gardening swag

Late fall and early winter is one of the best times to harvest for seasonal beauty.

“For nature gives to every time and season, some beauties of its own.”

— Charles Dickens

How lucky are we who live in a place that gives us four seasons. As gardeners we love them all — for different reasons, of course.

We are all so eager for spring when everything is new again: Birds return, flowers are in bud, trees are leafing out.

Then summer, with its very warm days, helping everything grow, from lovely flowers to fresh veggies and herbs in your garden.

When fall arrives, we switch to harvest mode before putting that productive garden to bed.

Then winter! Some people think there is little to do in the garden, but we know different.

Late fall and early winter is the time to harvest for seasonal beauty. We love to change our pots out front to reflect the season; to create a wreath or swag for the door; to bring the outside in and put it on the table as a wonderful centerpiece.

So much of these can be found right in your yard. Do you have twigs with interest, such as Corkscrew willow, Red or Yellow Twig dogwood, or twigs with lichen growing on them? Check the heads of many of your perennials such as Autumn Sedum, and ornamental grasses. Did you dry the seed pods of poppies or Love in a Mist this summer? They are beautiful in a fall/winter bouquet. And how about filling a bowl for the table with pine cones, acorns or chestnuts? Do you still have beautiful dry leaves in the yard to surround that bowl? Look around for a bird’s nest to make a part of your creations. The birds aren’t using them anymore.

What about greenery that you could use to dress up your home? Long swags can be made by attaching conifer cuttings to a long wire. We have wonderful choices of conifers in our area. Holly can be clipped and laid on the mantel, and a bouquet of a variety of other greens such as boxwood can be formed into a “bouquet” and tied with ribbon as a swag for your door.

Keep in mind about where you make your cuts to bring inside. Think about this as shaping your landscape plants so that you don’t damage the look of them come spring. This could even be incorporated into your annual winter pruning, and just using the cutting that works for your project.

If you do not have enough in your own yard, take note of where you might be able to collect. Does your neighbor’s pine tree shed cones on the sidewalk or alley? Are there people in your neighborhood doing some pruning? Maybe they would share the cuttings instead of sending it all to the landfill. You might be able to collect in the wild, but this requires learning just where you can and cannot take from.

All gardeners love the outdoors, and when it is difficult to go to nature, bring it in to your home to enjoy. Don’t be intimidated by thinking you are not creative. Go online and look up ideas to use all those natural materials. Invite some friends or family to join you around your table, ask them to bring material to share also and make a party out of it. Make this year the first of many to come as you get ready to celebrate the wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is an organization of trained volunteers dedicated to horticulture and community service. The Master Gardener Walk-In Diagnostic Clinic operates from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Direct questions about gardening, landscaping or this program to the Master Gardener Clinic at 509-574-1604, or leave samples for identification at the WSU Extension office. Leave a message with your name, phone number, email address and the nature of your problem or question. You can also email your questions to and include pictures if you have them. A member of the Master Gardener Clinic team will check voicemails and emails, and reply as soon as possible. The WSU Extension office is at 2403 S. 18th St., Suite 100, in Union Gap. Call 509-574-1600. New volunteers are welcome.