When we were newlyweds, my husband and I received the classic household hand-me-downs by way of furniture, dishes and even Christmas decorations. Granted, my mother gave me a few of the “good ornaments,” but I was left with mostly what I had made in kindergarten to grace my tree.

Holiday candle

Snip a little off your favorite Nandina to spice up sweet-smelling candles at the holidays.

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Ivy

Fruit bowl

Your arborvitae won’t even miss the few missing branches used with some pinecones to add a festive flair to your fruit bowl.

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Ivy

Christmas tree

Use the basal branches off your fresh Christmas tree to decorate your mantle or flower arrangements.

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Ivy

Blue spruce

Take a trimming from conifers in your yard – like this blue spruce. The smoky blue color is an amazing addition to holiday arrangements.

Photo Credit: Lee Ivy

Four years have passed, and I’ve since been inspired to add to our holiday decorating décor. Last winter I heard a speaker discuss decorating the home for the holidays by using existing plants in the landscape. It really got me thinking about how to spruce up our home for the season without spending much money. Here are a few inexpensive decorating ideas and tips for your home, too:

  • Use greenery cut from the base of your live Christmas tree to create centerpieces and accent floral arrangements. I’ve often used some of this greenery around our Advent wreath, but I don’t light the candles unless I’m right there to keep a close eye on it. (I like Johnny Cash as much as the next gal, but I don’t want a burnin’ ring of fire at my house on Christmas!)
  • Use greenery from your landscape plants to accent mantles, tables and other arrangements. Many of your favorite landscape plants can be cut and used to bring holiday cheer, including holly boughs with berries, pine tree branches and cones, magnolias, Leyland cypress, Scotch broom and ivy, as well as other evergreen trees and shrubs. Be creative! If you’re willing to cut it, it’s got potential for holiday decorating.
  • Take your cuttings in the morning. Fortunately for me, my son is my human alarm clock, so I’m up in plenty of time to get out and start snipping. (If you’re cutting plants like ivy, the stems may also benefit from being soaked in water overnight to avoid drying out.) Remember that when you cut greenery, there’s a living plant left behind. So don’t just hack at your shrubs and trees willy-nilly. Try to make clean cuts that leave the plant looking just as nice as before you took your pruners to it.
  • Remember that as soon as you bring a live plant or cutting indoors, it begins to dry out and can become a fire hazard. Be sure to keep all greenery away from candles and other open flames! I check my arrangements regularly and replace any dried out greens to prevent fires. (I try not to think of this as being a chore – rather an opportunity to do some more creative floral design!)
  • Don’t forget mistletoe (one of my Christmas favorites). How many plants can you just stand under and be rewarded with a smooch? It’s easy to find mistletoe in winter because it dons the canopies of many large trees. But there’s one drawback to using this decoration: The white berries are toxic! To avoid any accidents, be sure to pull the berries off before hanging your mistletoe.
  • Complete your decorating touches with the traditional holiday poinsettia. I love debunking the myth that poinsettias are a poisonous plant – research shows otherwise! Yes, broken stems exude a milky-white sap that can irritate the skin if you’re allergic to latex. But the good news is that the leaves and bracts (the red-colored part of the plant) aren’t poisonous. So don’t feel like you can’t have this holiday beauty in your home if you have children or pets.

It seems that people are decorating their homes for the holidays earlier and earlier every year. And I’ll admit it – I’m eager to get started myself! It’s exciting to think that by using what you already have in your yard, you can really jazz up your home for the holidays without spending a lot of money. And I love the idea of bringing the plants our family has grown and pampered in our yard inside our home so we can enjoy a piece of our garden throughout the holidays. What a great Christmas present!