Deck the Halls-Homemade Decorating for the Holidays

An outdoor arrangement on a covered porch or deck can use beautiful fall foliage and evergreens from the garden
An outdoor arrangement on a covered porch or deck can use beautiful fall foliage and evergreens from the garden

Grab your glue gun, pruners, or pastry bag, and browse your favorite Pinterest boards and blogs. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and I’ll be serving up a hearty helping of crafting inspiration to get your house ready for the onslaught of family and friends. Rounding up my favorite posts on decorating for the holidays and adding new, these are inspiration for anyone who has a mantle, tabletop, or front porch/patio to add some holiday cheer. For a great source of glass containers, lanterns, urns, and other outdoor accessories, go to Arhaus.

Mantels and Living Spaces

Mantel in cobalt blues, teal, and lime green
Mantel in cobalt blues, teal, and chartreuse-Mantel Magic

A well-styled and accessorized fireplace mantel has lots of layers and harmonizing colors. A neutral background helps set it off perfectly. For how-to on creating the perfect mantel,  go to Mantel Magic to see step by step on layering for a lush look as well as some White House examples when I worked at the White House. Arranging a sofa or sectional to create an intimate family space or a place to set your Christmas tree is also important during the holidays. Go to Arhaus to see all the options to creat a cosy and inviting space.

Decorated mantel in the Vermeil room at the White House
Decorated mantel in the Vermeil room at the White House-White House Decorating

A mantel of silver pine cones at the White House
A mantel of silver pine cones at the White House

Miniature House & Gardens

Miniature gardens are fun to create with kids as well as adults and you can accessorize them for the season with tree ornaments or mini village finds at your local craft store. Go to Fairytale Christmas or Miniature Christmas Garden Craze for ideas on gifts for yourself or others on DIY dish gardens or terrariums. Bringing nature in for house bound people, these are always a hit to give and receive. Set one on your desk at work in your cubicle to look at when you need a dose of green, living things.

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Christmas miniature garden

Baking and decorating a gingerbread house every year is a tradition at my house and gingerbread house parties are a big hit with my family. Fairytale Christmas has great examples of Gingerbread creations. Storing my Gingerbread houses in plastic over the years gives me the opportunity to enjoy these all over again.

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White House veggie garden in frosting
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My brother-in-law is very intent on finishing his lighthouse gingerbread house
Gingerbread house with gum drop garden
Gingerbread house with gum drop garden

Succulents

Easy to grow succulents with juicy leaves, stems, and roots have always been fascinating to me as a great architectural touchable plant. Working/crafting with them for Christmas was a natural for me and they make perfect little decorated trees that last and grow as a beautiful miniature tree. For how-to on making a succulent tree, go to Succulent Christmas. 

Succulents are inserted into a moss and wire form and will root and grow
Succulents can be inserted into a moss and wire form and will root and grow

For a different twist on terrariums, try planted succulents, inserted with white pumpkins, cymbidium orchids, ornamental balls, beaded wire, and tiny lights. A wonderful centerpiece for a holiday table or as a entrance table eye catcher.img_0955

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 Outdoor Fresh Arrangements

For fresh arrangements to place on your front porch to greet visitors and last for months, go to Grand Entrance to see how fast you can put together a stunner. Using a base of a pre-made evergreen wreath and other greens, you can simply push the stems into potting soil of old containers from the summer. When the weather turns freezing, the inserted stems just freeze into place and last for months. Here are some examples of fall containers that can transition into winter and can continue to greet guests for months to come.

A beautiful fall arrangement of orange Fothergillia foliage, Nandina berries, Hydrangeas - done by Sally Barker
A beautiful fall arrangement of orange Fothergillia foliage, Nandina berries, Hydrangeas; when the Fothergillia foliage drops, add some evergreen branches – done by Sally Barker
Outdoor arrangement with golden arborvitae, red twig dogwood, seeded eucalyptus, nandina berries, and thujopsis
Outdoor arrangement with golden arborvitae, red twig dogwood, seeded eucalyptus, nandina berries,  thujopsis, white pine
Peach winterberry, magnolia, gold arborvitae, yellow twig dogwood, and red dyed eucalyptus
Peach winterberry, magnolia, gold arborvitae, yellow twig dogwood, and red dyed eucalyptus
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Rose hips (red) are the star here

Indoor Arrangements

Fresh holiday arrangements are easily whipped up in minutes after you gather the right materials for an indoor show. Holidays are a great time to force Amaryllis too. Amaryllis bulbs are inexpensive and in bloom can last for a full month of color. Go to Amaryllis Primer and Amaryllis Planter for more information on forcing these and incorporating the bulbs into arrangements.

