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Harvest bright berries, rough seed pods and green boughs for holiday decorations

green bay leaves and blue and purple berries
Andreas Steidlinger/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Use the berries, boughs, leaves and seed pods in your own gardens and landscape to add to holiday decorations.

Snow-covered pine boughs and bright red berries can make beautiful, natural holiday decorations for your home. And you can harvest many items from your own lawn and garden to create wreaths, swags and centerpieces.

You can purchase holiday wreaths and decorations from your favorite local flower or garden shop and you can try your hand at creating your own.

Start by purchasing a plain, unadorned wreath and then go foraging!

Stick to your own lawn and landscape first or ask permission of friends and neighbors to harvest some items from their land.

Take along a small bag or basket and then open your mind to all the possibilities. Hunt for pine cones, berries, small dried leaves, acorns.

This practice might also get you thinking ahead to next spring when you can plant berries in your landscape to have for next fall and winter.

Two different kinds of holly berries grow well here. One is a deciduous called the winter berry. The other is an evergreen holly that is fairly hardy in some parts of the state. Gardeners in the Champlain Valley and lower Connecticut River Valley would have the best luck with this one.

If you grow it in other places in the state, protect it in the winter. They produce beautiful red berries but you can get varieties with yellow and orange berries, too.

Another plant to use in decorating is bittersweet. There is some concern that bittersweet is invasive. The variety known as Oriental bittersweet is the one mostly found in the wild. There is an American bittersweet that you can harvest and use for holiday decorating.

Take care when you're done with the bittersweet and don't just throw wreaths or swags into a compost pile because the invasive variety can start growing.

An easy way to tell them apart is by the color. The American bittersweet tends to have a more orange color.

If you're looking for blues and greens to add to your wreaths and holiday centerpieces, the Eastern red cedar that grows in the Champlain Valley provides that.

Also, juniper produces beautiful blue-green berries which are not only edible and used to make gin, but also are beautiful in a wreath.

For some oranges and reds, try rose hips and rosa rugosa and snowberry. Snowberry is very hardy and produces a spirea-like plant that grows about three to five feet tall with white berries in late summer and early fall. Snowberry even comes in a pink version called the coralberry.

Do keep in mind if you have animals or young kids, the holly berries and snow berries can be toxic.

If you're going somewhere warm for a few months, what do you do with your potted herbs and houseplants? - Diane, in St. Albans

If you can't have a neighbor or friend come in and water them regularly, there's a couple things you can do.

Away for only a week? Most indoor plants will be fine. Because of the low light levels this time of year and cool temperatures, the water is not going to evaporate very quickly from those plants and they aren't growing much.

If you're still spending more than say 10 days away, try these ideas:

Start by grouping your plants together. Grouping them together creates moisture and humidity. And then move them away from a window and into a room with bright light but not direct sun.

Some folks even put their plants in a bathtub with a small layer of water in the tub. This ensures they get water when they need while you're away.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.