‘Tis the season to get in the holiday spirit and for many of us decorating is a huge part of that. In a world full of so many tempting disposable plastics it can be hard to “go green” for the holidays. The convenience and affordability retailers offer can be alluring, but often times these items are inauthentic and contribute to overflowing landfills.

Fortunately, we can return to our literal roots and explore our own backyards and forests for more sustainable decorations that not only are aesthetically pleasing, but also pleasant to smell and touch.         

Gathering greens, whether solo or with family and friends, creates a sensory experience you won’t find at the mall. Knowing what you are collecting and how to do it responsibly make the experience even more fulfilling. Here are some basics you need to know about collecting greens that will help you create a special vibe in your home all while keeping a balance in nature.

First, you never want to take all of something from a single tree or shrub.  It is best to select a few branches from each individual so that the plant can continue to grow, be healthy and provide habitat and food for birds and mammals. Second, is to select a variety of colors and textures. This will create a more dynamic feel to your arrangements and give them more depth and color. This means to look for shades of green, red, and white that will blend well together and evoke the holiday feel. Cutting different lengths is also another way to ensure you have variety in your wreaths, containers, and swags. Never use invasive species for outside decoration as the birds will still eat and distribute the seeds. Instead bring invasive plants inside and then bag and trash them when the season is over. It’s a double-whammy of invasive management and decoration! See below a list of WLCT’s favorite native materials to be used for holiday decorating:

5 Native Plants for Holiday Decorating

  1. Ilex opaca (American Holly) -Make sure you have a female to take advantage of the stark red berries.  The spiny foliage offers a unique texture as well.
  2. Ilex verticillata (Winterberry)- Native cultivars like ‘Red Sprite’ provide stout stems that are amassed with red berries running down the terminus of the stems.  Add to wreaths and containers for a vibrant red pop of color.
  3. Pinus strobus (White Pine)- Often overlooked, this abundant native offers an extremely fine texture paired with large beautiful cones.
  4. Juniperus horizontalis (Eastern Red Cedar)- Thick, dark green and tightly bound foliage make for a great filler in containers.  The dusty blue berries are often a surprise when you take a minute to observe.
  5. Cornus stolonifera (Red-Twigged Dogwood)- The cultivar ‘Arctic Fire’ lives up to its name with stems transitioning to a truly deep red coloration as the temperatures begin to decrease in fall. Cut long lengths of this for containers to add a splash of color and flair.