Amaryllis bulbs can be inserted in fresh greens arrangements
Amaryllis bulbs can be inserted in fresh greens arrangements
'Red Lion' Amaryllis in full bloom
‘Red Lion’ Amaryllis in full bloom-Amaryllis Primer

 

A growing lemon cypress in a birch container decorated with drieds
A potted cypress in a birch container decorated with drieds in Lemon Cypress Christmas Tree
Fresh and drieds decorate a white pumpkin for Christmas
Fresh and drieds decorate a white pumpkin for Christmas

Boxwood is the ultimate green for decorating at Christmas and the classic piece to create with boxwood is a small tree which at a nursery can set you back $75. If you have boxwood shrubs growing in your garden, trim them up and use the pieces to make a great little centerpiece. Try your hand at making this simple but beautiful classic at Boxwood-The Ultimate Green for Christmas.

Boxwood trees are easy but take a lot of greens
Boxwood trees are easy but take a lot of greens and patience

Stay tuned for new ideas on decorating your outdoor and indoor spaces for the holidays in the next couple of weeks as I unearth my Christmas decorations and cut my greens.

Terrarium DIY-Scenes Under Glass

An assortment of terrariums that are easy to make
An assortment of terrariums that are easy to make

Every year around this time, with the outdoors looking so gloomy and bare, I am starving to see something blooming and growing in my house.  Christmas decorating is just a memory and the Philadelphia Flower Show is still not here yet! To satisfy my urge to garden I turn to terrariums.  Terrariums are easy to create using the right plants and containers.

The preparation is simple for a terrarium, similar to making a layered salad in a bowl.

To see directions on making a beach scene terrarium, go to my post at Beach Scene Terrarium.

Beach succulent terrarium tutorial
Beach succulent terrarium tutorial

Step by Step Directions

I like to use decorative rocks such as geodes and crystals in terrariums
I like to use decorative rocks such as geodes and crystals in terrariums
  1. Lay 1 inch of pebbles into base of container
  2. Add 1 T of horticultural charcoal to the bottom layer and mix in

    Horticultural charcoal
    Horticultural charcoal
  3. Add 2 inches of potting soil and tamp lightly, creating hills and valleys for interest
  4. Dig hole in soil; Plant largest plants first and continue with smaller plants
  5. Brush off sand or soil caught on leaves with soft brush
  6. Water plants lightly, trying to wash off any leftover soil on leaves
  7. Carpet the surface of a woodland terrarium with green moss and spray with water lightly, or if doing a succulent terrarium, add play sand or decorative gravel to surface to cover soil
  8. Add accessories; stepping stones, miniatures, decorative rocks, etc., long handled tweezers are helpful
  9. Water the entire terrarium, being careful to not drench plants using a small watering can or meat baster

For a fascinating account of a man in England who has had a terrarium since 1960, and stopped watering it in 1972, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267504/The-sealed-bottle-garden-thriving-40-years-fresh-air-water.html

His terrarium is still thriving!

Steps for creating a woodland terrarium
Steps for creating a woodland terrarium

Care

  • Place woodland terrariums in filtered light and if covered, water infrequently by first checking soil moistness with finger
  • If woodland terrarium is open, water every couple of weeks by first testing soil moistness; mist plants for extra humidity
  • For succulent terrariums, place in bright light; water during growing season once a week, and in winter every couple of weeks; do not over saturate the soil!

Containers

Glass containers ready to be planted at Terrain, a nursery/garden center
Glass containers ready to be planted at Terrain, a nursery/garden center

I look for clear glass containers everywhere that I shop.  Tuesday Morning, Target, Crate and Barrel, Michaels, and pet stores are just a few places that have suitable containers. I look for a container that is taller than wide, to provide sufficient room to place growing medium and allow plants room to grow. A lidded container is ideal for those plants that require a moist, humid environment such as ferns and mosses, and for succulents a drier environment is needed, so no lid is required.

Terrarium container ideas
Terrarium container ideas

Drainage

Because terrarium containers have no drainage holes, you need to provide some kind of drainage system. Gravel is the best option, but because the container is a closed system, be very careful of how much you water. Always stick your finger down into the soil to assess how moist it is, before adding water. Excess water will kill off your plants faster than any other kind of neglect. Keep succulents on the dry side but mist your ferns in a woodland container.

Horticulture Charcoal

The addition of horticultural charcoal keeps your soil sweet, absorbs impurities, and improves drainage. Mix in at least a tablespoon to your gravel before adding your soil.

Planting Medium

Use basic potting mix unless you are creating a desert scene with succulents and cacti.  For a desert terrarium, use a potting mix made just for cacti/succulents which has lots of grit and gravel added.

