For many of us, December brings the holidays, and whether it's Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Christmas that's celebrated, family and tradition are always in the forefront.
To celebrate, we can add some festive touches from our own natural landscape and bring the sense of calm and serenity we usually feel in our gardens inside our homes during this often-hectic time.
Here are some quick and easy ideas using collected branches, seeds, plants, leaves, fruit, and other natural items to extend the garden's bounty into the winter holiday season.
* One of the simplest things to do is to decorate the house with fresh greenery from your garden. Greenery gathered from your own garden will be much fresher than any that you can buy. Just remember when gathering live greenery from your shrubs and trees you are actually pruning the plants so carefully consider which branches to cut and which ones to leave.
* You can use the greenery to create garlands, wreaths, swags, and to add to centerpieces and flower arrangements.
* Door ornaments are quick and easy to make from evergreen branches. Wrap a sturdy wire around the ends of branches of several types of evergreens for contrasting color and texture. Then add a large bow to cover the attachment point. You can also substitute rope or raffia for the ribbon for a more natural look.
* Use winter berries from your shrubs such as holly, pyracantha, and toyon to add to your garlands and wreaths.
* To add unique color to your decorations, attach shiny, red, and gold apples to your wreaths and garlands. Cranberries, citrus, and pomegranates also look great in holiday decorations.
* Gather dried pods, pine cones, dried wildflowers, and twigs and display them in a basket. They can be used as they are, sprayed with gold or silver paint, or sprayed with potpourri oil. You can also put a dab of glue on each point of the pine cone and sprinkle them with glitter.
* All different sizes of candles, from votives to pillars, can be scattered with metallic painted pinecones and branches of leaves to make a decoration for the mantle. * For a simple Hanukkah centerpiece, you can light nine assorted candles (to represent the nine candles on the Menorah). Scatter colorful clementine or other tangerines from your garden, dreidels, and chocolate gelt with the candles. That way, between dinner courses, your family and friends can snack on a tangerine or chocolate and the children can play with the dreidels. * Add some sparkle to your decorations by including glitter or small mirrors. * Use fruit for decorating your holiday table. Pears and small apples are great for spray painting with metallic colors or in your favorite holiday color. * Oranges, lemons, or apples sprinkled with cinnamon or cardamom and stuck with whole cloves make fragrant pomander balls and are a great rainy day project for the whole family. Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008. At Care2, we believe that individual actions can collectively make a difference. Whether you start making differences in your home, your community, or across the globe, we are glad to help you on your journey. Join us today! With more than 11 million members, Care2 is the largest online community of people making a difference in healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare. Join us today!