A GROWING CONCERN: Think outside the flower box for holiday arrangements

AS WE MOVE through mid- into late fall, let’s explore all the possibilities of your seasonal holiday garden.

There is a wide range of plants that can be purchased now for great colors: heathers, hollies, kales, cabbages, colored evergreens, viburnum, violas and dusty miller, to name a few.

Go out and find these items or others that suit your house and plant them.

This is the best time because soil temperatures are still warm, the rains have begun and the plants will have several months to adjust and adhere to your native soils before spring arrives.

However, finding and planting these is the simplest part of the seasonal garden.

These finely textured, showy fall and winter plants need to be the focal point of a holiday display.

To set off your plant, inside or out, for the holidays, you’ll find it’s easy being green — evergreen, that is.

Now is the time to prune away any evergreens that are overgrown, are out-of-shape or have errant growth, but don’t throw the cuttings away.

Use thinning cuts to prune, reaching down into the plant to remove tall, long or in-the-driveway branches.

Gather up pruned branches of as many colors, types, textures and varieties as you can amass.

Trade with or prune (with permission) your neighbor’s trees for greater selection, and don’t forget about your friends’ yards, too.

The trick with this next stage is to collect from between five and 15 different types of greens.

Once this beautiful collection of textures and colors in acquired, begin the arrangement.

For example, let’s say you pulled up old marigolds and then planted beautiful parrot tulips in their place. You then planted a couple of nice ornamental kales on top of them.

Now it is time to move in and place around the base a covering of the evergreen cuttings you have cut the most of.

This base will create a covering into which you can insert the remaining varieties of greens. You are literally making an arrangement out of evergreens, using the base as an oasis block, or frog.

Take your blue spruce and yellow fitzers and stick them into the evergreen base, and into the ground below them. Next, use red pine or deodara branches to add height and texture.

But don’t stop there.

Add some berried holly branches or variegated holly stems. Insert red or yellow twig dogwood stems.

There is no end to your creativity: Paint artichoke heads gold for a knockout holiday look, or use nice, long, bright-berried branches of pyracantha, which can really add punch.

Even with this gorgeous arrangement, you are still not quite there. You need to cover your place with Christmas lights — not hundreds but thousands of tiny bulbs. Use lights to really display your creative side.

The best light shows in the country are at botanical gardens. Why? Gardening is all about color, mood, depth, feel and excitement. Don’t let gray, cold days disparage your garden.

Think outside the flower box.

Here are some decorating ideas:

• Cover the trunk of a tree with 400 green lights and then wrap individual branches of the tree with a thousand multicolored lights (use twisty ties at the tips of the branches).

• Get thousands of blue lights for a nifty river or create a pond effect on the ground.

• Wrap lights around big balls for huge outside Christmas ornaments.

• Make a forest of different-colored, individually lit trees.

• Hang rows of lights from the roof to make 10-foot-long icicles.

Now for some basic lighting tricks:

• Use a heavy-duty cord, one designed for the outdoors.

• Double string rooflines or trees using separate cords plugged into different circuit breakers. This way if one line goes out, the display is still fully lighted. Plug the lights into each other at the base of the plug; you can stack three or four together.

• And then go buy some more lights because you can never have enough.

The coming holiday season is a great time of peace and happiness. Let’s all join in lighting up the Peninsula with joy. In fact, go light up your boat, too.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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