Decorating indoors with plants and greenery during the winter is one of the oldest traditions in the world and has been a part of celebrating winter festivals since ancient times. Citizens in the southern U.S. states have been using fresh greenery to decorate for the holidays since colonization, while it is newer come to the northern states beginning in the 1800s. Garlands of holly, ivy, mountain laurel and mistletoe bedecked the walls and ceilings of places of worship while lavender, rose, rosemary and bay were scattered about for aromatic purposes. Houses were decorated with boughs of greenery displayed in windows and sprigs of holly affixed to glass. Today decorating with greenery is omnipresent, seasonal interest, beauty and scents are brought into our homes with plants, wreaths and boughs made of cedar, ivy, pine and holly.
Greenery can be gathered from your landscape or garden, which may be fresher than anything bought from a store. If harvesting greenery from live shrubs, remember you are actually pruning them, so do so carefully or consult with your arborist for advice. Listed below are examples of commonly used evergreens which make beautiful holiday decorations and are easily found:
These are not all of the available or possible options for decorating for the holidays with greenery, but they are the most common and therefore, the most readily available. When and where possible try to choose native species for your decorations, they will not be difficult to find and will benefit the environment and industry. Additionally, if children or pets are of concern in your household be sure to choose species which are non-poisonous, and keep all plants and decorations out of reach. Contact your arborist for advice in making decisions regarding species and pruning.
Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist; George D. Kessler, Extension Forester; and Bob Polomski Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University, 11/99.