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Nandina domestica leaves and berries (Heavenly bamboo) a plant that is beautiful at Christmas time.

Gardening December 2013: Look to the garden for decorating ideas

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 - 2:21 pm | Page 11X
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 - 6:28 pm

Every season I look to my garden for decorating ideas: flowers and foliage in spring and summer, colorful leaves in autumn, bright berries, greenery and pine cones in winter. This year I went a step further.

I didn't have time to cut a Christmas tree, so decided to use the potted magnolia that lives on my front deck. I gave it a thorough watering, let it drain, them moved the 8-foot tall tree into the house. I vowed no store-bought ornaments, no plastic tinsel and no artificial garlands. The only nod to modern technology would be a string of LED lights wound through the leafless branches.

My ornaments were lemons and mandarins. I used grapevines – with tendrils and a few stray leaves still attached – for a garland. I finished it off with tiny pinecones picked up from beneath the ponderosa pines and bits of mosses and lichens from fallen tree limbs on the property.

The tree topper was a sprig of dried money plant seed pods and a few stems of red nandina berries tied with a piece of raffia. It was beautiful.

Look in your yard for inspiration. Decorate with what you have.

DECEMBER CHECKLIST

If you have any vines that need cutting back, use the long pieces you cut to make wreaths. Take a piece about three feet long, make a circle the size you want the wreath, and weave the rest of the piece in and out. Keep adding more lengths of vine until you have a wreath as thick as you want it. If any tendrils or stray leaves are still attached, leave them. I used grapevines, and to have a few tendrils and leaves still hanging on the vines makes them more interesting and beautiful. Decorate them with berries or cedar or whatever you want.

Now is the time to build those raised beds you've always wanted for the vegetable garden. An ideal size is 4 feet by 4 feet. Beds should be 8 to 12 inches deep.

Take a walk through the garden and collect all the hand tools that are lying around. Clean the dirt from them. Remove gas from the lawnmower, and clean the blades. Inspect equipment such as gloves, hats, kneelers, garden bags, wheelbarrows and tools. Make sure they are clean and stored in a dry place.

Clean the gutters again.

Drain water from hoses and coil them up. Water expands when it freezes, so drain it away anywhere it can burst fittings.

Frosty weather is coming, and while you might want to put newspaper or row cover over the lettuce and other greens each night, you don't have to worry about Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and those types of crops. They can take the cold. In fact, they welcome it.

Keep planting hardy items like shrubs, trees, perennials, and bulbs, even though many of them are dormant. They'll get a good root system established before spring and be ready to grow as soon as the weather permits.

Water potted plants beneath roof overhangs – they may not get any water from rains.

If you haven't pruned the hybrid tea roses, now is the time. Don't leave any buds. Take out dead or spindly branches. Remove any crossing branches. Take out old canes, leaving the newest ones.

Plant foxglove, columbine, salvia, gaillardia, cyclamen, snapdragons and pansies.

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