An Experts’ Guide to Decorating With Holiday Greenery

Design by Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens. Photography courtesy of Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens.

Fresh, fragrant, and festive, greenery is a holiday classic that can be incorporated throughout the home in a multitude of ways, always to charming effect. Recently, we asked four scouted florists and garden experts from across the country to share advice on how to best decorate with and care for these organic elements. From swags and branches to wreaths and paper whites, here they share tips and recommendations for adding welcoming touches to all areas of your home this winter.

Make a good—and consistent—first impression. Jon Carloftis, owner of Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens in Lexington, Kentucky, likes to decorate strategic spots that lead up to the house, and keeps consistency in mind when selecting elements to create a cohesive look. He recommends beginning by placing a natural wreath made of the evergreen of your choice wherever visitors enter your property to welcome them. Next, he suggests putting fresh branches in urns or containers up the front walk. He then recommends placing another set of containers that mirrors the walkway containers on either side of your door. Finally, place the same wreath you used at the property’s entry point on the front door. “It’s all about continuity where everything works together, through color and texture,” he explains. “Start a ‘story’ from the moment your guests—or you—enter and keep it going.”

Styling by Helen Olivia Florals. Interior design by Kelley Proxmire. Photography by Traditional Home Magazine. 

Opt for simplicity. It can be tempting to embrace all of the different greenery and holiday décor options available, but Rachel Gang, owner of Helen Olivia Florals in Alexandria, Virginia, finds that the best designs have a few carefully selected elements and colors repeated throughout. For example, when decorating the mantel shown above, she utilized just two colors—white and gold—and introduced a few different styles of ornaments and ribbon, all of which complement the room’s existing décor, for interest. She also looks for longevity in her greenery. For the mantel she tends to use hardy firs and cedar, both for their beauty and their staying power; though gorgeous, she finds magnolia and boxwood quickly show their age.

Don’t forget to window dress. Windows and mirrors are excellent backdrops for natural greens. The reflected light around a wreath hung on a mirror can make for a magical look, while greens draped around the frame bring a lovely festive touch. When it comes to windows, wreaths can bring a lovely sense of warmth and coziness; to keep the look clean, Gang suspends wreaths in front of windows by looping ribbon over the curtain rod. If you don’t have a curtain rod, she finds that study suction hooks work best.

Styling by Styling The New West. Photography courtesy of Sarah Averill Photography.

Embrace the beauty of bulbs. “I love paper whites because they start the season off,” Jill King, founder of Styling the New West in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and editor of The Scout Guide Jackson Hole and The Scout Guide Bozeman, shares. “You can start decorating with them around Thanksgiving, and then they take three to four weeks to bloom.” They require little maintenance (just be sure to keep the water level below the base of the bulbs) and can be grown with or without soil, and in regular pots or glass vessels depending on your style preference. While just as lovely placed throughout the home in solo pots, King like to utilize them on her mantel, placing three to four bulbs in a large antique container, and then single bulbs in other matching containers to create a grouping. She adds in white amaryllis to keep things interesting, and to create a cohesive look, weaves greenery around each of the vessels as a finishing touch.

Styling by Camelback Flower Shop. Photography courtesy of Camelback Flower Shop.

Branch out. The beauty and simplicity of decorating with seasonal branches always makes for an appealing approach to holiday decorating, says Teresa Wilson, owner of Camelback Flowershop in Phoenix, Arizona. For the entryway and throughout the home, she likes to incorporate deep green and fragrant cedar branches, classic magnolia branches, and winter berries, opting for vessels with some height, such as a tall cylinder vase or a large olive pot. When making these arrangements, Wilson recommends embracing the natural whimsy of branches, allowing them to fall where they may and working branch by branch until you have the height and fullness you’re looking for. While durable, branches require a good amount of water, so Wilson recommends changing it out every few days.

TSG Tip 408 from on Jon Carloftis, owner of Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens in Lexington, Kentucky; Rachel Gang, owner of Helen Oliva Florals in Alexandria, Virginia; Jill King, founder of Styling the New West, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Teresa Wilson, owner of Camelback Flowershop in Phoenix, Arizona. Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens appears in The Scout Guide Lexington. Helen Oliva Florals appears in The Scout Guide Alexandria. Styling the New West appears in The Scout Guide Jackson Hole. Camelback Flowershop appears in The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale.