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Issue Date: October 2011

Grow For It

Not sure what plants to go with this holiday season? We asked four florists and garden centers for their holiday decorating ideas.
Lynne Thompson

Yvonne Hutchson of Puffer's Floral Shoppes in Elyria and Oberlin estimates that commercial greenhouses devote 85 percent of their space to growing poinsettias during the months leading up to the holiday season. That means the remaining 15 percent of the space is still used to produce flowers and plants that actually have the power to surprise when they're delivered to family and friends and seen in your home or office. Combine them with the original ideas area florists and garden centers have to offer, and there's absolutely no reason to settle for same old thing.

Tara Prior of Silver Fox Florist in Westlake recommends the paperwhite to customers who like a very fragrant flower. She notes that the bulb's pure-white star-shaped blooms — flowers many associate with other spring staples such as daffodils, tulips and crocuses — are nice to display during the holidays. Prior recommends ordering paperwhites and other potted plants two to three weeks before a holiday. "We try to get them so that they have at least one blossom [open] and some more coming," she explains. "But as you get closer and closer to the various different holidays, it gets harder and harder to hold the plant back. So you're more likely to have more blooms already in bloom."

White hydrangeas are another spring favorite that also serve as a nice option for holiday home decorating, according to Laura Mould-Walker, manager of Don Mould's Plantation in North Ridgeville. Unlike the greenhouse-grown "florist hydrangea" available around Easter, this hardy variety can be planted outside once the weather breaks. Mould-Walker suggests gradually acclimating it to the great outdoors by moving it outside to an area of diffused sunlight during the day then bringing it inside after the sun goes down for three to five weeks. "A lot of folks move it into a garage or enclosed porch," she says. "They're not heated, but they protect plants from nighttime temperatures."

Annette Howard, sales manager at Gilson Gardens in Perry, Ohio, loves to give and get wreathes of mixed evergreens studded with fresh apples, pears, pomegranates, even pineapples. The 18-, 24- and 30-inch wreathes, available by special order from Gilson Gardens, can be displayed on doors (they're heavy enough to require a metal hanger) or used as centerpieces. Howard puts one on her birdbath. "It feeds the squirrels and the birds," she says. "They don't ruin the wreath. They just eat the fruit out of it." The fruit, of course, can be removed by hand as it perishes to extend the life of the wreath. Howard advises those ordering before Thanksgiving opt for an 18- or 24-inch grapevine wreath decorated with berries and smaller fruits, maybe little gourds and mini pumpkins. "The evergreens probably won't make it to Christmas," she says.

You could also just skip plants altogether and just focus on a decorative arrangement using four high-end, metal plant containers. Todd Silverman, vice president of Blooms by Plantscaping in Cleveland, creates engaging yet practical arrangements under glass by filling four containers with contemporary or traditional holiday elements such as ornaments, gold-dipped faux leaf stems and frosted faux fruit and using them as a base for a glass-topped coffee table. "It's an interesting conversation piece," he says. "We can do whatever color scheme the client wants." The containers, which come in various sizes, can be temporarily swapped for an existing base or used year-round and filled to change with the seasons.

Finally, if you absolutely, positively can't break with tradition, select a small poinsettia arranged with like-sized plants in a garden basket. Puffer Floral Shoppes' Yvonne Hutchson likes a mix of ivy, kalanchoe and violets. "Pick a poinsettia in an unusual color," she says. The selection ranges from the relatively tame Jingle Bells — a naturally variegated pink, red and white — to counterparts dyed in various colors including yellow and lime green.

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