Photo provided -- Battery-powered LED lights and glitter turn a twig wreath into holiday art.

One thing savvy locals have discovered is that it isn’t necessary to spend a lot to devise holiday decorations when it’s possible to walk outside and harvest a few well-selected items from their yards and gardens.

The practice is “green” in every sense of the word, for not only are the harvested items homegrown, but they come free of wasteful packaging and can be disposed of in a compost pile when the holidays are over.

When you’re thinking of green ways to decorate your home this holiday season, consider some of these.

Christmas tree limbs

Those branches you cut off the base of your Christmas tree before you put it in the stand don’t have to go to waste. Instead, use them to create a distinctive swag for your front door in lieu of the tried and true holiday wreath. Just cut the branches to a length of about three feet and go on the hunt for greens to add to the composition. Got a holly tree or a pond cypress nearby? Prune a few pieces at varying lengths to augment the tree branches, put shorter pieces on top, then wrap them all together at one end using floral wire as a tie. Slip a few short length, of rosemary or English ivy under the wire, then conceal the wire with a festive bow before hanging.

Magnolia leaves

It would be déclassé to harvest leaves or a branch from a neighbor’s tree without permission, but if you don’t have a tree yourself, it’s worth asking for the favor. Leaves of the Southern magnolia can be used in myriad ways to add elegance to holiday décor. Dark green and glossy on one side, copper and matte finished on the other, the leaves can be attached to wreath forms or wired together to create stunning garlands. And if you can’t gather enough for a wreath or a garland, bundle a few leaves together and place them in a short, wide-mouthed vase, pointy ends up, like a bouquet. You can also tuck a few underneath photo frames or candles for an unexpected visual treat.


How fortunate we are to have so many citrus trees in the area, all laden with fruit this time of year! Fill a pretty porcelain or silver bowl with kumquats, Meyer lemons or satsumas (or all three) plucked from your trees, and remember to keep a few leaves attached so it’s obvious they are freshly picked.

Small clusters of kumquats with stems and leaves can be slipped into any table- or mantel-top composition to add color.


Going green doesn’t necessarily mean being green. Bare tree branches can make wonderful holiday decorations, especially when lightly spray-painted silver or white to simulate the look of birch trees. Put them in vases (without water, of course) or wire them together to make a small tree that you anchor in a pot wrapped with shimmery cloth. Add tiny white lights for sparkle — battery-operated are best because they eliminate the need to figure out what to do with the electrical cord.


Sasanqua camellias have been blooming their hearts out for a couple of months now. If you’re willing to prune a limb or two off your “Snow on the Mountain” (white) or “Yuletide” (red), they will make elegant additions to a vase of greens. Camellia japonicas have just begun to bloom, but they are the classics that have been “floated” in shallow dishes for generations. Leave enough foliage on the bloom to help stabilize it if it is the only one in the dish.

What items gathered in your yard have you incorporated into your holiday décor? Let us know by sending an email with an image to features editor Annette Sisco at