Going Native for the Holidays

Decorating for the holidays is part of the fun of it all. There’s something so festive about holiday greenery. Swags wrap around stair railings and wreathes hang from doors. The scent of mulled cider mingles with the scent of pines, and you know you’re in for a good time. This year, why not add to the fun and create your very own table toppers, wreathes, or desktop “feel good” decoration?

It’s easy to do and fun for the whole family. Anytime after the first frost, take a walk around your yard, or, if you have friendly, generous, neighbors, around your neighborhood with clippers to obtain the freshest of greens. Be kind to the sweet plant, which is generously parting with its hard-grown greenery, and clip back to a side branch or node – don’t leave an unpleasant stub the plant won’t know what to do with next year.

You should “condition” the greenery to ensure it lasts, hopefully for several weeks. A thorough wash in warm water will remove dirt, followed by a nice, long, soak in cool water. Soak the entire branch, all parts of the plant will uptake water. After that, pat them dry, and make your arrangement.

Then, the sky’s the limit. Using well soaked green florist foam will help maintain the greens’ water supply and provide support for some arrangements, others can simply be placed in water. A quick spray with a special floral preservative (you can buy at a florist), or a mixture of floor polish and water (mostly water) will help keep your arrangements fresh and vibrant.

If your yard is lacking great plants for greenery, why not plant some popular natives that will reliably give you that extra fun in the holiday season? Cold January will follow the holidays and many gardeners spend the cold indoor hours dreaming of the fun spring will bring (seed catalogues start arriving in January, the entire industry knows what you’re thinking of). You can add one, or a few, of these to your wish list to plant in warmer days. Don’t panic – most evergreens are best planted in fall when they are not actively growing, but others love early spring planting, as well, so you can split up the digging chores. Just remember to water up until the first freeze.

Here’s a list of native to Maryland must-haves for holiday decorations:


White pine*

Red Osier Dogwood (wreaths)

Magnolia (Sweetbay)


Virginia pine*



Hemlock (careful of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid)*

Strawberry Bush (Eunoymus americanus)

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

* Best planted in fall.

Maureen Rice is a Master Naturalist living and writing in Talbot County.

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