Nature-Inspired Christmas Decorations
Surround lanterns with fresh greenery and pinecones for a classic, elegant centerpiece.
By the stem
Amaryllis flowers include both single and double forms and 2- to 10-inch flowers. These cut blooms of (from left) ‘Nymph’, ‘Apple Blossom’ and ‘Picotee’ naturally shine on a moss-lined green shutter. Snip when buds just start to unfurl. Cut amaryllis lasts up to two weeks if you trim the stems every few days to assist water absorption. Slide a thin dowel inside the hollow stem for support, and plug the base with a wet cotton ball, which draws water to keep the flower moist.
Deck the banister
Natural birch branches form the backbone of this project (but you could use redtwig dogwood or other branches). For added drama, cut the branches longer so they're taller than your banister, or include more bunches. Use thin florist's wire to lash them to the banister posts along with evergreens (in this case, noble fir) and twigs of bright red winterberries. Matte and glossy chartreuse ornaments add another dimension. Tie it all back with a velvet chartreuse ribbon. Making a bow is optional.
Sprigs of evergreens fill a collection of plain glass vases for clearly inspired decor.
Curiosities such as milk starbursts grab attention in a centerpiece of pinecones and greens. Repurpose serving pieces as candleholders and tiny planters to add charming interest.
Nestle special “ingredients” inside ball ornaments for thoughtful, budget-friendly party favors or decorations. You can use wintry natural materials like we did, or let your imagination fly.
What you’ll need
Plastic ball ornaments (We found ours at Hobby Lobby for $1.49 each.)
Pine tree clippings
Place items inside one ornament half. (Leave them loose, or secure with a dot of hot glue.) Top with the other half, string with ribbon, and presto, you’re done!
Create a scene
Make a charming winter scene inside a glass bowl using faux snow, spruce or fir spigs, and props such as artificial birds and a nest (from crafts stores), along with mini ornaments.
Wood slices make a pretty, natural-looking and long-lasting wreath. Glue 20 wood slices to the front of a flat wooden wreath form, putting 10 on the first layer and 10 on the second, with the top layer arranged so the slices partially overlap the ones on the bottom. Glue burlap and wire-edged ribbon onto part of the wreath and cover with pinecones, artificial berries and greenery. Attach ribbon to hang.
Clipped greens (in floral foam) displayed in egg cups make a mini forest when grouped on a silver tray. A strand of starry lights adds sparkle.
Bowlful of nature
Layer pinecones, rose hips, dried pomegranates, sweetgum pods and moss for this easy look.
Tip Use materials from your garden first, then accent with others shown here (available at crafts stores or through your local florist).
Eye-catching amaryllis bulbs dipped in colored wax mark a new trend; look for them at garden centers or online. The coating restricts root growth so plants are shorter than average and live just one season, but serious advantages include a fresh presentation style and no need for water, sunlight, soil or the proverbial green thumb. Of course, the traditional method of growing bulbs in glass forcing vases continues to appeal with classic beauty and repeat seasons.
Need something above your buffet? Hang Christmas cards, embellished tags and ornaments from a single evergreen branch tacked to the wall.
Wrap wide green ribbon in bands around a square vase, then fill with decorated winterberry branches. Simple red votives with white candles provide a glow at a safe distance.
Bring a woodland scene inside. Gather bare branches from the garden, and arrange them in a narrow glass vase filled with artificial snow. More “snow” (cotton tufts) drifts on branches. Cardinals alight as if to gather the bright berries that we cut from faux sprays and wired on. Give the birds another landing spot with a nest on the sill.
Resources Glass vase, faux snow and faux berries Michaels Crafts Stores (800) 642-4235; michaels.com
Dress up fruit
An easy centerpiece starts with a bowl of fruit. Add tabletop flair to apples by inserting bronze brads (available at crafts stores) in a variety of patterns.
Norfolk Island pines in ceramic pots make a pretty focal point when dressed with sparkly ornaments.
Good to grow
Amaryllis turns heads with its bold midwinter flowers. Group different types of amaryllises for a striking display. This tableau includes, from left, ‘Summertime’; budding ‘Faro’, which will open with a green eye in a white starburst on salmon petals; and the spider-flower cybister variety ‘Evergreen’.
Wrap candles with fat velvet ribbon attached with pearl-headed pins; place them at each seat. See the previous slide for how this look fits into a nature-theme place setting, with white-tipped pinecones atop napkins and tiny crystal vases holding single sprigs of hydrangea.
