We take Christmas decorations seriously in my house, but I tend to skip over the tinsel and multi-colored lights in favor of a more natural (and admittedly more flammable) approach. Whenever possible, I like to use things from my garden and the surrounding woods and fields. What flora you have around you during the holiday season will depend on where you live, but there are plenty of plants available in your local nursery or home and garden center that can help make up for what you lack. Try incorporating some of these in your Christmas centerpiece this year, including old favorites and a few you might not have thought about.
I live in the northeast where pinecones are plentiful, so I make pinecone wreaths, garlands, and most importantly, I feature pinecones in my Christmas centerpiece. These intricate, woody cones are beautiful in their natural state, but they are also versatile. I like to spray a few with silver and gold spray paint or dip the tips of the cone in white paint for a frosted effect.
Fresh cut pine boughs look beautiful and smell even better. While I am out harvesting pinecones, I will also cut a few boughs to add to my centerpiece and a few more for arranging into wreaths. These add a wintry accent to every holiday decoration, but if you can’t find it growing near you, try looking for it in your local nursery or home and garden center instead.
I grow ivy indoors year-round as a houseplant, which means I occasionally have to put a stop to its creeping vines. My favorite solution, however, is Christmas time trimming. I harvest a large portion of the plant and incorporate it into wreaths and centerpieces, all the while humming “The Holly and the Ivy” and generally getting on my family’s nerves. Ivy’s vining qualities are perfect for crafting simple and ornate centerpieces, where they bring a touch of green and can be wrapped around wires and the other structural aspects you want hidden. You don’t have to trim the ivy, either. For a living centerpiece, stick its pot in the middle of your layout and work with it that way.
Vines are a great alternative to a wire base for your centerpiece, although they can also be used alongside wire for more elaborate constructions. They are perfect for curving centerpieces and bring the feeling of a wintry woods indoors.
My favorite Christmas plant is rosemary. Not only does it have its place in Christmas dinner, but its evergreen-like appearance makes it a great substitute or addition to pine in a centerpiece. I grow my rosemary from seed and keep a few plants in the kitchen all winter long. I even like to sculpt one of these plants into a small “Christmas tree,” but sprigs of rosemary make excellent additions to wreaths and other centerpiece structures. Plus, it smells amazing.
If you are in a time crunch, or if you really love this seasonal flower, poinsettias offer a splash of red and green that bring out the best in any centerpiece. The only potential downside is that the flowers might block your view of the person sitting across from you at the dinner table, so arrange your seating accordingly.
The soft, pale green leaves of sage evoke images of snow-covered trees and add a wonderful fragrance to your dining room. When worked into a wreath, sage offers a subtle and tasteful alternative to the dark green of pine.
The easiest plant to collect for your Christmas centerpiece is a dried branch. They accent richer greens and reds and act as a reminder of the season. Birch logs and birch branches with the paper still intact are especially seasonal and with the right drill bit, can be turned into a candle holder for your centerpiece.
Bright green, waxy leaves, and red berries are about as Christmassy as you can get. Holly is a great landscaping plant all year round that actually brings color into your yard during the colder months, as opposed to losing it. It is also a versatile centerpiece decoration; branches can be worked into wreaths, glued to birch logs, and included in flower arrangements.
Since those of us in colder climates don't see many flowers during the winter months, we can forget about them for decor until spring. However, that does not mean that they can't have their place in your Christmas centerpiece. For inspiration, take a look at the many Christmas floral arrangements sold this time of year. Roses, lilies, and other red and white flowers offer a splash of living color that take the edge of the cold season away.
If you do live in a warmer area, flowers are a great way to celebrate Christmas with plants from your garden.
Dried flowers take some planning ahead, but if you have some on hand, don’t hesitate to include them in your centerpieces. The coming of Christmas and the solstice are can represent birth and emergence from darkness. What better way to celebrate this than creating a reminder of warmer days to come? Dried flowers are a subtle and festive alternative to hothouse blooms.
You’ve probably heard of the succulent called the “Christmas cactus,” but other succulents have their place in your centerpiece, too. Green and red varieties are available in every shade and offer an interesting and creative alternative to more traditional plants.
I think nuts add a natural, woody feel to Christmas centerpieces, and while I can’t always find them near me, they are usually available in bulk at most stores this time of year. The best part about decorating with real nuts is that I get to eat the ones I don’t use.
Remember that spray paint you used for your pinecones? Break it back out and include some festive silver and gold leaves. You’d be surprised how much of a visual impact they can have, and they are free for the taking.
Clove Apples and Citrus
Fake fruit can be very tasteful in a holiday centerpiece, but this holiday season, consider making some clove apples instead. This is a great craft to do with kids, and the heady scent of cloves will put you in the mood to make some Christmas cookies. Citrus can also make a great, fragrant addition, even if it's less traditional.
Creating a centerpiece with plants is a great way to stay in touch with your inner gardener even when it is cold outside. Try using some of these suggestions or tell us about your favorite ideas in the comments section below.