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Trimming for the Holidays
by Carrie Paulk

Description: Ideas for decorating your home for the holidays with evergreen trimmings.

Pruning your landscape plants does not always have to be a drag. By saving your plant cuttings and using them as decorations in the home, you end up hitting two birds with one stone, and both your yard and your abode look the better for it.

Though you can decorate your interior with your landscape trimmings any time of the year, the holiday season is the best time for it. After all, it's during the holidays when we have house guests upon house guests coming through our homes and making lovely comments on the decorating, whether they truly like it or not. Being able to deck your halls with the flora and fauna from your own backyard will impress even old Aunt Ethel, whose pessimism is family lore.

And now, to search the yard for some suitable holiday trimming for the home. Don't let the fact that it is winter discourage you. There is plenty of plant material out there to choose from, you just have to look at your landscape in a slightly different frame of mind. Anything is game, even the leafless stems and twigs can become part of a beautiful arrangement in the home.

Of course, some plants are more easily used than others. One that is used a lot here in the South are southern magnolia leaves. The glossy green look on one side contrasts well with the fuzzy brown texture of the other side. Both the leaves and seedpods make decorative accents. Another group of evergreens to look for are cedars. Their small needles decorating the branches make great arrangements. Another coniferous plant that you usually find in abundance are junipers, particularly eastern red cedar, which is a treeform juniper. Their blue-green foliage, blue berries, and slight fragrance work great in the home.

Another set of plants that are overlooked for cuttings are boxwoods and small-leaved hollies. Using trimmings from these plants for live wreaths will add a classical uniqueness to your doorway. And of course, how can we talk about holiday plant cuttings without mentioning holly? With holly, there are so many different types that can be utilized. The most well-known are the types with glossy, dark green leaves surrounded by bright red berries that just beg to be used for the holiday season. Though harder to find, there are also variegated leaf versions that exist There are also the smaller, thin-leaved varieties that belong to some tree-form hollies. Some other plants that can be used along with hollies are nandinas, beech leaves, wine vines, pine cones, fruits, rosemary, and many forms of seed pods.

Now that we know all the different plant material that is available for cuttings, how do we remove the cuttings from the plant properly? After all, we still want the outside of our home to look good as well, and unless you have a very formal home, the 'freshly sheared' look won't be the most flattering. To get the best cuttings while still keeping your plants looking natural, using a naturalistic pruning technique will be the best mode of action. To do this, first choose the branch of the plant that you would like for cutting, and follow it back to it's parent stem. This is the place that you need to cut the branch off. Don't worry about making the cuttings the right size for your project here; that's to be done later. By cutting in this fashion, you keep the plant from producing leggy offshoots that don't fit in with the rest of the plant's shape.

If you are removing a lot of cuttings from a plant, take care to remove the cuttings evenly so your tree or shrub looks even as well. Also be careful when removing cuttings from a plant that blooms early in spring. You don't want to remove all of the flower buds that are already existing on the shrub, and thus depriving you of its spring bloom. Taking cuttings in this fashion not only rewards you with trimmings for the inside of the home, it keeps the shrubs on the outside of your home looking handsome as well.

Once you have all the cuttings you need, you can set about to decorating your home with nature's tinsel. If you need some inspiration, look for some resources online or in some magazines. The periodical literature are rife with decorating tips this time of year. And as you are sitting back making small talk with your guests and even observing a hint of a smile creeping upon Aunt Ethel's face as she admires the fruits of your labor, feel content with the thought that after the holidays are over, you won't have to strain your back and your nerves trying to pack all of these decorations away for the winter -- they're disposable!

Carrie Paulk is a professional landscape designer with Turf Tamer, Inc. She has written many informative landscaping articles for Turf Tamer's Tip of the Week program. Want to learn more landscaping tips and tricks? Go to to sign up for the 'Tip of the Week' and learn more tips!

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