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Create fun, fresh holiday decorations
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Decorating for the holidays can be a struggle, but experts at The University Florist tell customers that preparing for winter festivities can be as easy as remembering holidays past and looking in their own backyards.
Lynette McDougald is the business manager at The University Florist, located on Mississippi State University's campus, and a plant and soil sciences instructor. She said holiday decorating starts with inspiration.
“Finding inspiration for holiday decorating can be relatively easy. It is really about going back to what feels comfortable,” McDougald said. “Nostalgia provides inspiration for me. I think about Christmases from my childhood and try to recreate some of the things my mother and grandmother decorated with.”
Plant and soil sciences professor Jim DelPrince recommended that people look to the decorative arts for inspiration.
“With all the options available to us, there are many ways of doing things,” DelPrince said. “Mix styles from different time periods and just have fun with it. A Victorian candelabra mixed with McCarty pottery can make for a beautiful holiday dinner party table setting.”
Making holiday floral arrangements does not have to be a difficult or expensive task.
“Some people don’t recognize the beauty of the plants and materials they already have in and around their homes,” DelPrince said. “Winter flowers from the garden, such as mums and camellias, look beautiful in arrangements. Flowers can be paired with foliages like ivy, holly or nandina to decorate the mantle, banister or tabletop.”
DelPrince said houseplants also can make festive arrangements.
“Take coleus, for example. The vibrant, contrasting colors really catch the eye and can make a great centerpiece,” DelPrince said. “Use cut foliage from rubber plant, philodendron or croton, and mix with plant material from your yard like camellia foliage, boxwood or corkscrew willow branches.”
Mississippians have an advantage, as many of the state’s native plants have become a growing trend in arrangements and decor, McDougald said.
“Some of the plants and flowers we have growing around here are hot commodities in other parts of the country. People are paying top dollar for what many of us have in our own yards,” McDougald said. “What grows here can easily be used in creating arrangements and decorations. Magnolia, camellia and nandina are all great materials for decorating.”
McDougald suggested using sweet gum balls and toothpicks to create a 1960s-inspired Christmas bulb. The bulbs can add unique interest to a buffet or dining table.
“Don’t underestimate what an inexpensive can of spray paint can do. Using gold, silver or copper on dried hydrangeas, pine cones, holly, sweet gum balls or magnolia leaves can provide a festive accent,” McDougald said.
Fresh and dried fruits found at local grocery stores or farmers’ markets can add color and interest to a dining, buffet or side table, DelPrince said.
“Nineteenth and 20th century glass comports can be filled with nuts and fruits, such as apples, grapes, cranberries, blueberries and apricots,” DelPrince said. “We apply the same principles used in floral design to arrange edible decorations -- just play with the colors and textures to create something visually pleasing.”
For those hosting a holiday party, planning ahead may be the key to preparing the perfect holiday décor.
“My advice is to finish decorating the day before an event or no later than noon the day of an event,” DelPrince said. “Keep some cut plant material in a bucket of water to replace anything that doesn’t look fresh. Touchups and adjustments easily can be made right before the event begins.”
Lighting can add to holiday décor and set the mood for a special occasion such as a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party.
“Hosts should give consideration to their style of home and the type of lighting that fits best. Kerosene lamps work perfectly in Victorian homes, while owners of antebellum-style homes should use candlelight,” DelPrince said. “There are also plenty of modern lighting options, such as battery-operated LED lights, which can burn for days.”
McDougald encouraged people to have fun with holiday decorating.
“Develop traditions like finding a Christmas tree or collecting natural plant materials to use in decorating as something the family can do together,” she said. “These activities will provide inspiration for years to come.”