I love using the landscape for decorating and in fact, I have been planting shrubs that I will specifically use for my outdoor holiday containers. The Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) in Clark County also cut greens to be used to make swags for a community service project.
Right before Thanksgiving, the MGVs met at my house for a quick hot dog and hot chocolate before having a short session on how to prune properly. This year, the topic was pruning boxwoods.
You may recall the boxwood dilemma that I have written about repeatedly this year. I waited until now to prune the dead spots and take cuttings for my containers. This worked out perfectly.
After the pruning tips, the MGVs take off to other volunteers’ homes to cut a slew of greens to be used in the swags. This past week they met and created beautiful live swags with greens and holiday decorations.
On Thursday, they went to the Springfield Regional Cancer Center to distribute the swags to the patients. This has become so popular that patients schedule their treatments for the distribution day.
This project was the Outstanding Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer project in 2022. Our MGV’s love creating the swags and giving them away.
Back to your landscape and holiday decorations. Look at your landscape and see what stems and branches might be used in your porch containers or patio pots.
I like to use spruce, juniper, taxus, boxwood, arborvitae, and chameacyparis for the evergreens. I use twigs from red-twigged or some of the other colors of shrub dogwood (yellow, orangish). I also planted a curly willow last year and now have these stems to place in the centers of the pots.
Make sure to use good pruning practices when cutting the greens. Cut the longer branches that are sticking out beyond shorter growth. Cut down into the plant, back to right above a branch or twig.
Next year, when new growth comes out, it will cover any areas that are cut, and you won’t even notice where you cut.
I would love to have holly with holly berries in my landscape to use in these containers, but hollies just don’t do well in our high pH and heavy clay soils. I have a few that have been in the ground for four years and they aren’t thriving. I can’t cut any stems or there won’t be anything left!
If you are using these in the house, keep an eye on them and remove them if they dry out quickly. Some species dry out faster than others. For instance, I can keep a juniper wreath from now until the new year. On the other hand, spruce tips dry out quickly, unless in a container that provides water.
The great thing is that the sky is the limit for what you use – imagination is a plus!
Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.