A Green Tradition

A Green Tradition

Do you have December traditions? I do. The first weekend in December is when I start decorating outside. I make a gigantic wreath for my front porch. I pull grapevines from my yard and twist up the frame. I drag out my pole pruner and snip holly and

spruce from the privacy border. I lay everything out on the table in my courtyard and, for the next hour, I clip and twist and create my annual porch wreath. This year, I was lucky enough to do this on Monday, when the weather was in the 50’s! I could barely carry the wreath to the front, it was so heavy. I hung it on the hook and then plugged in the tiny white lights and covered the wreath with them. I added a giant burgundy red velvet bow. I

set the timer. Now, every single night when I drive home, it will greet me, long into the winter months. I didn’t think my husband noticed, but this year he actually ventured out to the courtyard and watched me work. The next morning, unbeknownst to me, he stuck his head out the front door and reported to me “the wreath is still there.” I guess he is paying attention! Next I twisted up a giant swag for the lamp post by the garage. I used a PEACE sign I have had for over a decade. This also is a tradition. 50 degree temps also meant I could easily finish studding the pots on my deck- no frozen soil, what a gift. 

A handmade, Fraser fir PEACE wreath.
For me, this week is “TREE WEEK”. I just put my name on a narrow, full, 7′ tall fresh cut Christmas tree named My Friend Fir Ever. I neglected to pick a tree on Saturday, as our Open House was so busy. I kind of panicked on the way to work this week because my house is old, my ceilings are low, and I don’t have a lot of room in the living room because of the piano. But there she was, the perfect tree. I will take it home, give the bottom a cut, stuff it in a big bucket of water, and keep it in the shade until this coming Sunday, which is the day I will put up the tree. 
I arrive at Natureworks each morning with freshly picked greens and berries from my yard.
Do you ever wonder what goes into making our holiday seasons at Natureworks so magical? I have put together a brief photo-essay below explaining the reality behind the magic. It takes our entire team to make this work- the landscape crews that do the harvesting, other crews that come off the road and do the processing, dedicated retail staff who create the displays and keep the bins filled, and a team of talented designers that put together fresh designs daily. 
The cardinal is sitting in a wreath made of Japanese umbrella pine, Thujopsis, Fraser fir, Concolor fir, Boulevard cypress, and Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca’.
Why do we all love fresh evergreens so much? It is a long tradition that dates back over a thousand years. Imagine living in a time when there was no internet, no newspaper, no radio, no television. The sunlight diminishes. The days grow short. The leaves drop off the trees. Cold winds blow. It must have been scary, not knowing what we know now. Now think of evergreen branches. They keep their needles. They symbolize hope for spring, life eternal… you get the picture. Cutting evergreens became part of winter festivals, including the solstice, the longest night. It is said that it was over 1000 years ago that the first evergreen trees and branches were first brought indoors, probably in northern Europe. Fast forward to today. We ADORE fresh cut evergreens- the fragrance, the textures, the colors. Customers can relate on a deep level, it makes them happy to arrive here and see the real thing happening, just like in days of old. 
Greens of every kind make up our wreaths. Blue spruce, golden arborvitae, and so much more, picked constantly at Natureworks and from my yard.
Why lights? That’s easy. It’s dark early. The sun is not very strong. There are lots of rainy, cloudy, and snowy days. Lights symbolize hope, they light up the darkness. When my husband lived in Germany, the Christmas tree was cut and brought in the house on Christmas eve. The father closed off the parlor and put up the tree, covering it with real candles. When it was ready, the family was invited in. The trees were nothing like our sheared and shaped firs. They were wild, with lots of space between

Freshly harvested grapevines make up the base of this wreath decorated with different pines and Chamaecyparis boughs. Lotus pods and pine cones surround the blue and green plaid bow.

the branches. The candles were lit for a brief time, then blown out. It was truly magical. I have been to one such tree lighting gathering- I will remember it always. Fast forward to today and we have the benefit of every kind of electric lights available. I love tiny white, sparkling mini-lights, but on my back deck I hang a couple of vintage strands of the big old incandescent, colorful bulbs like my father put on our yew bushes 50 years ago. 

