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It’s that time of year. Again. How many years have you purchased holiday decorations and stored them away indefinitely? Sure, there are those few memory laden pieces that we bring out year after year and never tire of seeing. But admit it, most of them stay packed away because we want to change things up. Either the trend, color, or the theme changes and we need to go buy more. Right?

I’d like to propose an investment that keeps growing. Literally. This investment is made once to beautify your landscape and offers both inside and outside decor for years to come. The richest part of this investment is the satisfaction you get from creating your own warm and elegant decor, from your own backyard.

That’s It. Let me show you the way……

The best landscape designs incorporate both evergreen and deciduous plants to create interest by way of balance, texture, and color in all four seasons. The following five plants easily fit into any design and can spread wealth and even fragrance inside as well. The best of both worlds I like to say.

With that said, lets first look at Blue Holly...Illex x meserveae

This holly has glossy blue-green leaves that are traditionally a Christmas staple. This holly is dense, can be kept 3-4’ high and wide, or can get 10-15’ high and wide if you wish. The male has insignificant flowers in late spring. Female plants have red fruit, or berries. You can trim it any time of year. I am suggesting holiday trimming. Each year at this time, I cut the longest pieces, reaching into the shrub a few inches so that my cut is not visible. This practice is called selective pruning.

The cuttings can be added to table centerpieces, wreaths, included in the swags as accent, and incorporated into the garland. The longer pieces can be added to the porch urns. (Note: Those brilliant red berries of female Holly are poisonous if eaten...not recommended if you have kids or pets.)

Let's pair that with Rhododendron….Rhododendron maximum

A smooth broad leafed, multi-stemmed, evergreen shrub sure to add texture and density to your landscape year round. Rhododendron, or Great Laurel as it is sometimes called, can be kept at a 4-5’ size, or let go to be as high and wide as you wish. There is one on the way to Pittsburgh that hides a house. Literally.

Planted in mass it offers a windbreak or a natural privacy wall. The bonus is the abundant beautiful blooms in late spring.

The double bonus is cut boughs at Christmas time to add with pines for adorning the stable and nativity scene. The tips make great additions to the entryway garlands and wreaths. The broad leaves offer wonderful texture when paired with needled evergreens. Freshly cut or slightly drying the larger texture adds unmatched interest. **Some substitutes are Mountain Laurel or Japanese Pieris.

Christmas would not be complete without Red Twig Dogwood.

Cornus sericea

This has been my long time favorite for year round interest. In the spring it has white insignificant flowers. Leaf buds open into a variegated white green ovate foliage.

The bark is smooth and flexible. Its growth habit is 6' high and wide, and spreads by stolons; rooted stems that go out and up along the ground.

Not so long ago, I stopped the car and put it in reverse to look closer at the 8’ fully branched STRIKING RED TREE newly installed in a development. I had never seen a Red Twig 'tree form' before. It looked amazing against the tan house. It made me want one.

Red twigs and fir greens together make the most natural Christmas boughs. Cut stems of Red Twig to place simply in a vase or add to your floral designs. I once bundled Red Twigs in 8” lengths, tied them with twine, and incorporated them every two feet or so into my garland of fir, white pine, and holly. Which brings me to my next suggestion…..

Fraser Fir...Abies fraseri

I mention this evergreen tree because it is the perfect Christmas tree. It has an open conical form with space between its firm branches. (Ornaments hang easy.) It’s dark green short SOFT needles don’t scratch when putting up your lights. They almost feel succulent. Fraser Fir can get up to 60’ and is native to eastern United States. It is hardy to zone 4.

Adding a few Fraser Fir (think in odd numbers...3-5) to your landscape will provide height, evergreen needles (texture), wildlife habitat, and most importantly, luxurious boughs for Christmas decorating.

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), Fernspray Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘filicoides’),

and White Pine (Pinus strobus)

are beautiful year round, but at Christmas time, they are as bright as the stars above!

If you are starting from scratch, research and make a plan before you buy. A landscape design is a must if you’re serious about results for years to come. As time goes on and your shrubs and trees mature, your gratification comes not only outside by way of an estate like landscape, but inside as well it will adorn your entry, highlight your doors, and accent your table for years to come.

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