Why let your garden urns sit vacant all winter? Cut or buy a floral foam cone to stack on top of the urn. Slice the point off the cone to make a flat base where you'll attach the pineapple later. Building from the bottom up, attach evergreens by tucking the twig ends into the foam. Near the base, use floral picks to attach a row of oranges decorated with cloves. Halfway up the cone, attach pomegranates using floral picks. A row of orange halves runs three-quarters of the way up, with pinecones forming a base for a whole pineapple attached with floral picks.
The first 10 creations in this slideshow, including this tower, were a collaboration between Midwest Living and Botanicals Inc. in Chicago.
Bedeck worn-out boots
Have a pair of winter boots you don't wear? Dress them up with twigs, greens and ribbon for a welcoming display.
To protect boots, line with plastic bags. Add rocks in the foot to keep the boots from tipping. Insert twigs and small evergreen branches. Tie ribbon around each boot, tucking a sprig of evergreen in the bow.
Merry and bright kumquat wreath
Wreaths with fresh fruit are an American colonial tradition.
Use a 12-inch metal ring for a base, 18 to 20 kumquats, several sprigs of medium-size broadleaf greens and 26-gauge wire to attach the fruit and leaves.
For a fragrant chair-back decoration, bundle bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and marjoram with twine. Bouquets can be made several days in advance, then refrigerated. Once dry, use them for cooking!
Float a flower
Create a fluid floral centerpiece with a 17-inch-wide glass bowl and flowers in floating glass tea-light holders.
Add your own touch to an evergreen wreath by crafting pieces of "candy" from felt or other material you have at home. Tie with red twine or ribbon.
Freeze cranberries with just enough water to cover them, then add pieces to your ice bucket.
Tower of apples
Green apples are the perfect hue for an easy Christmas display. Fill a glass jar with apples; mix in loose greens for a wintry feel. Place container on a beveled edge mirror (that serves as a table runner). Fill in with additional greens, ball ornaments and candles of different sizes.
For quick holiday color, surround a cranberry-color candle inside a glass cylinder with fresh cranberries. Add a few sparkly ornaments around the base, and you’re done!
Touch of glass
For easy elegance, showcase oversize pinecones under cloches. A dusting of faux snow adds wintry sparkle.
Stems with just a few leaves or berries make natural holders for family photographs. Tie branches with twine and add evergreen tassels; insert photos in the branches, clipping them on if needed to hold in place.
Wintry white tulips lend a soft touch to this natural holiday centerpiece. Fill varying sizes of glassware with fresh flowers and arrange around metallic-sprayed pinecones and silvery ornaments.
A bundle of brown twigs makes a great hanging decoration to put on a door or above a mantel. To secure, wrap a wide rubber band around twig ends. Tuck one branch of greens, such as eucalyptus, inside the rubber band for color. Cover the rubber band with a ribbon.
Easy flower arrangement
Create your own customized flower composition by covering coffee cans with wrapping paper and embellishing them with ribbon. Fill with inexpensive white carnations and baby's breath, plus evergreens cut from your yard.
Place pillar candles, evergreen branches, pinecones and clementines on a beveled-edge mirror for a nature-inspired tabletop arrangement. Don't like orange? Bring in green pears or red apples for traditional holiday color.
Vase and garland ideas
Vases of Red: Carry a theme throughout your decor by using variations of similar materials. We filled clear glass vases of varying shapes and sizes with red flowers and berries, using only one type per vase: amaryllis, winterberry or tulips. The winterberry branches are strong enough to support a few small ornaments.
Fresh Garland: For an alternative to evergreens, make garlands from fresh bells of Ireland. Cut 1-inch sections of the stalks, which have green florets. The hollow stalks are the tubes through which you thread string or yarn. Fresh florets last about a day. When dry, push flowers together.
These cute packages take time, but they're easy to make. Cut a block of floral foam into the size you wish. Cut the heads off chartreuse 'Kermit' button mums. Stick a pearl-headed pin through the center of each flower to secure it to the foam. Wrap red velvet ribbon around the finished package, or just add a bow on top. The flowers stay fresh for about three days.
Cranberry flower cylinders
Start with cylinders of varying heights. Place red flowers, such as roses and amaryllises, and greenery in a metal flower frog. Attach the frog inside the cylinder using double-sided florist's tape. Cover the flowers with water, float cranberries on top and place a floating candle amid the berries. Change water daily. The piece should last up to seven days.
Place paperwhites in a large compote or bowl. Cover the potting soil with mini ball ornaments in colors that coordinate with your holiday scheme.
Display your favorites
Turn a shallow basket or tray into a fun arrangement for your dining or coffee table. We arranged rows of feathery moss, smooth stones, green apples and spiky pinecones, but use what's easily available to you: other fruits or vegetables, ornaments or bits of nature.