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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Nov 21

Preparing for the Holidays

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 12:43 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

This past weekend found me shopping in Oregon with five fun-loving friends bent on holiday home decorating. Snowmen, elves, turkeys, and other winter decor filled our baskets as we made our way through countless stores.

Burlap was purchased for creating a table runner for my Thanksgiving table. Since the trees here have lost all their leaves, I was reduced to acquiring silk autumn-colored leaves to scatter randomly down the center of the table. The plan is to distribute small pumpkins and gourds amongst the leaves.

Despite the fun, the shopping trip found my mind drifting toward the garden. Late fall and winter months can seem like such a drab time. The three potted blue spruce in the front yard kept invading my thoughts. What plants can accent these beautiful conifers for the holidays? Are there any plants that can provide that winter glow?

 Rudbeckia
 Rudbeckia
Thanksgiving makes me think of potted rudbeckia and chrysanthemums for accenting a front door entrance. Both plants are low water-users and have a long bloom time. What better way to welcome your guests than the greeting of yellow, orange, and red flowers found with these poesies?

The quest for outdoor decorating ideas also brings to mind berries, which are desirable for multiple reasons. First, berries provide food for our feathered friends. The juniper trees here are always decorated with migrating birds. The berries and foliage can be used as fillers in floral arrangements and for making wreaths. Beautyberry (Callicarpa) can be a show stopper of mass purple-magenta berries on tall shrubs around the garden. The berries are of particular interest as the shrub loses its leaves and the berries last long into winter.

The holidays wouldn't seem complete without holly (Ilex), which can steal the spotlight but also be a little tricky to grow. Four to five female holly plants need to be paired with a compatible male holly to produce berries. There are so many varieties of holly available but Ilex x meserveae are known to be the hardiest cross of English and Chinese hollies. Pairing ‘China Boy’ and ‘China Girl,’ ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl,’ or ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ will guarantee a bounty of berries! These plants prefer slightly acidic soil, moderate water, and a semi-shady location with good drainage. It might be a few years before you see berries, but the bright shiny foliage will still be pleasing to the eye and provide clippings for decorating.

 Red Twig Dogwood in front of Blue Spruce
 Red twig dogwood in front of blue spruce
Wreaths can be whipped together using red twig dogwood stems, if plants are big enough to prune. The bright red stems of this plant will last for years. Or if the plants are newly acquired, place them in attractive containers and surround them with white cyclamen that will bloom through May. This combination will provide a stunning entrance for a home with a semi-shady entrance.

The flurry of holidays will soon be upon us. These simple outdoor decorating ideas can be put together now for the holiday season and allow time for entertaining friends and family.

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