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Gardening: Windstorm provided easy access to boughs for decorations

This undated photo provided to the Associated Press by Lois Barber shows a female American holly plant.
This undated photo provided to the Associated Press by Lois Barber shows a female American holly plant.

With all the wind-damaged branches on the ground this year, making swags, wreaths and decorating empty garden containers for winter should be really easy.

Door swags are simple to make. Gather several evergreen boughs with nice looking tips and layer them into a swag, then tie them together with a fine to medium gauge wire. Bend a metal coat hanger into a diamond with the hook at the top. Lay your collection of boughs on the coat hanger so that the cut ends of the branches are a few inches above the hanger hook. Wire the evergreens to the hanger anchoring them to each corner of the diamond. If the cut ends are a little too visible, wire some bough tips to the top to cover them. Add a big red bow and it’s ready to hang on your door to welcome family and friends.

Winter is a good time to prune evergreens like junipers, Oregon grape, holly and deciduous shrubs like cotoneaster, vines and mountain ash. The evergreen trimmings are perfect for Christmas decoration and for sprucing up those pots on your front porch or deck. To cut back junipers so they don’t look like they have been hacked off, work your way up a frond until you come to a small branch that grows out of the top of the larger frond. Cut just underneath it leaving the small branch to hide the cut. Oregon grape and hollies can be sheared back several inches and their shiny green leaves add a new dimension to an arrangement. The plant will replace the growth in the spring.

Cotoneaster and mountain ash trimmings will provide beautiful red berries to swags, wreaths and containers. Before pruning, evaluate where you need to reshape the plant the most and do your first trimming there. Take enough to make a nicely shaped branch and add them to your decorations. Don’t be surprised if the berries disappear though; the birds will see to that. Vines like grape, honeysuckle and Virginia creeper can be wound into a circle to form a wreath. Tuck the ends of the vines into the windings of the wreath and then tie the whole thing together with some strategically placed pieces of wire. Make a hook out of a coat hanger or a piece of heavy wire. The wreath then becomes a frame for attaching evergreens, pine cones and other garden trimmings to create an interesting arrangement.

Those empty pots on your porch or deck can take on a new winter life with the addition of windstorm leftovers. The same design concept of thrillers, spillers and fillers apply to winter containers as they do to summer plantings. The thrillers are the tall, showy branches and twigs while the spillers are vine and drooping branch trimmings that drape down the side of the container. The fillers are the bits of evergreens, hollies and Oregon grape that are tucked into to blank spots to tie the arrangement together. Best of all, the arrangement will last well into the spring.

Pat Munts is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” She can be reached at

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