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Use your urns to decorate outside this holiday season

December 18, 2009|By MARY CAROL GARRITY / Scripps Howard News Service

If you want a versatile tool that will help you create sensational holiday displays both inside and out, look no further than the humble garden urn. Urns are on my short list of must-haves for year-round decorating, but during the holidays, they are an absolute essential for holding showy displays you can pull together in a snap. Here are a few ways you can use urns to dress up your home for the season:

TAKE IT OUTSIDE: I owe a debt of gratitude to the person who invented the black iron garden urn, because this stylish holder has become my favorite way to bring holiday cheer to my porch and courtyard.

Start by placing urns in strategically significant spots, like flanking your front door, at the entrance of your garden, on either side of your garage door or in a garden bed. I placed mine at the entrance of my courtyard, against a blank wall.

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Next, find several long, fallen sticks in your yard and insert them into the urn, letting the sticks drop to the bottom of the urn so they won't blow out in a winter gale. Be sure to use enough sticks to fill the urn, making a full bouquet. If you want a glitzy look, spray paint the sticks silver or gold. Or leave them natural for a woodsier feel.

Then add a few boughs of faux or fresh evergreen branches for seasonal color. Use the cuttings from the bottom of your Christmas tree or old evergreen picks you no longer want to use in your interior displays. If you want, brighten up your twiggy display with fun holiday ribbon, pine cones or winter berries.

For a completely different look, place a wreath at the mouth of the urn, then fill in the center with an interesting focal point. It could be a large lantern holding a battery-operated candle, a garden figurine, a candelabrum or a moss ball. To give the display a bit of sparkle, use a pre-lit wreath. Or make the wreath look wilder and more natural by twisting in some honeysuckle vine.

Here's another idea: Fill the urn with a mixture of fresh or faux evergreens. Last year, I created charming bouquets of faux evergreen picks in the urns that sit on either side of my front door. To make the display merrier, I added fake cedar branches dotted with little silver bells and tucked in some huge sugar cone pine cones.

INSIDE AND IRRESISTIBLE: You can also bring your rugged garden urns inside and fill them with the same displays you'd build if they were outside. For instance, a friend put her black iron urns in her family room, toped them with pre-lit wreaths, then inserted a petite pine tree, a few bare branches and winter greens in the center of each wreath. The display was simple and natural, but gave the space loads of holiday charm.

Be sure to also use smaller, more refined urns in holiday interior decorating. Last season, when I decorated a designer show house for the holidays, I dressed up an entry table by filling a distressed white pottery urn with a loose and lanky mixture of pine branches. The look was wild and simple, which provided wonderful design contrast in this formal foyer.

To add a touch of holiday elegance to tabletop displays in your entry, living room, study or kitchen, use beautiful urns made from red transferware or blue-and-white Asian pottery. Keep the arrangements refreshingly simple - just a few sprigs of fresh or faux mixed evergreens. Or dress them up by adding carefully chosen accents, like pheasant feathers, fresh white lilies or red roses.

Write Mary Carol Garrity at

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