Holly berries found along a trail in a Pennsylvania park.

The Nature of The Holidays

Before there were department stores and numerous shopping centers, Pennsylvania settlers made their own holiday decorations. And to find the elements they needed, they relied on the inventory of the original craft store supplier: nature. 

From wreaths and centerpieces to ornaments and garland, the early residents of Pennsylvania used the natural elements around them to create their decorations and gifts. Now, due to recent global supply chain delays, many store shelves that typically flush with holiday decorations will be empty. Instead of relying on stores for your decor or going without, look to your backyard and local parks to supply the natural elements you’ll need to make your own holiday decorations!

Making natural Christmas decorations is a mindful way to reduce waste, learn new crafting skills (or brush up on your existing skills), and add a touch of nature to your home. 

Below, we’ll examine some of the many native plants, berries, and nuts and herbs that you can observe in your local parks and perhaps find inspiration for charming natural décor this season. Plus, we offer some decoration ideas that incorporate these elements!  

Greenery 

A great way to brighten your holidays is to include lots of greenery in your home. Not only will these plants, shrubs and trees create a festive environment, many will also fill your home with pleasant scents. Here are some suggestions when you forage for holiday greenery:

  • Evergreens – These trees and shrubs are found in every continent (except Antarctica) so there’s a good chance you’ll find a fine specimen in your backyard, neighborhood or local park. Unlike other tree types, evergreen trees and shrubs (such as pine, spruce, fir, inkberry, hemlock, and mountain-laurel) do not shed their foliage for winter. Evergreen branches are perfect for creating garland to drape across mantles or hang from arches. Look for broken branches on your next walk in the park. Or, you can visit a tree farm and ask for branches that have fallen from their tree. Most vendors will be more than happy to let you take as many as you wish! 
  • Holly – Except for the poinsettia, no other plant exudes the spirit of the holidays like holly. Although many types of holly are evergreen, most of the species that are native to Pennsylvania are not. So it’s a good idea to forage for holly during mid-autumn and early winter before they shed their leaves. If you’re thinking of making a new holiday wreath for your front door, you can’t miss with a classic holly wreath. 
  • Wisteria – This vine will have shed its beautiful leaves by autumn and winter. Once that happens, it can be woven in a wreath or centerpiece that’s perfect for Thanksgiving decor. Or you can cut the vine into smaller pieces and shape them to create minimal ornaments for your tree.  

Berries

On their own or used as accents, berries are a bright and cheery accent to any holiday decoration. Here are some of the many berries you’ll find throughout Pennsylvania:

  • Winterberry – If you’re looking for bright red berries to use in your holiday decor, winterberry is the perfect choice! This native shrub is typically found in damp, moist spots. Its long branches are adorned with lovely red berries that emit lots of positive holiday vibes. Snip a few branches, place them in a glass vase and you’ll have a lovely arrangement for your dining room table.
  • Beautyberry – If you’re looking for a pop of color to complement all of the reds and greens, turn to beautyberry. During the summer months, it looks like any average green plant. By autumn, beautyberry is covered in an abundance of lavender-colored berries that are a great addition to your holiday wreaths, centerpieces or arrangements.
  • Winterthur Viburnum – Although it begins life in the spring with white flowers, winterthur viburnum  bears deep blue berries by early fall. Soon after, its leaves turn from green to a deep burgundy. This blue/burgundy is a perfect color combination for the autumn months and makes a lovely decorative accent for your Thanksgiving gathering.

Nuts, Spices and Herbs

Nuts, spices and herbs not only provide lots of inspiration for holiday decor, they also help make the season smell and taste better, too! Here are some of our favorite multi-purpose nuts and herbs:

  • Walnuts – One of the most simple, clean and welcoming pieces of holiday decor is courtesy of the walnut. Simply filling a decorative bowl or dish with a selection of walnuts is a wonderful way to create a festive mood in any holiday setting. And the walnuts won’t go to waste as they’re also a tasty treat on their own or baked into your favorite holiday cookie! 
  • Cinnamon – There’s nothing quite like the smell of cinnamon. Not only is it pleasant, it’s also very relaxing. Fill your home with this welcoming aroma by wrapping a few cinnamon sticks together with a small piece of twine to create a minimalist tree ornament. Or you can glue sticks in your holiday wreath to add more earthy tones. And don’t forget to add sprinkles of cinnamon to your cookies, hot chocolate and other winter weather favorites! 
  • Rosemary – We all know that rosemary tastes delicious in stuffing, roasted chicken and lots of winter dishes. But this tasty herb can also be used in holiday decorations, too. Since rosemary has a very branch-like appearance, we like to wrap several springs around a glass votive to create a lovely table accent that’s perfect for the holidays and throughout the winter. 

We hope you enjoyed this look at the natural elements that you can use for your holiday decorations. If you would like to receive more great information like this article, please sign up for our newsletter! Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you soon!