Using Native Plants to Make Holiday Containers

Creating holiday decorations is one of my favorite tasks, once Halloween is over. For several years now I have been using the native plants in my backyard to create holiday arrangements for my church, my home, and as a selling item to my landscape customers. Creating these native arrangements is a labor of love for me; Let me show you how to do it.

If you have a good helper, you can get the collecting done in no time at all!

Collecting materials is the first thing to do. I like to collect stems of native dogwoods first. Roughleaf dogwood Cornus drummondii cut in 3 to 4 foot lengths and Swamp or Silky dogwood Cornus ammomum cut to 3 to 4 feet. I like to paint the roughleaf dogwood gold or silver, leaving the bright red tips natural. Silky dogwood is typically brown in the summer while growing, but turns a brilliant scarlet in winter, after freeze up.

Coralberry berries are held in a tight cluster on the plant, making them great for holiday arrangements

After collecting dogwoods, I gather other materials as well. Coralberry Symphoricarpos orbiculatus in 2 foot lengths with berries, 2 to 3 foot branches of Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana, 2 foot branches of Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus –Not native but introduced and easy to find, 2 foot branches of Blue Spruce Picea abies –Also not native but easy to find, pinecones, and seedstalks of mullein foxglove Dasistoma macrophylla which can be left alone or painted silver to achieve a little silver bells look.


The containers that I put together have soil in them from the summer; I like to use the soil as a medium for holding stems upright and together. If you have empty containers, you could use floral foam or potting soil for this.

Start with dogwoods first. Here you see both red and yellow stemmed dogwoods

Start with the tallest stems-dogwoods. Place anywhere from 8 to 20 stems upright in the middle or mid-back of the container, pushing them into the media at least 8 inches.  You can arrange these in a tight cluster or fan them outward from the center.

Second, layer together your greens

Next, start layering in your different evergreens around the dogwoods. I like to start with finer leaves such as the cedar and alternate back and forth between fine and coarse textures.  I also create a layered effect with the branches, cutting them shorter as needed until the whole surface is covered.

Add in your berries and bells

Add in the coralberry and mullein bells next. Cluster several stems of coralberry together and place them strategically around the container. Add a few stems of silver painted mullein foxglove and you are almost there!

Finish with pinecones and a homemade bow!

With the pinecones, I like to wire them together in a cluster or 6 or 8 using floral wire, them attach or set them into the container to fill holes.


Add a colorful, handmade bow, and you are finished!



NOTE: Do not cut native plants from private yards and lands. Public places such as state parks, local lakes and forests, and private properties with permission are allowed. ALWAYS get permission first before cutting anything!


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