Think big when it comes to making outdoor decorations

AKRON BEACON JOURNALDecember 26, 2013 

Whether you want to make like a pioneer or just save some money, fashioning outdoor decorations from natural materials is a great way to go.

Gather a variety of greens from trees, shrubs and even ground covers such as ivy and euonymus. Ideally your arrangement should have variety in color and texture. Make sure the greens have a strong enough structure to give them stability in an arrangement.

If you don’t have access to greenery, check a local tree lot. Often the trimmings from the bottoms of trees can be had for free.

Look for other elements that have beauty or winter interest. For example, incorporate wheat stalks and the colorful twigs of red twig dogwood in its decorations. The brilliant berries of winterberry holly make beautiful accents if you can find some the birds haven’t ravaged, or use less-showy rose hips.

Pine cones are classic accents, but newly gathered cones may still be tightly closed. You can encourage them to open up by drying them in an oven set to 200 degrees.

If you had enough foresight to dry the blooms from hydrangea bushes, you can incorporate those, too. Hydrangea blooms can be gathered when they still have color and either hung upside down or just laid on a shelf to dry in a cool place such as a garage or basement.

Avoid delicate elements that can’t hold up to outdoor conditions, especially if they’ll be displayed in an area that’s subject to a lot of punishing wind and rain.

Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop to keep needles and other leaves from losing moisture, and spray dried materials with cheap hairspray to keep them from flaking and shattering.

Use floral foam as a base if you want an arrangement with a more sculpted look.

Bind greenery and other elements together with green florist wire. Wrapping the wire with florist tape first keeps the wire from cutting into delicate stems.

Use floral picks to extend items that need more length. The picks have wire on one end to attach to the flower or other element, and their green color blends in with the arrangement.

Give pine roping more presence by doubling it and adding embellishments, such as bunches of holly, boxwood or spruce. Zip ties are a great way to attach roping to fence rails, but she recommends covering those attachment points with embellishments such as bunches of pine cones or berries.

Attach decorations to the bottom of a double-hung window by wrapping two or three wires around the foam base, leaving tails about 12 inches long. Close the window onto the tails to hold the arrangement in place. If the arrangement is heavy, you can attach a couple of finish nails on the inside of the window and wrap the wire tails around them.

Don’t have an eye for design? Get inspiration from someone else’s work. Libraries, community centers and other organizations often offer classes, or just search online sites such as Pinterest for designs you like.

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