Create Festive Décor from Nature’s Beauty

closeup of pinecones

By Vicki Spencer, Master Gardener

December marks the 10th month for many of us staying home with only occasional visits from friends and relatives. Now that cold weather is further restricting social activities, I wonder how the pandemic will affect the holidays. Will religious services be broadcast in parking lots? Will parades and tree-lighting ceremonies be canceled? Will children be unable to put on school plays and musicals? These things could put a damper on our holiday spirit. But they don’t have to. It’s a perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature, use our imaginations and bring the holiday spirit into our homes.

On a nice day, go on a fun-filled scavenger hunt and wander around your yard or take a walk to look for interesting twigs, leaves, pinecones, seed pods, etc. The materials you collect can be used to create nature-inspired holiday decorations.

Evergreens, bare twigs or twigs with a few leaves or berries can be used in many arrangements. If you have a favorite color scheme, you can spray paint them, or you can go with a natural look. Place the twigs in a vase and decorate with ornaments or even holiday cards. Just punch holes in the cards and slip yarn through for hangers. Tuck family photos in between branches, or attach with a small clip, to remind you of loved ones.

Try bundling dry twigs or fresh evergreen sprigs to make hanging door decorations; add ribbons or tree ornaments for color. You can make wreaths out of evergreens even if you don’t have a form. Bend a wire hanger into a circle and attach small sprigs in an overlapping pattern. If you feel that’s too much work, simply tack a single evergreen branch to the wall and decorate it.

My favorite displays are made with pinecones, which I collect all year round. A friend who makes pinecone wreaths told me to heat them briefly in the microwave to kill any bugs. I use pinecones to make centerpieces by arranging them around candles and evergreen sprigs, and adding oranges and apples for color. Sometimes I spray paint pinecones white or gold to make them stand out.

If you don’t feel like venturing outside, you can make your own nature-inspired decorations with just a few supplies. Create holly leaves from dark and light green card stock, indent veins in the leaves with a wooden skewer and trace the indentations with a colored pencil. Use these leaves to make paper wreaths, centerpieces or decorative picture frames.

Making handmade ornaments is a fun family project. Mix 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt and 1-1/2 cups warm water in a bowl. Knead until the dough is firm and smooth, roll it out and cut with cookie cutters; or form your own shapes and poke holes for hanging before baking, about an hour at 300 degrees until dry.

My family has always enjoyed making nature-inspired decorations such as these. It’s a simple tradition that brings us together to enjoy the holidays.

Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.