Gardening: Bringing the holidays to your yard

Looking to add just a touch of the holiday season to the front step or yard? Pots of greenery, wreaths and swags are elegant decorations that make a house welcoming. It is possible to purchase this style of decoration in synthetic or natural materials.

Artificial plants have become more lifelike over the years making them a practical and economical solution as they can be used for a number of years. Cut branches might not bend as well as artificial ones but they carry the odour of fresh cut evergreens. Cut evergreen branches, in the house will quickly dry out and lose their needles. When left outside in cool temperatures, the plant transpires less and can last for a number of months. Ornamentation can be changed to refresh the arrangement in the New Year.

Garden Centres and Big Box stores bring in large quantities of winter arrangements, wreathes and swags. It depends on the store and type of product it carries if ribbons and ornamentation has been added to the arrangements. It is a simple task to add a ribbon and a few ornaments to complete the item in a way that it will enhance the house and the surroundings. Adding finishing touches makes the wreath or arrangement a one of a kind decoration as opposed to being the same as the other 500 that were sold.

When purchasing living plant material look for freshness. Material that has been stored in a cool area or just arrived at the store is superior to material that has been stored in a warm area. Feel the branches to make sure that the material is fresh and not losing its needles.

Look at the size of the purchase, artificial or real. Will it fit in the planned space? A small arrangement can get lost on a large front step while a large one can dwarf a small area.

Don’t overlook florist shops when looking for that special arrangement or wreath. They will customize their arrangements to suit the customer.

For people who want to make their own wreath, swag or outdoor arrangement, there are three ways to obtain the necessary materials.

Garden Centres and florist often sell live greens. Phone and find out which local businesses sells or will bring the material in from the wholesaler.

It is possible to gather wild materials by purchasing a tree cutting permit and cutting down a tree in a designated area. Small evergreens can be found ditches. When removing materials from a ditch, be sure that the vehicle is safely parked on an approach and the material that is being removed is not part of a person’s yard. Do not leave tall stumps as they are a tripping hazard as well as a danger to animals and machinery. Do not leave an ill shaped plant behind.

Another alternative is to sign up for a class at a local florist, garden centre or greenhouse. All courses are not created equal. Ask questions. If possible, take a look at the finished sample. Price will differ with the location, amount of materials used, and length and location of the class. Choose what works for you. Classes are usually fun social events.

There are a number of opportunities across Central Alberta. Many of them advertised locally through Facebook or found through word of mouth. The following is a short list of courses available it is by no means the only ones available.

Lilac and Lace Floral Café, Innisfail, have a class in make a table top Grinch Christmas Tree.

Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, Red Deer, have classes in fresh wreathe making, Whoville Tree centerpiece, and winter planters.

Aspen Valley Arrangements will be holding classes in making Whoville Trees at the Blackfalds Christmas Market.

Tranquility Greenhouse east of Clive has a couple different ornamental classes in November.

Dragonfly Greenhouses just south of Rocky Mountain House is holding a variety of different classes from large to small arrangements including Grinch trees.

Wreaths, swags and outdoor arrangements are classic ways to decorate the house and welcome people into the home.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House.She can be reached at

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