Life December 2010 When we were on Nantucket last Christmas for the annual Festival of Trees event, we admired window boxes all along the village streets. Our favorite, shown with this story, combined Winterberry with some very small evergreen plants (these can also be purchased at local nurseries). This is very easy to create: just be sure to plant the evergreens deep in the soil. It helps to put a handful of woodchips or some kind of mulch around the evergreens, then stick in your Winterberry twigs for that festive touch of red!
To create a really simple design for your holiday table, just buy a block of floral foam, which can also be found at many nurseries as well as at local craft shops. Soak the Oasis (as it is often identified) for at least an hour. While the foam is soaking, get a good pair of clippers and head out to your yard. You will need a garbage bag full of rhododendron foliage (try to find small rosettes with two-three inch leaves) along with other evergreen foliages like white pine, spruce, fir, or arborvitae. Rhododendron foliage is great for covering up the base of the floral foam and it lasts forever so long as it is misted every few days.

The secret here is to gather lots of different foliages to add great texture and visual interest. Once you have drained the excess water out of your foam, begin decorating the bottom of the block with the rhododendron. Cut a pile of three- to four-inch pieces and start on the very bottom, going all the way around in a symmetrical way, completely covering the foam. Next start adding other foliages, all the way up on all sides. It is good to add some feathery evergreens like white pine, which break up the heavier green foliages. Work until the block is completely covered, except for a small square in the center on the top where plastic green candle holders (also available at nurseries) can be inserted. Once your candles are inserted, cover the rest of the foam with evergreens.

Now the fun begins—start adding sprigs of holly in a symmetrical, but not too formal pattern, around the block. If you have pine cones, wire two or three together, leaving a long tail of wire that can be inserted into the foam. Dried flowers from your garden (Hydrangea, Iris seed pods, and coneflower work very well) can also be wired together and inserted, or you can add seashells from the beach closest to your home. Another great source of shells, dried flowers, and all kinds of items that can give your design or wreath classic Cape and Islands’ charm is Harvest of Barnstable in West Barnstable. It’s usually best to use groupings of three for dried flowers, pine cones, or shells, unless you are using larger shells which work best alone. To add a little punch of color, run to your nearest market or nursery and pick up some red or white carnations, mini roses, or festive colored Alstromeria. Work in the flowers, add a bright bow if you wish and before you can say Happy Holidays, your table design will be complete. To keep your work fresh, place the entire design in your kitchen sink once a week and water it slowly. Drain off excess water, mist the holly a bit, and your backyard beauty should last until Valentine’s Day!

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Susan Dewey is the associate publisher and editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. She lives in Centerville on Cape Cod and enjoys gardening, sailing, walking on the beach, gallery hopping, cooking with fresh seafood, and exploring Cape Cod and the Islands from shore to shore.

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