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Beyond Red and Green


Sure, you love the holidays, but maybe you don’t 100 percent love red and green. Yes, they always make a dynamite pairing, but do they always have to be the go-to colors for decorating every year? You’d really like to broaden your horizons, see what else you might do to offer a festive face to the world.

Such was the challenge a customer presented to the design staff at The Growing Place, Naperville and Aurora. “The customer wanted to stay away from the traditional reds and greens that are everywhere during the holidays,” says co-owner Carol Massat. “But she loves mauve and burgundy, so we custom designed this container using a variety of evergreens and two types of eucalyptus that had been preserved and dyed – all natural materials. Then we added some lime green color to brighten it up a bit.

“The key to creating a standout wreath or container is combining different colors and textures in the greens,” continues Massat. “The base for this wreath was Fraser fir because it tends to hold onto its needles better than other types of evergreens.” The designers incorporated other greens as well.

Alluding to the thriller-spiller-filler formula often cited for composing a container, Massat explains, “Incense cedar with its tiny yellow cones at the tips made a fantastic spiller plant. White pine with its soft long needles was a great filler, and the mauve/burgundy eucalyptus branches were the thrillers.”

There were two types of eucalyptus in the design: the tall spikes with small leaves around the stem and also seeded eucalyptus. “The seeded eucalyptus looks like small clusters of berries, but those are the seeds, and it has larger flat leaves that have also been preserved and dyed.”

Joining the Fraser fir and white pine in the arrangements are sprigs of boxwood, variegated cedar, juniper, preserved lemon leaves and preserved yarrow. For textural contrast the designers added shiny rounded leaves of boxwood and the larger dark green lemon leaves that had also been preserved and dyed. More textural interest was provided by tiny pinecones on the variegated cedar and clusters of blue berries on the junipers. The plant in the container that looks like a sedum is actually preserved yarrow that has been dyed a lime green. The hints of yellow in the variegated cedar also lighten up the overall look of the greens and provide some important color contrast. Large pinecones and a mauve velvet ribbon were the final touch.

Designers at The Growing Place like to use natural materials in their container designs. “We sometimes harvest from our gardens, using plants such as dried hydrangea flowers or the seed heads of Northern sea oats,” notes Massat. “But for the holidays we never want to forget the sparkles.”

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Editor Carolyn Ulrich has written for Chicagoland Gardening since its inception. She is a former weekly garden columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and has received several awards for magazine writing from the Garden Writers Association. culrich@sbsmags.com

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questions

I have twelve beautiful blooming violet plants on my office desk, placed 12 inches from a light source that’s kept burning day and night. I water them from the bottom and let the water remain in the saucer.

No matter what I spray, I continue to have gnats and other insects in my soil. I also occasionally start to get yellow spots on the tips of the leaves and then the spots start going down the leaves. What’s going on here?

Miniature gardening is the rage. What enchanting miniature plants work well in a shaded area?

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

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