Well, we have been extremely busy here at "The Farm" and I am just now getting around to concentrating on decorating the house for Christmas! The gardens have all been put 'to bed' and the activity around the online shop has slowed down a bit, so I am able to start getting everything decorated; all ready for when the grandchildren come over Christmas morning. We usually have a big Christmas party every year but this year with all of the stress and uncertainty, we have decided to have a quiet Christmas season. I don't know about around the country, but here in Delaware, we are experiencing some very cold weather very early in the season. I am very glad that I have already put the gardens to bed for the winter as we have been below freezing for the last couple of weeks and although the ground is not completely frozen yet, it is cold enough that the plants are ready for hibernation until spring. To put my gardens to bed, I do two things: 1). cut down all green herbaceous material from my perennials and 2). make sure the beds are covered with either leaf mulch or bark mulch. Leaf mulch is much better for your gardens as it provides not only warmth and stability to the winter soil but also is full of carbon and microorganisms that are good for your plants. Bark mulch will do if you don't have enough leaf mulch but don't make it a habit to just add bark mulch each year. It is expensive and not as good for your soil as leaf mulch. How to get leaf mulch, you ask? Your own trees will provide a lot of the leaves necessary for mulch and if your trees are not big enough then do what I do! Provide an environmentally-savy pick-up of bagged leaves from your friends, family and neighbors! When you see those people out in their yards each fall, raking up their wonderful leaves and putting them in big green bags for the trash truck - offer to take the leaves instead! Use them as free mulch on your gardens and you will not only add nutrients to your soil but you will be keeping those big green bags out of the landfill! I know it sounds crazy but I have great soil and most of it is thanks to the help of friends, and yes, sometimes strangers who give me their raked up leaves when I stop by their front yards as they are raking and offer the 'take those nasty leaves off their hands'! Fallen leaves will not bring seedlings or any kind of new plants to your yard as they are lifeless and ready to be composted. You can either just dump and spread your 'acquired' leaves fresh from the bag or compost them for a year if it is feasible - either way they will provide your soil with much-needed nutrients and water-retention capabilities. I am a member of our local 'freecycle' group which is an online group that offers free items to members that might end up in the landfill unless picked up by a fellow 'freecycler'. Many areas around the country have freecycle groups and it is easy to google them to see if their is one in your area. Several times each fall there are people who will post the need to have their leaves picked up or they will go into the landfill and I am usually number one the list to pick up! The only thing you pay for is the cost of gas to go pick up the leaves. Try it out, it will help your gardens and also help the environment. Speaking of leaves, what a wonderful segue to Christmas decorating with greens! Every year I usually go down to the local craft store and look to see what will be my 'theme' for the Christmas season, but this year I decided to try and find a new theme using decorations from past years. When decorating around antiques, I never use real greens, berries or fruit; there is too much of a chance of the antiques reacting or being discolored by the oils from 'live' decorations. I find that inexpensive silk greens and fake fruits and berries, used in an understated way, can be just as beautiful as real decorations but not as dangerous for your antiques.
Now on to the Christmas Decorating! Several years ago, I bought a lot of these berry strands with small glass beads that were designed to look like holly berries. I got them for about $1.00 a strand, so I bought a lot of them knowing I would use them one day. This year, I am not bringing out all of the vintage decorations or even all of the greens that I usually use, but I am going for the understated look that will still look and feel warm but will not overwhelm the house. I pulled apart several of the strands of berries and then intertwined them with bits and pieces of silk greens to make 'holly sprigs'.The strands of glass berries are twined around the greens and then the resulting holly sprigs can be maneuvered and twisted until they fit quite well within the confines of my cupboards and shelves. Small early miniature treen salts are filled with little holly sprigs and placed in a cupboard to give a little touch of Christmas without overpowering the antiques. Bits of green and red look at home when nestled in with antique redware and painted boxes. An old-looking Santa or two and a tree that uses the remaining strands as garland complete the look for an old-fashioned Christmas on a budget that looks like you spent a mint! As I continue to decorate and get the tree finished, I will post more tips and ideas that I use to make the house joyous at this time of year! Also, some of the items in the pictures are available for sale on my website: http://www.winterberryfarmprimitives.com. I will leave you with some more pics of my decorating thus far and will be back tomorrow - I promise - with a post on the National Christmas Museum in Paradise, PA!