In Which I Redeem Myself in the Eyes of the Neighbourhood with a Decorative Door Swag From the Garden

The entire block is festively adorned with swaying animatronic santas, flashy light extravaganzas, and colourful wreathes. There are plastic moulded nativity scenes, herds of wire-frame deer, fences wrapped up to resemble presents, and branches stuck into urns and tied around with oversized velvet bows. There are garlands, enough to form a line across the world and back. Garlands wrapped with ribbons, stuck with oscillating lights, and dotted with strange glittery baubles. There are holiday messages written on windows in spray snow from a can, and others spelled out in lights.

And then there is our house, the sore thumb. The sole, cheerless home on the block. Scourge of the neighbourhood. Don’t get me wrong, there are lights — a single, short string of white solar lights that illuminate feebly when and if it does at all, unable to collect enough sun energy through these long and bleak early winter days. It worked too well through the sunny, summer months, announcing our neglect loudly, “Here be your weird, lazy neighbours (or are they hippies? They don’t look like hippies…), too apathetic to bother removing their single, feeble attempt at Holiday participation. There they go. The couple that hates Christmas.”

I got it into my head that I had the answer to how we would redeem ourselves — we would install a wreath! A wreath would make us better than the house with the loud dog and the one that has had a couch standing up sideways on their porch for ages. For weeks my mind was on Project Acquire a Cheerful Holiday Wreath. I tried to buy one, but they were either too expensive or too gosh darn ugly. The one I liked best was a simple twisted circle of bundled, red dogwood branches, but the thrifty part of my brain refused to spend $50 on something that I could make for free, were I in possession of a bundle of red dogwood twigs, or any twigs for that matter. Only now does it come to mind that I could have made a simple wreath from the Euonymous bush out back but I didn’t think of it until just now and I don’t have a wreath form anyway.

Long story short, last night I found myself in possession of a few Holiday Tree clippings. I took those clippings and bundled them together with some colourful Euonymous branches and a large sprig of sage collected from the garden. I held all them together with an elastic and then covered that elastic with a piece of scrap ribbon leftover from a holiday long passed. Is it as good as something one would see in a DIY magazine? Heck, no. It’s so amateur, I was almost too embarrassed to post a photo! In the eyes of our neighbours, will it make up for our general lack of apathy regarding the Holiday season? Probably not.

Still, it makes me feel like I made an effort and it didn’t cost a thing. Done and done. Now I can focus my energy where it really matters: baking fattening Holiday treats!

p.s. I was so enthusiastic about using up every last scrap that I made a second swag for our non-working, totally useless fireplace. I don’t know who I am anymore.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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10 thoughts on “In Which I Redeem Myself in the Eyes of the Neighbourhood with a Decorative Door Swag From the Garden

  1. I am like you and won’t spend a fortune on some logs/twigs/greenery if I can get it for free. It isn’t what decorates your house that makes Christmas, it is what is in your heart. Beside I hate those plastic blow up decorations.

  2. My wreath (a bunch of holly berry twigs) was aquired AFTER the holiday one year at 75% off, so I only paid about $5.
    You should be proud though, your swag is quite lovely and you didn’t have to spend a dime!

  3. Love your article, especially since I was just last evening giving a fleeting thought about the fact that this year, I’m not decorating. As a matter of fact last night was the neighborhood judging of the Christmas decorations. Oh well, I have my buddah in the fron with a spotlight on him:) Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  4. The best part of a live Christmas tree is the left over branches that are cut off at the tree farm. I use mine for a table center. Add pine cones and candles and you have a instant center piece…. A smell good piece!!! Bundle them up and lay them across the fireplace…. So much to do with left over branches

  5. Nice swag! and hah! I had wondered about those solar lights. the led ones seem too nright but I hear some have warm light looks. Yeah, we have never hung lights before. Too intimidating to think about ladders and all. We do have a beautiful and locally grown, from a sustainable farm tree in our window though! I made a gorgeous incense cedar and manzanita wreath for $8 at a local Christmas festival. So proud of myself, but we have yet to hang it on our door (no way to hang it!) and it’s beginning to look sad. Next year will be better!

  6. I love decorations made from natural materials, and yours looks great! I made my wreath from scratch this year, including yanking the grapevine for the base out of the trees and shrubs. I had a old can of the fake snow and some extra glitter so I used that on a few of the less than perfect white spruce branches. Combined with some cedar, red dogwood (no shortage of that here, it’s invasive… I’ve seriously thought about chopping it all off in late fall and selling it at a city farmer’s market, at the prices they sell those bunches for at the grocery store I could probably retire!) and burlap roses I’m pretty pleased with it:

  7. I loath those over the top Christmas decorations. It must be worse on your side of the ocean, I believe. Here in Holland more and more people are starting to decorate the `American` way which is such a shame. One modest little candle says more than a thousand shimmering lights. I like your boucquet on the door. It reminds me of how people used to decorate here, using stuff from their own garden.

  8. I loved reading this post. I have SO felt like the odd-man out on our block over the years – we too only had one strand of lights which got put up, oh, maybe every other year or so! Thanks for sharing. Your swag/decoration is beautiful.

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