Seasonal Decorations from the Woods
Posted: December 14, 2010
RELEASE: Seasonal Decorations from the Woods
December 14, 2010 - For Immediate Release
Contact: Allyson Muth, Phone: 814-865-3208 E-mail: email@example.com
Seasonal Decorations from the Woods
Written by Jim Finley, Phone: 814-863-0402, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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 to not take too many from your woods. If you spread your harvesting activities, you are less likely to affect the plant's survival. Know too, there may be restrictions on harvesting plants from 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 often finds 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. 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.
Among our native plants that can add a touch of read are crabapples or hawthorne. 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.
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 are 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. In some areas, teaberry with its leathery leaves and pink to red fruits can really brighten small decorations. Don't forget about Pennsylvania's state flower; mountain laurel's elongated leaves are relatively easy to find.
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. Sometimes people "flock" birch twigs to increases their appeal.
So, take 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 1-800-235-9473 (toll-free), send e-mail to email@example.com , or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 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.