It’s TIME to deck your halls with boughs of holly and all that jazz. Not only do we have bins and bins of bunches of individual evergreen boughs, Eliza has created five custom mixed evergreen bunches which she has named The Fragrant, The Classic, The Formal, The Silver Fox, and The Daily Special. I was delighted to discover that she did this! 
This weekend, when I put up my tree, I will also begin indoor decorating in earnest. This is a process that continues all during December. First I bring out all my Christmas linens and start rearranging the top of the sideboard in the dining room, the side table in the kitchen, the jelly cabinet in the living room, the coffee table, pretty much every surface. I bring out my special vases (a collection of ruby red and green glass) as well as my lighted peace sign for atop the piano. My angel chime candle holders, my vintage ceramic sleighs… it’s amazing how I forget every year what I have collected. Each item has sentimental value. 
Vases begin to be filled with the most aromatic cut greens I have. Every room has evergreens- a vase in the bathroom, a vase in my office where I do my writing. I take a few days to put lights on my tree (they have to be perfectly distributed
Do your ornaments make you smile like mine do?
 or it drives me nuts). Then, over the entire week following, I hang the ornaments. Imagine owning a Christmas shop for 35 years, the ornaments I have gathered; Large vintage glass balls, Snowflakes, Stars, Glass icicles. Yet, the ones that mean the most are the silly things made for me by my family of friends and their kids over the years- a yellow origami chicken, a picture of my godson when he was 10 in a festive hanging frame. The felt ornaments my mom made with her knitting club ladies in the 50’s. The plastic ornaments that we had on our tree when I was a child. This tree decorating goes on for a long time because I leave my tree up for weeks and weeks, into January, and I stare at it constantly, all lights off in the living room except the thousands of tiny white lights on my magical tree. It isn’t until after Natureworks closes on December 23rd that I have time to entertain and share the holiday joy with friends and family. 
There are so many ways to decorate. Hang some of our handmade roping on your lamppost and have us twist you up a festive bow. Hang roping around your door and embellish it with pine cones and little star ornaments. Create a tablescape for your dining room. It can be a long and low arrangement of greens in a container with floral foam. It can be tiny poinsettias in individual pots with small pots of greens in between. It can be ivy and other houseplants mingled with berries and boughs. It can be a collection of coordinated vases on the windowsill, all filled with different types of evergreen branches. Don’t forget the Mole Hollow dripless candles. 
Hang a terrarium where you will view it often- a miniature world filled with delight

And don’t forget to deck your deck, your porch, and your patio. I stuffed an old wheelbarrow full of greens and winterberry in my veg garden so that when I wander around the yard, it looks so pretty. I have pots with living evergreens outside my office door and then I stud them with cut boughs where the annuals used to be. Have a now-empty windowbox underneath your kitchen window? Add evergreens and berries and watch the birds alight. Diane brought in a pot filled with frozen annuals and did a great video explaining just how to do this. Click here and enjoy.

The golden Ilex and the wintergreen are planted in this pot. The evergreen boughs were added for extra color and texture. 
All of this decorating activity will help you forget the darkness, the gray days, the cold temperatures. This is what mankind has been doing for a LONG time. There’s a reason for these traditions. They are perfectly in keeping with the cycle of the seasons, the unfolding of yet another year, and the hope for new life to come next spring. 
We are not only open 7 days a week, we are also open Thursday evenings until 7 pm. Tune into Facebook Live this week at 4 pm and learn how to put together a swag- with a second bowmaking lesson, this time using two ribbons at once! What we have changes every single day as what we sell is created by the hands of my talented staff constantly. I hope that you will make time to visit this week. We offer a relaxed break in your days, a chance to get grounded, tune in, and truly enjoy what the natural world has to offer in December. 
I look forward to seeing you…