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Gardeners' Dirt: Upscale holiday decor, natural and easy

By By Helen R. Parks - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Dec. 5, 2013 at 6:05 a.m.

Master Gardener Helen Parks, 61, converses with H-E-B Plus! Floral Manager Cheryl Pederson, 57, about the mantel arrangement made in a chicken feeder with fruits, nuts, floral selections and a variety of accents and green filler.

EDIBLE SUGARED FRUITS

Use

•  Assorted whole fruits or slices

•  3 envelopes unflavored gelatin

• 3/4 cup cold water

•  2 cups superfine sugar

Steps

•  Wash and dry the fruit.

•  Add gelatin to cold water; let stand one minute.

•  Microwave on high one to two minutes, stir every 20 seconds until gelatin dissolves.

•  Whisk until slightly frothy.

•  Brush mixture over fruit; sprinkle with sugar.

•  Let stand at room temperature on waxed paper 24 hours.

•  Arrange centerpiece.

MATERIALS USED IN HOLIDAY MANTEL ARRANGEMENT

Base

3-foot metal chicken feeder filled with wet Oasis

Floral color

•  Snapdragons

•  Alstroemeria

Green Dianthus

Accent ornamentation

•  "Star" pomegranate

•  Crab apples

•  Cinnamon sticks

•  Sugared grapes

•  Mixed nuts

Red ribbon picks

Greenery filler

•  Hypericum berries

•  Pittosporum

•  Protea

•  Indian hawthorn

•  Leatherleaf

•  Salal leaf

•  Seeded eucalyptus

There are a number of ways to decorate for Christmas from nature and with ease. Visit your local grocery store and check out seasonal fruits, nuts and veggies for colors and shapes that add charm and fragrance to a home.

Your own garden can be the inspiration for innovative decorating on a budget. Yard greenery makes a great alternative to traditional cedar, spruce or pine. All this can be done without breaking the bank.

Clearance items from a previous holiday can easily be transformed with paint, hot glue and ribbon. Check out a Christmas tree lot for discarded branches to freshen an existing wreath or garland. Spray paint and glitter can transform greenery for an upscale look.

Choosing a theme or coordinating the decor becomes a no-brainer. Dress up existing decorations or start from scratch - either way can put you in the Christmas spirit.

Florals, produce glitz

Whether you simply greet well-wishers at your mailbox, create a door wreath or coordinate an entire household theme, florals and produce can make it happen.

Merry mailbox topper

Better Homes and Gardens suggests topping off a square mailbox with a bouquet of winter plants and tieing with jute or colored ribbon. Fill a planter with a mix of pansies, flowering cabbage, cedar, fir, lavender and rosemary. Tuck in pinecones, fruits and berries using floral wire to stabilize the arrangement next to or on top of the mailbox and welcome guests.

Spruced-up front door

Use a fan palm leaf or add yaupon holly to a grapevine wreath or ribbon-covered Styrofoam form. Add interest by hot-gluing nuts, berries, fruits and bright ribbons for your front door decor.

Coordinate porch garland with LED lights to welcome visitors to the front door. Add flameless candles in various sizes to a collection of Christmas lanterns or spray metallic paint on mason jars for a mercury glass look. This same decor can transition to the mantle or holiday table.

Shimmery foyer

Use spray paint to add a shimmery touch to pinecones, acorns or round glass ornaments. Displayed in mass in tall, glass vases, they become instant and easy Christmas accents. Spray clear adhesive and dust with glitter for a shiny twist.

Use a glass lantern or vase to create an arrangement that will last throughout the Christmas season. Layer a jar with limes, red holly berries, nuts and lemons then top it off with stems of fragrant greenery.

Key limes, cranberries, loquat or kumquat wired into traditional stairway swags or fireplace mantel garland add interest to an otherwise predictable seasonal decor. Doorknobs embellished with festive ribbon and a pomegranate fruit can be a welcome change.

Holiday table to remember

Find ways to embellish the lighting over the holiday table with greenery, fresh or dried flowers and nuts. Hang old and new holiday photos from greenery with clothes pins. A topiary creation of fruits and nuts with floral picks add to the color and theme.

Light up the occasion

Battery-powered flicker lights and flameless candles add ambiance without the worry of real candles. Cluster apples with a carved circle to fit tea lights and light up the evening. Place cards can be stuck in an apple or pear with a small slit or use them to label cheeses on the buffet table. Wash fruits in vinegar water and shine them by rubbing with olive oil and soft cloth.

Add shimmer to heirloom pieces

Use a family heirloom like a crystal bowl, pedestal urn, silver platter or chargers to create a fragrant fruit and candle grouping. Add Clementine oranges, limes, pomegranates, grapes, cherries, cranberries, nuts and sprigs of rosemary that are sugared for a shimmery accent. Even candles can be sugared.

Be creative with centerpieces

For a tall centerpiece, hang small pears from sprayed or sugared branches tucked in amaryllis or paper whites. Use two similar vases when using fresh flowers or greenery. Fill the smaller vase with water and flowers. Place inside the larger vase and fill with nuts or berries.

Make cleanup easy

Use plants that survive the South Texas climate and eliminate the need for storage bins and wreath bags. Tossing out decorations with the tree will make cleanup a breeze. Using edible decor may free up dollars to buy an extra gift. Perhaps one of your creations will turn into a special gift.

Decorations made and provided by H-E-B Plus! for this article.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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