Sunday, January 4, 2015

Natural Decorations

Native magnolia, fir and gray wax myrtle berries
Natural materials make beautiful decorations. Early settlers to this land had limited resources when it came time to decorate for the holidays and native evergreens and pine cones were the base of many decorations. Non-native materials (like pineapple) and decorative materials (like ribbons) were added if they were available.

This week I visited Williamsburg, VA with my dad and we strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street to see the decorations on the historic homes and businesses that line that street. The creative wreaths are a traditional part of those decorations and they change from year to year – as they did in colonial times, shaped by the creativity of the maker and the materials available.

Native white pine rope, fir, holly leaves
and berries, and juniper

I believe that during hard times, the use of native fruits would have been even more prevalent than represented in this year’s pictures. Materials like dried seed pods from Iris and milkweed (Asclepias) and even sweetgum balls are mentioned in historical documentation.

As you can see in these pictures, dried flowers from the summer as well as dried crops like wheat and star-shaped cotton bolls are used too. These days the various merchants add bits of their craft to make their wreath even more meaningful.

I will mention the native materials that I can see in each.

Native fir, pine cones, antlers
and dried yarrow flowers
Native fir and juniper berries
with wine corks

If you’re interested in learning more about Williamsburg holiday decorations, there are several books out there that describe them in more detail. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to make your own next year. Let your local native plants inspire you!

(If you are reading this on the website, click on any picture to see it larger and launch a slideshow.)

White pine rope, magnolia leaves, rose hips, pheasant feathers, perhaps locust pods

Pine, pine cones, dried yarrow

Grape vine, fir, drumsticks and flutes,
Fir, pine cones, magnolia

Virginia pine and pine cones

White pine, fir, magnolia, perhaps deciduous holly, pine cones

Fir and magnolia with white pine roping
Fir, pine cones, deciduous holly

Shoemaker with white pine cones, fir and magnolia

I think this one has sumac fruit

White pine cones, fir, magnolia
Other than the fir, not much native here

Fir, magnolia, deciduous holly, dried yarrow, rose hips

Dried yarrow is probably the only native here

Chowning's Tavern with oyster shells, scallop shells and reindeer moss

Fir and osage orange fruit (Maclura pomifera)

Dried flowers at the hatmaker's place

Fir, white pine cones, deciduous holly, dried yarrow

Scallop shells, fir, magnolia, deciduous holly at King's Arms Tavern

Fir, pine cones, dried yarrow

Grape vine, antlers, pheasant feathers, fir, berries

Fir, scallop shells, deciduous holly

Pine and perhaps a rattlesnake master relative, beautyberry, oyster

Fir and pine cones

White pine, pine cones, fir, perhaps holly (could be nandina!)

Grape vine seems to be the only native

Pine cones, dried yarrow, turkey and pheasant feathers


  1. Wow. These are some fantastic arrangements! I love the idea of using oranges!

  2. They are all amazing! I am saving the link for next year so that I can make an attempt at such an arrangement. Happy New Year Ellen!