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Pacific Northwest | November 28, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineNovember 28, home Home delivery

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Junipers aren't all monolithic, prickly blobs of dark green, as shown by the low-sprawling, elegantly colored Juniperus conferta 'Silver Mist.' The most intense silvery blue of all the junipers, its white-banded branches appear bicolored, the tips looking as if just gilded by frost. A cultivar of shore juniper, it is salt-tolerant, stays under a foot tall and makes an ideal groundcover in tough situations.

Deck the Halls
and everything else with mosses and pods, boughs and blooms

A lavish bouquet from Fleurish features Granny Smith apples, smokebush, 'leonidas' rose, hydrangea, cymbidium orchid and hypericum berry.

THIS IS THE FIRST holiday season I can remember when I can't step out into my garden to cut boughs of evergreen magnolia, andromeda thick with pink buds, strawberry tree and the last of the roses. For many of us, decorating starts with what is available in our own gardens, but mine on Whidbey Island is still a work in progress — meaning a sea of mud. That has left me dependent on florists and nurseries for decorating fodder. Fortunately, I've found an inspiring array of possibilities that are affordable (more or less), often classier than home-clipped, and far more varied than most of us can grow in a single garden.

I started at Fleurish, where Nisha Kelen creates arrangements using the sexiest and most fragrant of flowers mixed with mossy branches, pods, cones, leaves and other natural materials gathered from gardens and nature. No bouquets of mums or carnations here. The day I visited, pots held splays of ruby-red twig dogwood, branches encrusted with lichen, and plenty of curly willow. A huge bowl held dozens of dazzling patterned gourds, many looking more like Al Capp's cartoon-critter the Shmoo or toy rocket ships than anything that grows out of the ground.

For Holiday Inspiration

Many nurseries stock fresh greens, and some have wreath-making machines and offer classes in holiday crafts. Call Fremont Gardens (206-781-8283) or Emery's Garden in Lynnwood (425-743-4555) for their wreath-making schedules. Other sources:

Greens Galore: Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Graham Visitors Center at the Washington Park Arboretum, 2300 Arboretum Drive E. in Seattle.

Fleurish: Open by appointment, 1308 E. Union St., Seattle, 206-322-1602.

Lavender Heart: 2812 E. Madison St., Seattle, 206-568-4441.

For the holidays, Nisha anticipates arranging the dogwood with a cuff of red or white amaryllis. She'll weave garlands of magnolia, pepper berry, seeded eucalyptus and large-leafed variegated ivy for a textural medley that will last far longer than the traditional cedar. She twists evergreen magnolia into wreaths so that both the shiny green leaves and their sueded brown undersides show, tucking in white gardenia blossoms for fragrance. For a centerpiece, she might use ivory pillar candles in varied heights, swaddled in seasonal foliage studded with pomegranates, walnuts and a few flowers, easily replenished to keep them fresh through the season.

For a special party or Christmas Eve, she'd surround the candles with tightly clustered roses in tone-on-tone reds, using the deep oxblood-colored 'Black Beauty' and 'Black Magic' as well as 'Intuition,' a South American rose with garnet stripes on crimson petals. Kelen adds produce such as artichokes and firm pears to arrangements, all made more exotic by her favorite Cymbidium orchids, a richly colored mocha marked with a burgundy throat. While fresh flowers may seem like a luxury in the dead of winter, by the time December 21st rolls around with its scanty 8½ hours of daylight, orchids and red roses may well seem essential.

If, like many gardeners, you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can draw on the bounty from dozens of Arboretum Foundation members' gardens at Green Galore next Saturday. The Arboretum Visitors Center will smell spicily of Christmas, overflowing with a wide array of evergreens, freshly cut from local gardens. Boughs and bunches will be sold by the pound, garlands by the foot, with bins of cones, swags and berried branches. Among the best-sellers are wreaths of dried hydrangeas and bird-feeder wreaths with suet, seeds and berries to delight the winged ones. Foundation members will be on hand to share ideas on combining it all into wreaths, swags and centerpieces.

If you prefer faux to fresh, no one does it better than Holly Henderson at Lavender Heart, who takes a collage approach to holiday decorating. She carries an inspired mix of dried and fresh embellishments, including cinnamon sticks, natural mosses and chunky mixtures of spruce-scented pods. This season she's enthused about faux boughs of long-needled pine and rosemary branches, perfect to twine about on mantelpieces or buffets, or display in red blown-glass vases. You'll also find wreaths and topiary made of dried mustard, rose hips, pussy willow and other materials you'd never imagine could be so lovely.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.


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