Outdoor Holiday Decorating Ideas | Midwest Living

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Ideas

Add holiday cheer and sparkle to your porch, deck or yard with our ideas for easy outdoor decorating.

Antique illusion

Give bargain glass vases the lustrous look of mercury glass with a spray-on mirror finish. We used Krylon’s Looking Glass Mirror-Like Paint. Lightly spray water inside clean vases, then spray the same area with mirror finish. (Paint should run, creating an aged, crackled effect.) Turn upside down to dry. For a heavier finish, repeat. Remember, don’t leave lit candles unattended.  

Wheelbarrow container

This vintage wheelbarrow, which holds annual flowers during the summer, gets a wintry update with branches of noble fir, Port Orford cedar, dried eucalyptus and winterberry holly.

Tip Though wind, ice and snow are formidable enemies, many arrangements can last all winter. To be safe, insert plastic liner pots that are one inch smaller than your container to prevent the chance of it cracking as temperatures fluctuate.

Chill time

Just because the garden has gone dormant, doesn't mean a birdbath can't still add to the look.

Spikes and berries

Cardinal dogwood spikes tower about a Fraser fir and winterberry holly pairing.

The layered look

Glass vases, available in a variety of heights at crafts supply stores, are the perfect vehicles to showcase layers of items. Vary the materials and colors according to your own decorating scheme. (Silver and gold ornaments? Red berries?) Put a coarse texture next to a smooth one, and try using contrasting colors, such as green next to red.

This square glass vase has layers of black river stones, evergreens, moss and pinecones. A sprig of winterberries tops it off. Other ideas for layers: rocks, colored glass ovals (found at crafts supply stores), magnolia leaves and dogwood sticks.

Lovely luminarias

The layered look also works for luminarias. Be sure the materials you choose cannot catch fire if candle wax or flames touch them (or use battery-powered candles for an extra measure of safety). To make these luminarias in glass vases, place fat white candles on top of half of the river rocks you wish to use. Continue placing black rocks inside to anchor the candle. Magnolia leaves and a sprinkling of red winterberries complete the look. Don't use holly; in cold weather, it turns black.

For impact, make many luminarias to circle your home or line your porch or entryway stairs.

Elegant urn

Caspia (Limonium latifolium) and pinecones wired to wood picks accent spruce and cedar branches tucked into florist foam.

Tip Pack tightly so you can remove branches past their prime and still have a full arrangement all season.

Sled display

Lean a vintage sled next to your front door and decorate with fresh greenery, pinecones, ornaments and bows.

Festive evergreen

Make a potted (or cut) Fraser fir merry with dried artichokes and pear gourds, dyed eucalyptus, caspia, astilbe seedpods, dried hydrangea blooms and a pinecone garland.

Glowing poinsettias

Votive candles flicker inside a container of ice and poinsettias. Clip a fresh poinsettia bloom and place in a large plastic cup. Pour distilled water in the cup until it is one-third full. Place a smaller container in the cup, weighing it down with rocks to create a hollow center in the mold. Freeze until solid, then thaw the ice slightly so you can slide out the plastic cups and add a candle.

Magical mix

Textures abound from spruce, silver fir, Port Orford cedar, juniper and 'Stoneham gold' cedar branches accented by orange-hue eucalyptus, caspia and Southern magnolia leaves.

Winter window box

For a holiday window box, mix dwarf conifers and other cold-hardy evergreens. Our box is trimmed with white birch branches and decorated with pinecones and arborvitae cuttings.

Antique illusion

Give bargain glass vases the lustrous look of mercury glass with a spray-on mirror finish. We used Krylon’s Looking Glass Mirror-Like Paint. Lightly spray water inside clean vases, then spray the same area with mirror finish. (Paint should run, creating an aged, crackled effect.) Turn upside down to dry. For a heavier finish, repeat. Remember, don’t leave lit candles unattended.  

Instant hospitality

A no-fuss pairing of Port Orford cedar and winterberry holly stems provides a festive touch to a front entry.

Tip Expecting holiday houseguests? A front porch container overflowing with evergreens and plant materials from your garden provides an instant welcome.

Frozen color

Based on a French floral design technique called pavé, this one-dimensional winter arrangement is composed of natural ingredients squeezed close together, then frozen in place with water. In this example, Minneapolis garden designer Scott Endres used kumquats, polished stones, cranberries and pepper berries.

Dress up a bench

Sure, it might be too cold to sit outside—but you can still put a bench to good use. Add holiday greenery, pinecones and ornaments; spray with a dusting of fake snow if you don’t have the real stuff!

Spruce up a pot

A small Alberta spruce in an outdoor urn anchors this miniature winter woodland scene. Add sheet moss, snowflake lights and cross sections cut from large branches to complete the presentation.

Decorate with nature

Decorate an outdoor tree or bush with natural materials. We used dehydrated orange slices, pepperberry clusters and dried pitcher flowers (Sarracenia leucophylla). If you don't have items in your home, look for inspirations at a garden center or florist.

Frosty wheelbarrow

For a super-simple yard decoration, stand a small evergreen in a wheelbarrow. Wrap with a string of lights to glow at night. 

Red-and-green pot

Spikes of cardinal dogwood brighten Fraser fir, white pine, Scotch pine, winterberry holly, dyed eucalyptus and caspia.

Add sparkle to baskets

Keep hanging baskets sparkling all winter long. Start with a coiled vine basket without a liner and wrap a 100-bulb string of outdoor pearl lights inside, pushing the lights from inside to out. If you like, add ornaments as filler.

Simple beauty

Containers don't need to be complicated to be beautiful. White pine branches spilling out of a window box are simple yet elegant with a fresh coat of snow.

Bursts of color

This multihued arrangement sings with gold and orange accents. Rose hips, yellow dogwood branches, dried astilbe, goldenrod and bittersweet combine with Fraser fir, juniper and 'Stoneham gold' cedar branches.

Tip Mist berries beforehand with a commercially available wax spray (check with your local florist) to lock in moisture and keep them on their branches throughout the season.

Branch beauty

Branches of corkscrew willow and yellow dogwood shoot out of a pot filled with bittersweet, cedar, Southern magnolia, eucalyptus and dried hydrangea.

Tip Holiday containers needn't stick to a red-and-green color scheme. For different combos, try birch branches, corkscrew willow, yellow dogwood, bittersweet, goldenrod, dried 'Autumn Joy' sedum, tree bark and lichen.

Twig accents

White Mitsumata twigs add height and drama to potted juniper; red ornaments and a faux bird add color. You could also use redtwig dogwood or birch for accent branches, or try spray-painting twigs silver or gold. 

Cone power

A container doesn't need a lot of different materials to have big impact. This grouping gets its punch from sugar pinecones—10 to 20 inches long. In the largest pot, thick stems of red-stained curly willow add height. Use several greens: boxwood, cedar and white pine.

Start by placing floral foam inside the pot to secure materials. Wire the cones together, and tuck them into the foam. Instead of the boughs, you could use an evergreen wreath to form a collar around the edge of the pot.

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