Cuttings from the Garden for DIY Holiday Décor

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Cuttings from the Garden for DIY Holiday Décor

Did you know that Christmas trees are harvested several months before they even make it to the tree lot around Thanksgiving time?

Much of the material sold for swag is equally as old. If you would rather fill your house with garden-fresh cuttings during the holidays, consider pulling out your shears and saw on a chilly autumn day, make a few cuttings, and trim your holiday home with homegrown goodness.
Most holiday greenery consists of conifer cuttings from fir, cedar and pine or well-preserved cuttings from holly. When we get out and trim from our own gardens, the array of color and interest can offer so much more!

Simple & Twiggy:
Twig Dogwood stems are ideal to harvest in winter. Simply cut several colorful shoots to the ground and weave them into ornamental wreaths. Either stick with traditional red or yellow, or mix in mixed-colored stems from cultivars like Midwinter Fire. Like pink? Skip the dogwood twigs and opt for clipping the bare branches of a Dappled Willow. Don’t want a wreath? Fill a large vase with these cuttings and wrap them in sparkling lights to brighten up the house during the long, dark nights of winter.

Beautiful Broadleaves:
Instead of buying that pre-fab pine wreath ornamented with a single cone, try building an outdoor entry ornament with broadleaf evergreens from your garden beds. Pick up a straw wreath ring and several floral pins and wire from your local craft store. These will form the framework and binding connectors for your broad-leaf wreath.
Plan to trim out lots of evergreen material. Layering the materials thickly, in wired bundles that are then pinned to the wreath in overlapping layers will make for your best look. Each bundle should have lots of deep greens with accent colors layered on top.

Wondering what to cut

Wondering what to cut? Trim out several branches of broadleaf Leucothoe, Sarcococca, Hebe, Heather and Nandina. Or, if you prefer, clip branches from your own Pine, Cypress or other conifer. Even evergreen fern fronds can make a unique and beautiful backdrop for a holiday wreath. Overlay these with a few sprigs of flowering heath or twig dogwood. Avoid Holly unless you plan to preserve it with a chemical preservative.

And nothing smells more delicious than a wreath packed with fresh rosemary, lavender and sage. Plus, small herbal wreaths make wonderful hostess gifts!

Once your wreath is assembled and no straw is showing, head back out in the garden to collect some final ornaments. Pinecones – plain or dipped in red or golden paint – can be glue-gunned to the finished piece. An abandoned bird’s nest can tuck into the center of a wreath for a special surprise. Or look for simple seedpods and berried branches to dart in for an extra bit of color and whimsy.

pruning a cypress branch

Keep your garden healthy while gathering those holiday greens:
During winter, plant growth is at a minimum. Some plants are hidden under the soil dormant, waiting to emerge at the end of winter. So, when you’re out taking your cuttings, take care not to trample those perennial beds. Stomping on soggy or frozen ground can negatively impact the plants hiding just below the surface. As for your plants visible above ground – whether evergreen or deciduous – be sure not to over-prune them to make your decorations:

• Make your cuts at the right place; leave no stump cuts behind. Not sure what that means? Visit our pruning guides here for help.
• Take a little bit from several plants. Don’t denude any of your plants in winter. Instead, remove only a few branches or leaves from a single plant.
• Take your cuttings on days when temperatures are above freezing and plants aren’t covered in snow in ice.
• Don’t have quite enough? Get a group of friends together for a decorating party. Pool your trimmings for everyone to enjoy!

If what you really want is a tree, consider buying a live tree from a nursery that works with habitat restoration. After the holidays, these locations will later pick up (or you drop off) your tree to be planted in an area in need of replanting. Or, buy a potted rosemary shrub, sheared in the shape of a tree or a dwarf conifer suited to your garden’s needs. With some TLC, these will survive until spring when you can pop it into your garden to enjoy for several years to come.