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Collect branches and boughs to create custom holiday decor

A narrow wooden container is filled with evergreen boughs and decorated with a red bow.
Needled and broadleaf evergreens plus a colorful bow can dress up an existing outdoor container.

If you have large outdoor planters or containers, try filling them with cut branches, berry twigs and needled evergreen boughs for rustic, natural holiday decorations this season.

Feeling creative and frugal? Those traits make a great combo for creating one-of-a-kind, outdoor holiday decorations. And you can find the key components right outside your door.

Adding a few natural elements — like broadleaf evergreens, dried branches and other colorful, natural elements — to some outdoor containers can make great holiday and winter decorations.

Go for the large rubberized plastic plant containers or wooden half-barrels, as clay or terra cotta ones could crack in the cold temperatures during winter months.

Once you've found containers to use, fill them first with some potting soil, then head out to your yard or nearby forest to gather branches and boughs, dried seed pods and flower heads.

Look for needled evergreens like spruce, cedar, pine and fir, and cut small boughs from the tree or shrub. Mix them with colorful branches of red-twigged dogwoods, and bright berries, too.

Broadleaf evergreens such as mountain laurel, pieris, rhododendrons, and euonymus make good choices, too, though these tend to be more tender than hardy and would only do well in the valleys and warmer climes in our region.

Need more decoration ideas from your garden? Harvest bright berries, rough seed pods and green boughs for holiday decorations

With your collection of natural materials, just push the branches and boughs into the potting soil, then decorate it further with colorful things like red holly, snowberry and coralberry. Crab apples and red sumac drupes can add color to your creation, too.

Cans of spray paint can come in handy to coat some of the twigs, seed pods or cones with gold, red or green paint.

And don't stop at the containers! Dress up your front door, fence posts and porch steps for the winter holidays in a similar fashion.

Enlist kids and grandkids to help with your holiday project, too, then place your newly decorated container outside your house on a porch or front step. You can even add some bird seed into the containers, and see who comes to visit all winter long.

A tip to keep festive foil on holiday plants

"When I want to keep the decorative foil, like on a poinsettia, I just cut out a circle on the bottom of the foil then set the plastic pot in a saucer. That frees up the drainage holes but leaves the festive foil." — Paige, via email

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

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.