to be reused by other living things. In nature, nothing goes to waste.

Humans have created durable, synthetic materials, which we use to make many things, including holiday decorations. But these do not decompose as natural materials do. When thrown away, synthetic materials can remain intact for months, years, even centuries.

A wonderful way to reduce our negative impact on the natural world is to use nuts, berries and other gifts of nature to decorate our homes during the holidays.


Make a fresh, evergreen wreath

Perhaps you plan to decorate a fresh-cut Christmas tree this year. If you buy a fresh-cut evergreen, it can provide more than just a tree.

Select a tree that is taller than you need. When you trim the trunk to fit your available space, trim off the lower branches. Or get your branches from wild trees. If you have evergreens growing in your yard or field, cut a few branches. A native tree, the Eastern red cedar, sometimes come naturally decorated with lovely powder-blue berries. Cedars are very prickly, but also fragrant.

Once you have your branches, tie them together end-to-end to make garland.

If needed, a length of grapevine can be tied into a circle to be the foundation for a wreath. You can decorate wreathes with acorns, pine cones and holly or dogwood berries.

Make natural tree decorations

A tree can be decorated by stringing together brightly colored berries or hanging dried flowers.

Or make ornaments from items found in nature. A dried milkweed pod can look like a bird or a wing. Pine cones make good bodies, acorns are good heads, and feathers make good tails. Grasses and empty milkweed pods make terrific year-round displays.

Lightly waxed fall leaves, with acorns and berries, are beautiful seasonal decorations.

Natural decorating is a year-round activity, as it is good to collect things when they are freshly fallen. Flowers and grasses can be collected and dried in summer, acorns and leaves in early fall. It is a great activity with children as it gives purpose and learning opportunities to regular woodland walks.

For more ideas on ornaments, you can make from natural materials, look for books in your local library, or search online for Christmas ornaments from nature.

If you use natural fiber strings as fasteners, be sure to return them to the outdoors to be part of the cycle of life.

Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. For more information, go to

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