Holiday crafts from the forest
Many celebrate the Christmas season by decorating our homes. Local woodlands contain many trees, shrubs and plants that can be used to create decorations that look and smell “back to nature.” With all the pressures of shopping and socializing that comes with the season, it’s nice to take a quiet walk in the woods, gather some greenery, and create something with your own hands.
What follows is a list of trees and plants that can be used in making holiday crafts. Some are easily found, while others may take some looking. But that’s part of the fun. Wherever you look though, please be courteous and get permission from the landowner.
Pines: All of our pine species provide nice greenery for making wreaths, center pieces, and garlands. They also add a fresh smell to the home. Virginia pine is probably the easiest to find, for it is very common in fence rows, old abandoned farmland, and along road cuts where soil has been exposed. It has roundish pine cones that are good craft material. Shortleaf pine is also fairly easy to find especially on dry ridge tops mixed in with hardwoods. It has an egg shaped cone around two inches long. White pine is not easy to find naturally growing in the woods, but it is found in almost any neighborhood as a landscape tree. It has soft blue green needles in bundles of five. It has narrow shaped cones 4-6 inches long. Many cones have resin droplets dried on them that look and smell great.
Hemlock: This one is also a popular greenery plant, but is prone to lose its needles when it gets dry. The needles are small (less than an inch long) and flat. The cones are delightfully small and are usually found in great numbers under or on the tree. The cones are great for all kinds of ornaments and decorations, so let your imagination and glue gun run wild.
Eastern red cedar: Easy to find growing in every fence row in the area. The foliage adds a spicy odor to the home. Try to find branches with the small, blue, berry like cones hanging on them to add color to the greenery.
Holly has been revered and used for holiday decorating for thousands of years. It produces beautiful red berries in the winter that are striking with the green foliage. Holly can be found throughout our area, but is not real common. Look for it in mixed hardwood stands on moist, well-drained, low areas. You’re also likely to find some variety of holly growing in the neighbor’s landscape, so you might be able to collect it close to home.
Steve Roark is the area forester in Tazewell, for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.