Deck the Halls Greenly

By Trystan L. Bass

Christmas parties are filling the calendar, and New Year celebrations are soon to follow. You want the house to sparkle for your family and guests.

Can you evoke a Norman Rockwell holiday while also playing nice with Mother Earth? You bet.

The first stop for eco-friendly winter décor might be your front yard (or a local garden supply store). As the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture notes, evergreens come in a wide variety of colors. Gather up pine, cedar, spruce, fir, holly, boxwood, nandina, aucuba, and magnolia leaves and boughs. These make beautiful wreaths, swags, and centerpieces for use inside the house as well as outside.

Fruits and vegetables are lovely, old-fashioned decorations on tables and trees. Care2 has instructions for easy, inexpensive candleholders made of oranges studded with cloves. These will look pretty and smell very Christmasy.

The same page also has tips for stringing cranberry garlands and making pinecone placecard holders for the holiday table.

The Telegraph UK has more ideas for decorating from the garden. British designers and crafters spray-paint seed pods silver and string them up, plus they use artichokes as candleholders.

Plants have a long and important history as holiday décor. From the Christmas tree to mistletoe, many greens have symbolic meaning, even if the exact origins are debated. Still, it's hard to argue that real plants are the most traditional.

Some folks say that artificial plants are more convenient, but for such a short time indoors, we don't have to work that hard to keep the evergreens looking good.

It's simple to prolong the life of cut evergreens. For your tree, simply put a few drops of bleach in the water to kill bacteria and prevent slime. For garlands and other greenery, you can soak them with anti-desiccant before you hang them or mist them lightly afterwards.

Want some visual inspiration? Read about the revival of Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg. Get instructions on how to make a wreath out of natural plant materials, just as one may have looked in 18th-century America.

Our forefathers and foremothers only had natural decorations -- no plastics imported from China -- and their celebrations looked beautiful!

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