Sunday, December 7, 2008

Decorating for the Holidays—Beyond Balsam

The following article appears in the latest Coastal Journal edition of December 4, 2008 ( Kim Wilson of the Coastal Journal attended a recent Deck Your Halls class at our Skillin's Brunswick store. As you can see, the class was very ably hosted by Casey Cyr and Sarah Waite of Skillin's Brunswick. Thanks to both of them for doing a great job!

Our classes are held many Saturdays of the year at Skillin's and like this class most are free. If you would like to sign up for class notices and other good Skillin's info just sign up for our email list at!

Here is the article:

A drive through most any midcoast town at Christmastime will reveal the familiar, cherished sights of the season: candles in the windows, garlands and wreaths of fresh greenery festooning doors and windows and Christmas trees twinkling from within. But in addition to our time-honored holiday decorating traditions, there’s always room for new and fresh ideas.A recent holiday decorating workshop at Skillins Greenhouse had the participants “thinking outside the box.” The two young women who ran the workshop, Casey Cyr and Sarah Waite, had many creative and novel ideas.
The staff of Skillins had decorated a number of “theme” Christmas trees throughout the store, including a rustic “lodge” tree, a garden-themed tree decorated with faux flowers and watering cans and an all-white tree, which the workshop attendees all agreed would be perfect for a Christmas wedding.
Casey and Sarah emphasized having fun and using everyday items when decorating a Christmas tree, whether you choose to stick with a theme or not. Some of the out-of-the-ordinary ornaments on the Skillins trees included a tiny pair of child’s Crocs, glittery musical notes, lanterns and a birdcage. Large or oddly shaped items that are not strictly Christmas tree ornaments can be attached with floral wire.
They also suggested using unusual things for garlands, such as faux leaves and flowers, bows and wire-edged ribbon, which can be easily shaped to encircle your tree. Several unique tree skirt alternatives were on display. The lodge tree was surrounded by rustic-looking twine; the garden tree had a “skirt” made of branches of artificial ferns and the white tree was enclosed by what appeared to be miniature gingerbread house trim. Casey and Sarah encouraged participants to look around their homes for unique and offbeat decorations.
Outdoor decorations can be created from everyday objects as well. Swags, garlands and wreaths can decorate fences and railings, trellises, bicycles, wheelbarrows, boats or sleds. Twinkle lights bring the same objects to life after dark. LED bulbs are increasingly popular; they use ten times less energy than traditional incandescent mini lights. Although more expensive, they last approximately 50,000 hours.
Grapevine globes, available in craft stores, can be strung with lights and hung from trees and shrubs to create brilliant “floating” orbs. Berries, greenery and pinecones look festive filling a garden urn or adorning a wicker chair or a bench on a porch or walkway.And as for those candles in the windows, it doesn’t get any easier than the battery operated type that come with built-on sensors to turn them on at dusk and off at dawn, without you doing a thing. Timers will do the same for your outdoor lights.
For a party or special occasion, an easy and elegant way to line your walkway or decorate your front steps is to make luminaries. Any small bags can be used. Standard brown lunch bags work perfectly and are available in other colors at party supply stores. Fill the bottom of the bag with several inches of sand or plain kitty litter, then secure a votive candle in the sand. Once lit, the candles will burn for several hours, emitting a warm, lantern-like glow. As with all lit candles, precautions must be taken around children.
Indoors, there are many ways to welcome the season other than the Christmas tree. This is the time to put away your year-round decorations to eliminate clutter and make room for holiday decorations. Fresh garlands are festive draped over the top of a cabinet or armoire and small sprigs of holly or mistletoe can be tucked behind a mirror or picture frame. Cranberries, pinecones, fresh lemons or nuts look beautiful heaped in a glass bowl or basket. An assortment of different-sized pillar candles arranged on a mirror doubles the glow. Ornaments that have lost their tops or hangers can be arranged in an antique bowl.
Preplanted amaryllis bulbs put on a spectacular show around Christmastime. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs are simple to force into bloom. Simply place them in a shallow container filled with decorative stones or gravel, maintain the water level at the bottom of the bulbs, and wait approximately 3 weeks for a fragrant display. One note about holiday plants and berries: some are poisonous if ingested by pets, so check first with your veterinarian.
These are just a few ideas for festive holiday decorations. As Casey and Sarah emphasized at the workshop, the best decorations are those that you come up with yourself, filling the holidays with your own personal touch.


Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Mike Skillin, Skillin's Greenhouses said...

Susan thanks for the kind words!

Mike Skillin