Splitting Up a Plant

Planting

Select from 3 to 5 different small plants that are suitable for terrariums.  Go to http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/terrarium-plants.htm for some helpful hints on plant selections.  I head to a nursery/garden center and look for small plants with interesting leaf shapes, textures, and colors. Be careful to use plants with similar growing needs.  Select both tall and shorter plants for variety.  Arrange your plants in the terrarium until you get a pleasing combination and plant carefully, keeping the soil away from the sides of the terrarium.  Sometimes, I split up my plants to make them a little smaller, saving the extras for another terrarium. Shaking off some of the potting soil, makes the plants fit in better. Finish up with a layer of sheet moss or gravel to hide the soil.

Planting Your terrarium

Accessorize

Add some miniatures like small bird baths,  resin animals, or interesting driftwood or rocks.  For Christmas, I add small glass balls and miniature plastic snowflakes for color. Great sources of miniatures are garden centers that carry fairy accessories, Christmas ornaments, craft stores, and doll house stores or online. I always look at the small villages that stores have set up for Christmas, like Department 56, for unique miniatures that you can landscape your terrarium with.

Ready to Accessorize

For a hands on workshop, creating your own masterpiece, come to the Rawlings Conservatory.

Rawlings Conservatory

Fairytale Christmas

It seems that Christmas decorating goes hand in hand with miniature gardening. For the frustrated gardener who looks outside and there is snow on the ground, there are lots of indoor gardening options.

Miniature Railroad Gardens

Trains in a miniature train garden landscape with real plants
Trains in a miniature train garden landscape with real plants

Train gardens, miniature landscapes, or edible gingerbread ones, are great subjects for using your gardening and landscaping skills to make the holidays come alive. You can’t garden outdoors, so the next best thing is to garden on your windowsill.

When I make my gingerbread house each year, it usually has a garden theme.  I have done potting sheds, farm scenes, three little pigs, Hagrid’s house with his pumpkin patch, and topiary gardens. I saw some good examples of landscaped Gingerbread houses at The Festival of Trees this year.

Gingerbread farm
Gingerbread farm
Gingerbread house with garden
Gingerbread house with garden

fairy gardens

Mini train garden at Philadelphia Flower Show
Mini train garden at Philadelphia Flower Show

Train gardens are fun to put together with live plants, or make use of the life-like colored foam for bushes and trees… a lot less care!

Basket Gardens

After spotting a Christmas miniature garden at a local nursery, I was inspired to create some fairy gardens as Christmas presents, but on a smaller scale. Shopping for plants, buying little miniatures, flaky snow, gravel, and moss was fun, but the best part was putting them together. Go to my post on basket gardens for Christmas at Mini Garden in a Basket for the ultimate gift for a gardener. For miniatures, I search the Christmas ornament aisles at a local craft store. I found this perfectly scaled snow man for a garden.

Garden in a Basket
Garden in a Basket
Mini snow man
Mini snow man

Dish Gardens

I love the dish gardens decorated for Christmas with balls, glittery gravel, and mini Christmas trees. When Christmas is over, you can remove these things and substitute spring miniatures to get you ready for spring. I replace with bird baths, benches, tiny turtles and frogs, and watering cans.

Mini dish Christmas garden
Mini dish Christmas garden

Box Gardens

The hardest part is finding a wide shallow container, and in searching for the perfect container, I spied clementine boxes and found them the right size for a small landscape. Look for the wooden ones- not cardboard. Already prepped with drainage holes in the bottom, the only thing left was to remove some labels off the ends, and cover all four sides with hot-glued sheet moss. I have had one of these planted for about 2 years, so they do hold up.

Mini garden in clementine box
Mini garden in clementine box

The big box stores are full of small houseplants for landscaping. Sometimes, I buy a larger multiple plant and split it up among different gardens. The pink polka dot plant in the right hand corner and the mini sheffalaria on the left are some of my favorites. The polka dot gives foliage color and the sheffalaria gives some height for the garden. The above garden also has a miniature conifer, a seedling lavender, and a creeping ajuga. As these plants grow, I will trim them back to keep them neat and tidy. In the summer, I will transplant the lavender and ajuga as they outgrow the space, to the outdoor garden and fill in the box garden with something else. These mini gardens are not static and need to have plants trimmed or reused somewhere else, to keep them maintained to a miniature size.

Bird Bath Gardens

Mini garden in bird bath
Mini garden in bird bath

Bird baths are a great opportunity to plant mini gardens in the winter also. I saw this example at a local nursery.

Globe Gardens

For the gardening challenged, these enclosed globe gardens are perfect! Low maintenance,  and they last for months and months with minimal care. Hang them up in a window with fishing line so you can enjoy them. Go to Green Up Your Winter With a Terrarium to see some more examples of terrariums and how to create a unique one.

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More Ideas

Go to Creating Fairy Gardens for more ideas on dish, outdoor gardens, and terrariums.

Dish garden with gnome
Dish garden with gnome

For directions on Gnome Homes, go to Home for a Gnome.

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