Seasonal Decorations from the Woods
Posted: November 30, 2007
7 , 2007- For Immediate Release
Contact: Allyson Muth, Phone: 814-865-3208, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Jim Finley, 814-863-0401, email@example.com
Decorating your home for the winter holidays might start with a walk in the woods. Sounds like a surefire way to procrastinate? Well, maybe it is. But your woods are full of traditional and, perhaps, not so traditional plants that can help bring a festive air to your home at no cost. In some cases, you might even help your forest's health.
When harvesting native plants, you should exercise care not take too many from your woods. If you spread your harvesting activities, you are not likely to affect the plant's survival. There may be restrictions on harvesting plants on public land, so check locally before taking anything. If your decorating taste can use exotic invasive or competitive plants, then over harvesting may be to your advantage.
So what might you be looking for? A visit to a garden center at this time of the year will often find many examples of grapevine wreaths. Grapevines are common across the state, easy to identify, and easy to work. Start with one vine, and make the wreath, add more to increase volume. Decorate the wreath with other finds.
A recent walk in a local woodlot found many shades of red and green that could brighten your wreath. Multiflora rose, a commonly found exotic hedgerow shrub, had shiny red rose hips and bright green, albeit heavily armored, canes. Crabapples or hawthorne can also add a touch of red to your decorations. And, if you are lucky and live near a low wetland area, you might find winter holly with its bright red fruit on a dark twig. Bittersweet is another exotic found in forest edges. Its bright orange fruit with light yellowish-tan seed coats that stick out like wings is an easy vine to add to your decorations. At the end of the season, assign these fruit to the trash rather than spread them outside.
Cones, from native as well as exotic conifers, are a logical addition to your holiday decorations. Clusters of tiny hemlock cones and groupings of native Eastern white pine are easy to find and to collect. Other cones include the long narrow Norway spruce, or the cones from ornamental Douglas-fir with their forked seed bracts showing from under the scales.
Conifer trees also provide an easy to gather source of greens. Eastern white pine provides soft foliage that is easy to handle and is quite durable -- lasting through the season. Hemlock with its shorter needles and white bottoms is also an excellent choice. However, it does not retain needles as well as white pine.
A longtime favorite green holiday decoration is Lycopodium, a group of plants related to ferns. In Pennsylvania, Princess Pine is one of the easiest Lycopodium plants to recognize as it looks like a small tree. These plants are ancient, a remnant from long ago, and some of the plants you find in the woods are very old. They spread by surface rhizomes -- root like structures that lie on the forest floor -- as well as by roots. Be careful not to over harvest your plants and they will be there for generations. You can use Lycopodium for a splash of color, as ropes, or wreaths.
Don't overlook simple twigs. Black birch, one of the most common trees in the state, has long slender twigs that can add structure to your decorations. Their deep purple colored twigs and the prominent lenticels -- breathing structures -- that cross the twig are themselves interesting. However, sometimes people "flock" birch twigs to increases their appeal.
So, take some time for a walk in the woods with an eye to brightening your home with festive colors. That walk will pay dividends by providing exercise, an excuse to enjoy the winter landscape, and provide an opportunity to show your artistic talents.
The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management for private landowners. For a list of free publications, call 1-800-235-WISE (toll-free), send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org , or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the Penn State's Forest Resources Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.
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