Savannah Valley District

Use Native Plants in Holiday Decorations

Laura Lee Rose, Horticulture Agent

The possibilities are endless when using the woods and roadsides to gather holiday decorations. Thanksgiving and harvest are celebrated autumn gatherings, so we will be looking for things with fall’s yellow, orange and red flowers, foliage, and fruits. Leaves and vines can be arranged in vases and baskets. Native grasses and seed pods can be tied together and made into wreaths, garlands, or left freestanding. Be creative in using yellow, orange, and brown ribbons or spray paint to give a splash of color to the container or basket filled with your harvested materials. Add interest and contrast with fall-blooming flowers in other colors. Flowers that are blooming in fall and can be used for arrangements are hardy ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum, white and yellow crownbeard, Verbacena virginica, and V. occidentalis, goldenrod, and asters. I also enjoy using the spotted horsemint Monarda punctata with its tall pink and lavender bracts, and yellow corolla spotted with purple. Blazing star, Liatris sp. swamp sunflowers, Black-eyed Susan, and coneflowers (Helianthus, Rudbeckia, and Echinacea) also add interest to floral and foliage.

There are several native kinds of grass found blooming along the roadsides and landscapes. The giant plume grass has a dark brown inflorescence as it emerges and widens out to a wide golden-brown panicle. There are several bluestems blooming now too, and they make great fillers in flower arrangements. Sweetgrass or Muhly is just gorgeous in the fall with its soft pink inflorescence. Cutting the grass above the base won’t hurt it, and it can be used tied up in bundles or in vases as stand-alone decoration. When I’m doing an arrangement, I like using grass seed heads with other wildflowers. It is also fun to spray with lacquer or paint to give seasonal interest and the wow factor.

Shrubs and trees which are local native stars are Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica, beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana, wax myrtle, Morella Cerifera, holly, Ilex spp., coral bean, Erythrina herbacea, Hercules club, Zanthoxylum Clava-herculis and sumacs, Rhus spp. Palmetto fronds can also be tied and trimmed for holiday beautification. While pine cones and branches are considered winter greenery, the brown pine needles and cones have a certain harvest festival flavor. It is such a great time to be outside gathering and enjoying the bounties of the natural world here in the South Carolina Lowcountry. We can be thankful for all of our abundant natural resources including plants, animals, and people while appreciating the blessings indoors by using native plants and a little imagination. Mother Nature is a fabulous design partner.

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