Nature inspires urn-believable holiday displays

: When I decorate my porch for the holidays this year, I’d like to do something besides my usual door wreath and light display. Any ideas?

A: How about unleashing the power of the urn? In a matter of minutes you can create a show-stopping display in a large garden urn that will dazzle your guests. But don’t stop at the front door. Pull a few urns inside and use them as bases for inventive arrangements that will fill your foyer with fanfare or your dining room with glamour.

Outside display

After the first frost of the season nips the Eugenia topiaries planted in the iron urns flanking my front door, I toss the live door décor and fill the urns with wild and twiggy winter displays that last through the holidays and beyond.

Why don’t you try this fun idea on your porch this year? First, clean out a heavyweight garden urn. If you don’t already own an iron or concrete urn, consider investing in one (or two or three). I don’t think you can have enough urns because they are one of the most versatile decorating tools known to man. I’d be sunk without the urns in use constantly, inside and out.

Now, find a wreath that fits the mouth of the urn. How about last year’s door wreath that’s lost a bit of its luster but is still too nice to toss? Lay the wreath on the top of the urn, then fill the urn with long, leggy, bare branches.

I’m a sucker for using fallen branches in my year-round decorating because I love bringing their organic shape, texture and form into my home. The fact that dead sticks are free and plentiful also pleases the bargain hunter in me. But in the winter, I especially love to decorate with bare limbs because they reflect the stark and serene look of nature outside my window.

To keep the branches in place, extend the base of each stick all the way to the bottom of the urn, crisscrossing them as you go so they won’t blow away with the first gust of winter wind.

If you want a ruggedly simple display, you’re done. If you’d like something with a bit more pop, hang clusters of pinecones or ornaments from the limbs of the branches. Or tuck in an empty bird’s nest or two.

Inside displays

Cecelia, a talented floral designer at Nell Hill’s, has created the most drop-dead gorgeous twiggy urn displays for the store. You’ve just got to try out a few of her ideas for a memorable display in your foyer or on a holiday food buffet.

First, Cecelia creates a bouquet of twigs that’s 11/2 to two times the height of the urn. Then she gathers several strands of natural-looking pine garland that features long, wispy needles. She accordion-folds the garland and tucks it in around the mouth of the urn and the base of the branches so that it’s secured yet spills out of the top and sides of the urn. The secret to making the garland look gorgeous is to bend and position it so it mimics nature.

Once you’ve created the base for your woodsy arrangement, have fun embellishing it with picks and baubles. Since silver and gold are so steaming hot for the holiday season, Cecelia created a mound of gilded eucalyptus branches, fern fronds and beaded garlands at the mouth of the urn. She then hung clusters of silver and gold tree ornaments, like beaded pears and apples, in the canopy of the twigs.

To ramp up your look one step further, twist silver and gold beaded wire around the branches and twigs. Or, for a more whimsical look, fill with miniature figurines, like a caroler and Christmas tree, and secure it to a sturdy branch. Then dot the branches with festive ornaments like bells, stockings and snowflakes.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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