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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Stearns > County Horticulture Educator > Articles > Decorating for the Holidays

Decorating for the Holidays

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
November 30, 2016        
           
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties


Decorating for the Holidays
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (11/30/16) — Decorating for the winter holidays can be enjoyable for most people; there are so many options to turn your home inside and out into a festive celebration.  One option to consider using is what Mother Nature provides. There are so many beautiful items that can be harvested and used in our outdoor and indoor décor.

Red-twigged dogwood, birch branches and twigs, American bittersweet, and of course balsam boughs are just a few that can safely be harvested in moderation.  Many of these products can also be purchased from local retailers whose suppliers are required to purchase a permit and follow certain harvesting requirements if taken from state land.  For property owners, I’d encourage you to look at your property and see what you have readily available. But remember to use in moderation. Also use proper pruning techniques so that you are not detracting from the overall appearance of your plants.

In addition to twigs and boughs, consider using native berries such as winterberry, Minnesota’s native holly or American bittersweet, or even using the stalk seed heads from sumac.  Keep in mind some may have an allergic reaction to the sumac so wearing gloves is recommended. Also some berries are toxic, so caution should be used in homes where there are children or pets.

In addition to cutting balsam boughs, other evergreen species boughs can be harvested to use in wreaths, swags, or even containers.  By harvesting a little of several species it creates a beautiful variety of color and texture.  Spruce branches, junipers, and pines can all be harvested for holiday decorations. 

Balsam boughs is a $23 million industry in Minnesota.  This is why if you plan to harvest a quantity for more than just yourself or on public land, you should look into the requirements of a permit from the MN DNR.  Keeping our surroundings looking natural rather than pruned or mangled is critical for us all.

Here are some tips for keeping greenery fresh:
1) Use a clean, sharp tool to cut the branches and immediately place them into water
2) Keep greenery out of sunlight
3) Soak the greenery in water overnight before arranging
4) Keep arrangement, wreaths, or garland in a cool location until use
5) Keep arrangement away from any heat source
6) Continue to water arrangement if possible (i.e. those arranged in wet floral foam, or in a container of water)
7) Check moisture levels in the greenery by bending to check flexibility
8) Dispose of, and compost material once arrangement has become dry

So get creative this holiday season and utilize what Mother Nature provides in your backyard or woodland to create a one-of a kind display.  Happy Holidays!

Contacts

Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
adam0062@umn.edu
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