Landscape Plants for Holiday and Flower Arrangement Making!

The holiday decorating season is upon us! Many garden enthusiasts enjoy using the bounty of the garden and landscape for fall and winter decorations. In addition to berry laden ornamentals, we have many foliage plants in our southern landscapes that offer beauty for holiday decorations. I recently made the flower arrangement to the left for my daughter’s wedding. In this arrangement (set in Oasis wet florist’s foam) are the following: Magnolia leaves and pods, Arborvitae, fresh seasonal flowers.
Let’s explore the many southern garden trees and shrubs that offer an added bonus for holiday decorations.

Plants with attractive berries:

·        Pyracantha (Pyracantha coccinea ‘Mojave’): The beautiful orange or red berries of Pyracantha make a wonderful holiday display in centerpieces or wreaths. Look out for the large thorns, however, in this beautiful, but thorny shrub.
·        Nandina (Nandina domestica): Nandinas evergreen foliage, as well as, the large panicles of red berries are a great addition. Try ‘Alba’ for white berries.
·        American Beautyberry (Calicarpa Americana): The beautiful purple clusters of berries on this beauty make for an unusual accent in arrangements.
·        Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammerii): This hardy semi-evergreen boasts large clusters of bright red berries in the fall.
·        Possumhaw, or Deciduous Holly (Ilex decidua): Known for its clusters of red berries on bare stems, this example creates a different texture in displays. Especially beautiful if displayed on their own in a vase or urn.
·        Hollies: American, Burford, English, Foster #2, Nellie R. Stevens, and Savannah hollies offer glossy, green foliage and bright red berries.

Plants with attractive foliage:

·         Boxwood (Buxus Americana): This small-leafed shrub is a longtime favorite for centerpieces wreaths and garland. The leaves do have an unpleasant aroma, so this specimen may need to be relegated to only outdoor displays.
·         Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana): The blue or gray foliage of this native Juniper is another favorite of crafters. The branches also have a wonderful cedar scent and produce an abundance of light blue berries.
·         Junipers: Like the Eastern Red Cedar, this example boasts fragrant, short, green or silver-blue foliage.
·         Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunni): The branches of this aromatic shrub have a wonderful blue color and interesting texture for arrangements.
·         Firs: Cut branches of this Christmas tree staple also boasts a wonderful scent and good tolerance of hot, dry indoor conditions. A favorite to create wreaths and swags.
·         Florida-anise tree (Illicium floridanum): This shrub is great when used as a holiday decoration because of its very aromatic foliage. Please soak branches and provide a water source for your arrangements involving braches of this shrub, they are sensitive to moisture loss.
·         Holly: This most traditional holiday greenery staple. Known for its leaves and berries. Available in green, or variegated varieties.
·         Ivy: This vine makes an excellent green for holiday arrangements and is especially effective in raised containers from which the vines can tumble over the edges. Do not use in cut arrangements, however, because without a water source the leaves will wilt.
·         White pine: (Pinus strobus): The soft, green, long needles are beautiful, as well as, the cones. Used in arrangements and wreaths. Cones can be used to create pine cone wreaths.
·         Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): The large leaves are glossy and often spray painted gold for arrangements. Magnolia leaves make stunning wreaths and bases for large decorations.
·         Spruce: Spruce greens are a staple for wreaths. Blue spruce is especially attractive because of its color. Cones are also attractive and can be used to embellish decorations or wreaths.
·         Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana): This native pine has shorter, coarser needles than white pine.

Some other excellent evergreens that can be used for holiday greenery include:

Wax Myrtle
Red Tipped Photinia
Japanese Cedar

Plants with attractive sticks, pods or plumes:

·         Ornamental Grasses
·         Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
Pruning Instructions:
A few things to note about pruning:
·        When pruning bushes with berries, note where the berries are produced. Most berries are produced on last season’s growth. Heavy pruning of shrubs such as these will result in less berries next year, so be judicious in your cutting.
·        Clip branches of any length to shape up the plant. The remaining branch will sprout again, since pruning will cause additional growth from the point of the cuts.
·        Immerse cut branches in water for 24 hours prior to using them in arrangements. Discard them when berries start dropping.

About the Author:

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 25 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites: