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Holiday Decorating For Dummies

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Here’s a holiday confession.

I’m no good at gardening of any sort.  No lie.  The flower pots at our entryway and on our patio are consistently a pathetic disgrace from year to year – spring, summer, fall and naturally, winter too.  I’m tired of being a hack in the gardening department, you must believe me.  But the sad truth is, and it pains me to say this but…

I have absolutely no interest in gardening!  Zero, zip, NADA!

There, I said it.  Do you think less of me now?  I do so wish I had a Martha Stewart side – a natural knack and affinity for making my home and garden look gorgeous, especially during the holidays. Sigh.  It’s just not in the cards for me, folks.

But do you know who definitely IS in touch with her Martha Stewart side?  Do yah?  Do yah??

Margaret.  Margaret Harris.  She’s gifted.  A natural.  A whirling dervish of creativity and decorating talent.  She could make a vase full of dandelions look gorgeous, for gravy’s sake.  I don’t think she’d mind me telling you that she might be a teensy bit obsessive compulsive overly enthusiastic about flower arranging.

I can totally back up this claim.

I have seen her (and this is 100% true) – I have seen her on more than one occasion (okay, twice) eyeball grimly a vase of roses at a cocktail party and slyly, stealthily, sneakily slide the vase towards herself, and proceed to deftly rearrange the flowers when she thinks no one is looking.  When each flower, sprig and stem are exactly where she wants them, she slides the vase back to its place, steps back, admires her handywork, and says to herself, “Much better.”

Cracks me up, I swear it does.

This is why I recruited Margaret to give me a lesson in holiday decorating this past weekend.  I just knew she couldn’t in good conscience tolerate me continuing in my wayward gardening ways, and I figured I’d let her have a crack at it just to be sure it got done right the first time.

Besides that, I wouldn’t want her tip-toe’ing over here on Christmas Eve to rearrange my pots before Santa arrived.

So, here we go!  Here are Margaret’s step-by-step instructions for perfect holiday flowerpots!  Take heed of this valuable information, my friends.

First of all, observe this sad and unadorned entry way.  This is what my house looked like before Margaret came over.  Notice where the planters are sitting – see them, alongside the bench?  Margaret moved them to the front of the stoop, to give them a more prominent look.  I can’t believe I never thought of that before.

Here’s a list of all the materials we used:

a 24 inch wreath, a 25 foot garland, bunches of incense cedar, white pine, port orford cedar, 20 dogwood twigs, and 4 faux pine sprigs with glittery “snow,” two spools of wide, wired ribbon and a partridge in a pear tree (kidding, heh, heh – just a little gardening humor)


For tools:

  • pruning sheers and a trowel
  • a bundle of green florists wire
  • thumbtacks and nails
  • scissors and a hammer
  • a ladder

THE PROJECT:

First use a trowel to loosen up the soil in your pots.

Place the dogwood twigs in the center of the container, forcing them into the soil as deeply and firmly as possible. Remember, you will want these sticks to stay put all winter long, so give ‘em a good hard shove down into the dirt.  Use the pruning sheers to trim the sticks down if needed.  Margaret said that since I have a two-story entryway, we needed as much height as possible in our arrangement, so she left most of my twigs pretty long.

Next, begin filling in the container with sprigs of white pine, using enough sprigs to fully cover all of the dirt in the pot.

Use the Port Orford cedar to add additional height to your arrangement, placing it among the dogwood twigs and throughout the pot.  Follow the Port Orford cedar with the incense cedar (by the way, this stuff smells A.MAZING!), filling in and adding height where you can.

Step back, and take a look at your finished container, making adjustments where you need to.  Add a gorgeous bow if you like (wire it down to one of your well-anchored sprigs) … and voila!  

The big takeaway here is to fill it out; for a big look, you need to use a whole lotta’ greens.  According to Margaret, the biggest mistake most people make is that they try skimp on the greens, which only results in a skimpy look.

Next, we moved on to the wreath.

Oh, the wreath, isn’t she a beauty?

