Holiday Decorations

Step-by-step guide to making all the holiday decorations in our Native Bright story.

Cape Cod and the Islands are fertile territory when it comes to finding natural materials for holiday decorations. We are especially lucky when it comes to evergreens like Juniper, Arborvitae, White Pine, Spruce, and Fir, which thrive in the Cape Cod landscape. Both native and exotic (or imported) species are so abundant that you can decorate your house from top to bottom with materials plucked from your own—or a neighbor’s—backyard.

And then, of course, there is holly. Cape Cod is a holly belt and our woods are full of wild American holly,Ilex opaca, which fruit with glorious abandon. Unfortunately, Ilex opaca does not last very long in cut arrangements or decorations—so we usually leave our native holly bushes and trees as landscape adornments and turn to imported varieties like the ever-reliable Ilex x meserveae for cuttings. Our favorite imported hollies are the Blue Prince and Blue Princess varieties. This year (2013) seems to be especially good for all kinds of holly fruiting; the bushes around our house are heavy with berries.

Evergreens—like native Juniper, Cedar, and White Pine—will survive for more than a month after cutting, making these tough species a great choice for holiday decorations that you can make before Thanksgiving and leave in place through New Year’s. Arborvitae is another good choice; lots of varieties are covered in small pinecones right now, which can add a lovely texture to your decorations.

Speaking of texture, before you clean out your perennial gardens this fall, save any interesting dried flowers or foliage to add an artistic flair to any decoration. As you can see from our story, Native Bright in Cape Cod LIFE’s November/December issue, dried Allium flowers can look like starbursts and dried lavender adds a quintessential Cape Cod beauty (and scent!) to any arrangement or decoration.

Below is a step-by-step guide to making all the holiday decorations in our Native Bright story. Feel free to email me at with any questions, or suggestions, and we will share your thoughts with our readers, Happy Holidays! ~ Susan Dewey, Editor

Hydrangea Wreath with Blue Fir, Juniper, Dried Lavender & Starfish

(Page 38)

Nature Bright

To learn how to make a hydrangea wreath, please refer to the blog story on this website entitled “Creating A Simple Hydrangea Wreath for Year-round Beauty” which gives photos and instructions.

When the wreath is complete, you are ready to decorate it for the holidays. You will need the following supplies:


  • Thin wire (green coated floral wire is best; you can find it locally at Country Garden in Hyannis.)
  • Four to six starfish (available at Harvest of Barnstable and other local shops that carry shells)
  • Dried lavender (If you do not grow lavender, you can purchase it at local nurseries and craft shops as well as at Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich
  • Juniper (cut sprigs with berries)
  • Blue Fir
  • Silver or gold, wired ribbon

Once you have made your wreath, decide on an overall layout for decorations. In my experience, it is good to have three separate focal points arranged in a triangular pattern. On this wreath, the focal points are the hydrangea with two starfish grouping at the top of the triangle, supported by the lower left-hand single starfish with lavender and the lower right-hand bow.

Build your wreath enhancements around this triangle, adding in sprigs of Juniper, Blue Fir, more lavender bunches, and other shells if you wish.

The lavender bunches are wired together with floral wire, or picture hanging wire. If you have a small drill, you can drill holes in the starfish and wire each shell around the wreath. It is not necessary to wire in the evergreens and lavender unless you want to keep this wreath long past the holidays. (The wreath I made two years ago for my blog is still vibrant on my office door!)

For a more colorful wreath, use small bunches of wired holly, instead of lavender, sprigs of white pine and a more colorful bow.

This wreath lasts best indoors; it is a great addition to a kitchen or a bathroom all year-round!

Vintage Holiday Tablescape

(Pages 40-41)

Nature Bright

This tablescape features some family treasures—silver candlesticks, napkin rings, bowls and baby cups, and a vintage lace tablecloth—and natural treasures such as pinecones, dried Allium heads, sprigs of Hinoki cypress, and American Arborvitae, and pinecones of all shapes and sizes.

To create the tablescape, start with the centerpiece of candle holders surrounded by randomly placed cups and bowls. Fill the bowls with evergreen sprigs and pinecones and place the Allium flowers on top of the baby cups. Pinecones—surrounded by evergreens—are placed in a natural pattern around the bowls and cups—this design should look free form and relaxed. The touch of silver (pewter is good too!) adds a festive glimmer.

Cloth napkins in complementary colors can be wrapped in napkins rings and decorated with evergreen or holly sprigs.

For the finishing touch, spot glue a starfish atop your largest pinecones on the candleholders.

If you do not have dried Allium flowers, this design also works with dried Hydrangea, baby Kale plants, and small pumpkins atop the cups, or small bowls!

Antique Find Decorations

(Page 42)

Nature Bright Nature Bright

Brass Teapot: This lovely teapot belongs to our publisher’s wife, Judy Shortsleeve. We decorated it with sprigs of American Arborvitae, added a few tiny pinecones, and sprigs of Blue Fir, and a little feathered bird.

The Arborvitae, Blue Fir, and pinecones came from our backyards. The bird can be found at Country Garden, Hyannis and local shops. Cardinals are also available for a touch of bright color.

Blue Glasses with Evergreen Sprigs: These small glasses in cobalt blue belonged to my husband’s grandmother. I filled the glasses with sprigs of Blue Spruce, Juniper, Blue Fir, and Arborvitae for our kitchen windowsill. Another good idea is to use baby cups, or shot glasses!

Bookends with Bow and Evergreen: This couldn’t be easier: add a touch of green, a starfish or two and a bright bow to your bookends bringing a festive touch to shelves. Thanks to our Comptroller, Liz Flynn, for lending us these sweet bookends!


Lobster Buoy Beauty

(Page 43)

Nature Bright

This lobster buoy belongs to the Shortsleeve family; our publisher and his sons like to collect buoys of all shapes and sizes! We decorated this buoy with some seaside touches—scallop shells, a fishnet glass ball and an old fishing net—surrounded with festive clippings of holly, Blue fir, and Spruce all tied up with a coastal blue bow.


  • Fishnet Ball
  • Fishnet
  • Blue Prince Holly
  • Blue Fir
  • Spruce
  • Scallop shells
  • Blue wired ribbon
  • Floral or picture-hanging wire

To begin, tie a big bow out of an old fishing net around the buoy. It helps to fasten the bow with a couple of pushpins on the back to carry the weight of the other decorations. Add your evergreen and holly sprigs in a pleasing, fan-like pattern all around the fishnet bow. Wrap the wire around the base of the clustered scallop shells and wire into the fishnet. Wire the fishnet ball on one side of the buoy, balanced by a wired-in bow on the other side.

This decoration can be inside or out; it is especially beautiful on the front door. Add as many shells as you wish; starfish add a bright white touch. Dried hydrangeas can make the design larger; just wire the flower heads into the fish net.

For more information, contact Susan Dewey, editor, at


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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