Now that Thanksgiving is wrapped up for another year, it’s time to ponder another seasonal tradition: putting up the outdoor Christmas decorations.
For those interested in pursuing greater sustainable décor, there are several items that are pleasing to the eye and to the planet, much more than plastic lawn ornaments or string after string of lights.
Going back to the basics in terms of outdoor holiday decorations is not only good for stress levels but for the environment too.
For your outdoor decor, consider natural surroundings and how to use or embellish them to bring out their beauty and create a festive holiday scene at little to no cost.
• Turn a birdbath into an attractive bird/critter feeder. Create a striking design of sliced kumquats or other citrusy fruit, cranberries, and pepper berries to provide a colorful focal point in your yard. Wintering birds, squirrels and other woodland creatures will appreciate the smorgasbord when it thaws!
• Deck your halls in evergreens. If your backyard is lacking evergreen boughs for your railings and doors, or you’re just interested in someone else doing the work, Huckleberry’s Natural Market and Stanek’s Nusery, Gifts and Floral carry wreaths, garland and holly as early as the week after Thanksgiving.
• Don’t let window boxes go bare. Decorate them with cedar and boxwood boughs, green hypericum berries or winterberries, and sprigs of baby’s breath stuck into a dry block of florist’s foam. (Protected from direct sun and weather extremes, cut greens can survive throughout the season.)For smaller planters, place a mound of pinecones, frosted with spray snow and/or a bit of glitter to catch the light.
• Create “Ice Lanterns” to light the way. Annie Nichols, of Nichols Interior Design in Spokane, likes simple winter lanterns made from half-gallon milk containers and spaghetti cans which she uses along her walkway when she has gatherings in her home.
“You kind of have to think ahead so that you collect enough containers by the time you want to make the lanterns, but other than that, they’re so easy to make and so beautiful naturally.”
Collect either empty half-gallon milk containers or coffee cans, and smaller containers like tall spaghetti sauce cans. Place the smaller container inside the larger container and fill with water, so that the water level is no higher than the smaller container inside. Set outside overnight or in your freezer.
When frozen, simply peel off the carton, or if using a can, run warm water to dislodge your “lantern” and to dislodge the smaller container inside as well. Place your lanterns along your walkway, with a votive candle in each and light for simple brilliance!
“I also sometimes sprinkle cranberries in the water to add a bit of color,” says Nichols.
• Bring out old skis, sleds or bicycles for a vintage touch. Embellish an old sled or pair of skis with pine sprigs and a red bow to lend a vintage welcome to your front porch. Or wrap that old Schwinn with lights around its handlebars to its spokes for a bit of whimsy. Add a basket of frosted pinecones or greenery and large glass ornaments and possibly some pretend presents for a festive scene sure to bring smiles to visitors.
• When it comes to decorating for the holidays indoors, the key is bringing the outdoors in! Jaime Johnson, of Jaime Johnson Events, often uses this approach in her holiday events.
“Some of the best decor can come from your back yard — the Northwest has so much to offer,” says Johnson. “I like to use tree boughs from my Christmas tree to make swags along my railing and as a table runner. I also like to intermix tall pillar candles and ornaments throughout the length of the table runner to add light and color!”
While cut logs may be an unexpected accessory for the dinner table, she said they can bring great texture and warmth to your natural holiday décor.
“Bringing wood in adds a natural and classy look to your holiday table. Some of my favorite uses include making my own votive candle holders out of birch tree blocks by drilling a cut-out for a votive candle, and using thinly cut logs for dinner plate charges and dessert stands,” Johnson said.
(Be sure logs are pest free before inviting the guests! Also, take precautions not to scratch your table’s finish by using a piece of felt as a buffer between table and log piece.)
• Skip the fruitcake, bring on the fresh fruit. Cranberries, kumquats, clementines and green apples are a great addition to any décor for their vibrant color. Berries from your backyard work great too, depending on the project.
Cranberry Ice Freeze cranberries in just enough water to cover them; when frozen, break apart into colorful pieces you can add to your ice bucket.
Cranberry Glow For quick holiday color, place a cranberry-colored pillar candle inside a glass cylinder then fill in the space between candle and glass with fresh cranberries. Add a few sparkly ornaments around the base, and you’ve got a beautiful centerpiece!
Cranberry & Popcorn Garland String cranberries and popcorn on thick thread, then weave garlands around your tree, on the mantel or throughout your hanging light fixtures.
Cloved Oranges Make your room smell of citrus and spice by studding fresh oranges with a decorative pattern of cloves and stacking in a fruit bowl.
Tower of apples Green apples are the perfect hue for an easy Christmas display. Fill a glass jar with apples; mix in loose greens for a wintry feel. Place container on a beveled edge mirror (that serves as a table runner). Fill in with additional greens, ball ornaments and candles of different sizes.
Fruit fillers Place pillar candles, evergreen branches, pinecones and clementines on a beveled-edge mirror for a nature-inspired tabletop arrangement. Don’t like orange? Bring in green pears or red apples for traditional holiday color.
Kumquat wreath Wreaths with fresh fruit are an American colonial tradition. Use a 12-inch metal ring for a base, 18 to 20 kumquats, several sprigs of medium-size broadleaf greens and 26-gauge wire to attach the fruit and leaves.
• Put pinecones to good use. Spray the tips of your pinecones with a bit of pretend snow, then place atop napkins to hold place cards. Or use 1-3 lanterns and surround them with fresh greenery and pinecones for an elegant centerpiece. You can also hang snowy pinecones, pointy end down, from your hanging light, for an elegant wintry look.
Whatever you do, focus on making your holidays memorable; chances are you’ll remember special moments with loved ones much more fondly than how perfect your lights were strung or how many decorations were hung.