When you go to choose your wreath, Margaret’s advice is to never go smaller than a 24-inch wreath (again, we don’t want a skimpy look!) for a standard-sized front door.  Add a beautiful bow (along with some extra long tails, and wire them down if you like).  Use an additional yard of ribbon to hang the wreath from the top of your storm door.  We anchored ours with two large thumbtacks that we tapped all the way down with a hammer.

Did I mention how much I LOVE this wreath?

Next, we added a 25-foot garland around the front door.   (That’s me in the storm door, hi!)  You’ll need to have some nails in place; we used three – one on either side of the doorway, and a third in the middle.  Begin draping the garland by allowing a foot or so of it to drag at the base of the doorway.  We wired the garland firmly, (and I mean FIRMLY) to three nails.  After you’ve draped the garland, and made adjustments so that it’s even on both sides, use your pruning sheers to cut off any excess.  Save this chunk for your porch light, if desired.

After wiring in a bow on either side of the door, Margaret added four sprigs of faux-snowy pine to the upper corners.  I love the look!

We stepped back and agreed that we needed more ribbon, so Margaret added a couple more long tails to the bow, which she wired to the greenery.  She also added an additional section of ribbon across the top of the doorway.

We finished the project by wiring the tail of the garland to my light fixture, along with an additional sprig of faux-snow pine, and another big bow with additional tails.

Are you ready for the finished look?  Well are yah??  I am.

I’m in love.  For the very first time ever, the DamFam’s house is the very first one in the neighborhood that’s dressed for Christmas!!  Whooo eeee!

Obviously, I’m better at shooting food, but I hope you get the idea!  Now, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, head over to Sendiks and pick up the materials for a little holiday decorating project, and tell Margaret I sent you!  Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Leah Damron is an avid home cook who believes in using the freshest ingredients available, and she challenges herself weekly to create meals out of (mostly!) sale items. If Sendik's ever gave a title for "Biggest Fan", she believes she would win, hands down. Leah lives in greater Milwaukee with her husband, three children, and her big black lab, Daisy."

  • dshort

    Thanks for the great decorating ideas. Margaret is amazing, isn't she! I discovered your recipes last week and printed off about 20! The salsa and goat cheese was a hit as a Thanksgiving appetizer and I am making your chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie recipes today for my husband's birthday. Looking forward to trying more of them. Enjoy your humor and unassuming way.

  • LeahDamron

    Well thanks, dshort! You made my day. :-) I just took some of that peanut butter dough out of the freezer for after school cookies. I'm going to roll the dough in balls and smoosh it down with a Hershey's Kiss — 'blackeyed Susans' like my mom used to make!

    So glad the baked goat cheese was a hit! It's one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the nice comments! ~ Leah

  • dshort

    Thanks for the great decorating ideas. Margaret is amazing, isn't she! I discovered your recipes last week and printed off about 20! The salsa and goat cheese was a hit as a Thanksgiving appetizer and I am making your chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie recipes today for my husband's birthday. Looking forward to trying more of them. Enjoy your humor and unassuming way.

  • LeahDamron

    Well thanks, dshort! You made my day. :-) I just took some of that peanut butter dough out of the freezer for after school cookies. I'm going to roll the dough in balls and smoosh it down with a Hershey's Kiss — 'blackeyed Susans' like my mom used to make!

    So glad the baked goat cheese was a hit! It's one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the nice comments! ~ Leah

  • Anonymous

    How about some ballpark estimates on the cost to make us look soooo very beautiful!

    I printed this and intend to check it all out.

    Jinny

  • Anonymous

    any chance of getting a cost estimate? This looks really great and would be nice around our front door!

  • Leah Damron

    Hi Jinny — I’ll double check with Margaret, but if I recall – I think the cost was around 150.00 for all of the greenery, the wreath, and the ribbon? That doesn’t include the twiggy snowmen or the doormat. I saved my bows and plan to re-create the same look this year, I absolutely loved it and was sad to take it all down!

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