Wild Things…
Holiday Decorating
By Karen Vizzi
     I love to bring the outdoors inside whenever possible and the wild garden offers a treasure chest of material to make holiday decorating fun and interesting.
     Wild grapevines frustrate many gardeners, but I love them. They provide beautiful camouflage for my unsightly chain link fence in summer, and the strong vines are ideal for making wreaths in the fall. Harvest the longest vines after the leaves have dropped, but before the vines get woody and lose flexibility. They are easy to mold into any size and can be held in place with florist wire. Allowing a twig or two to poke out from the standard wreath shape gives it a more natural appearance. The wreaths can then be decorated with a variety of dried plants: hydrangea and butterfly bush (buddleia) flowers; rose hips and other interesting seed pods. You can also add large nuts, berries, garlic bulbs and even fresh herbs, which provide a wonderful fragrance as they dry on the wreath. The addition of holly or evergreen sprigs will dress it up for the December holidays as well.
     Other decorations which can be made from garden treasures, are garlands and centerpieces. For garlands, it is best to use stronger material such as sunflower and coneflower heads, as they are less likely to shatter when strung with wire. Tuck in some evergreens and bittersweet berries for additional color and you have a wonderful display for hanging over a doorway or under a Thanksgiving buffet.
     One of my annual traditions is to make a Thanksgiving centerpiece from what’s left of my herbs. It’s my way of saying goodbye to the plant aspect of the garden. A few tiny pumpkins and dried ears of corn arranged on a platter can be embellished with the final harvest of thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary. These cold-loving herbs are likely to still be fresh enough to use, even if buried under a light blanket of snow. But be sure to harvest them quickly…if the forecast is correct, they won’t last much longer. Make the centerpiece low enough for guests to see over, and enjoy the heavenly smell. And don’t forget to save a little sage for inside the turkey.
     BIRD BRAINERS: If you’re feeding birds this winter, you’ll also want to think about providing a source of much-needed water for your feathered friends. There are lots of heated birdbaths on the market, but they tend to be a little expensive.
I use an old aquarium heater on the birdbath farthest from my backdoor, and manually chop the ice on the one closest, keeping it filled with fresh water. A little extra work, but it’s worth the trouble.
    BUTTERFLY BULLETS: The eastern black swallowtail lays its eggs on plants in the parsley family, so be careful not to disturb any nearby chrysalids when harvesting the last of the herbs.
    LET IT BE: Snow is one of the bes
t plant mulches that Mother Nature has to offer. Freezing and thawing cycles (not snow)  “heaves” plants from the ground and are responsible for most winter kill of plants. So gardeners ... let’s hope for consistent snow cover!

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