Carol O'Meara - Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara – Colorado State University Extension

BOULDER – In the hustle and bustle of holiday prep, sleek, modern styles often grab our eye. Metallic trees, chrome Menorahs, clear glass Kinaras, and silver solstice bells all look lovely as they grace our homes.  But a gardener in winter yearns for green and growing things, so this year, add in a little history to soften your home.

Think past the mistletoe and wreaths. Victorian kissing balls, orange pomanders, woven clove-accented baskets, berry strands, or dried citrus rounds all bring the past forward into our homes.  They’re easy to make and can be customized to work with the colors and style of your home.   

Victorian kissing balls can be formal or whimsical, depending on your desire, and are often hung as a substitute for mistletoe. Though traditionally made from boxwood cutting, any type of evergreen can work. What you use to make your kissing ball says a lot about you – lavender and rosemary signify loyalty and devotion, thyme promotes courage, and mistletoe symbolizes good fortune and fertility.

Before constructing your kissing ball, soak greenery to be used in water overnight. Then take a round potato or apple and tie it with a narrow, decorative ribbon. The moisture in the potato/apple helps keep the cut greenery fresh. Be sure the ribbon is cross-tied to ensure that the kissing ball hangs securely (center ribbon on top of the potato/apple, hold ribbon in place and turn potato/apple over, cross the ribbon and pull it tight, turn potato/apple over and bring ribbon together at top).

Insert evenly sized sprigs of evergreens, boxwood, holly, mistletoe, or woody herbs into the potato/apple until it’s completely covered. Make a starter hole for each with a metal skewer.  Decorate it with whatever else you wish. Then fasten a long piece of wire or ribbon to the ball so it can hang.

Give wreaths pizzazz by adding contrasting textures. Bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon add seasonal accent, and dried fruit slices provide color. To make your own dried fruit slices, you’ll need a dehydrator, as drying fruit takes eight to twelve hours.

Slice oranges, limes, lemons or other citrus into quarter-inch thick slices, lay them on their sides so the slices include all the segments. Keep slices uniform for best drying results; if the thickness varies greatly, some slices won’t dry evenly. Dehydrate the fruit for eight to twelve hours, checking slices for doneness. The finished product should be dry but still pliable.

For a Colonial American tradition, whip up a pomander ball from an orange and cloves.  The pomander dries beautifully and gives off an aromatic scent of citrus and cloves. Simply cross-tie a ribbon around an orange, make starter holes with an ice pick, and insert whole cloves into the holes.  Leave a little space between the cloves to allow for the orange to shrink as it dries.

Spicy baskets are miniature holders for small amounts of fruits, nuts, or candies and designed to hang on the tree. Often bedecked with cloves or felt, the little oval baskets are easy to decorate, then fill during a party or for a holiday gathering. Grapes, sekel pears, or cuties are the ideal size.

Don’t forget a few solstice candles for lighting on the 21st; beeswax makes a soft glow for welcoming the turn from short days to long. Nestle the candle on holly and ivy, or other evergreens and surround the candle itself with cinnamon sticks woven with twine.

Then feast, be merry and enjoy your holiday décor.

Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, or visit