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Alabama Extension agent leads workshop on using natural items to decorate for holidays

Fifty-seven community members came to the A.W. Todd Centre Dec. 12 to learn about and try making holiday decorations with found greenery and other natural items.

Alabama Regional Extension Agent for Home Grounds Jayne Luetzow led the workshop. She demonstrated how to make a Christmas swag or wreath, as well as a garland and a candle holder, the last of which attendees made during the session.

Six instructor demo pieces were given away as door prizes.

Methods demonstrated can also be used to make a table runner, centerpiece or ornament.

Luetzow said part of the appeal of such methods is that it’s fairly low cost and not overly complicated. She said the most expensive purchases would be basic gardening clippers, string, ribbon, rope or floral wire.

Luetzow said dried or fresh greenery works, though fresh greenery will last longer. She said some parts of a finished piece might need to be replaced over time to keep it looking good.

Fresh greenery, she explained, is likely to last two or three weeks – longer with floral preservatives such as Pristine spray or Clear Crowning Glory solution. She said keeping the finished pieces in cooler temperatures also helps to extend how long they last, as hotter temperatures cause the greenery and floral items to dry out and wilt faster.

Among the tips she shared were to start with five or six pieces of greenery, keeping the largest pieces toward the back. Creators should overlap and hide the twine and wire while progressing through making a piece. Cutting tips at a 45 degree angle gives a cleaner, more professional look. Using items such as cedar greenery, pine cones and magnolia blooms creates a variety of textures, which Luetzow said adds “dimension and interest.”

Luetzow also recommended short-needle and long-needle pine, holly and nandina – the last of which is an invasive species but provides a lovely red accent.

She said she likes to use rope to hold heavier pieces, noting zip ties can also be handy.

She advised decorating doors, windowsills and mantles, while taking great care not to place the finished pieces anywhere they might catch fire, such as near a fireplace that’s in use.

Luetzow began working with greenery and floral items it 2014-2015, learning from her mother, whom she described as a “great florist,” and from her horticulture professor at Auburn University, Dr. Carolyn Robinson.

“I enjoy the creative process of creating decorations with greenery,” explained Luetzow. “Flowers and plants make people happy, and I like making people smile. Materials can include greenery from your yard or around your neighborhood.”

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