By Randi Wilson, C.I.D., Interior Decorator  |  One of the benefits of living in Juneau is that we are surrounded by an abundance of nature.  Many of the items found right in our own backyards or along hiking trails can be used to make beautiful and affordable holiday decorations. With winter in full swing, deciduous tree branches are barren and plentiful.  A can of spray paint and jar of glitter or tiny crystals can transform an armful of twigs into a magical display.  Arrange the twigs in a cylindrical vase and adorn them with ornaments or clear twinkling lights, if you choose.  Twig arrangements also offer a unique way to display your holiday cards.  Punch holes in the top of the cards and tie them to the twigs with lengths of beautiful ribbon.  You can also spray paint clothes pins and use them to clamp cards onto the twigs. 

Large branches and thick limbs may also be used for a variety of decorative purposes.  To create tea light candleholders, cut a substantial limb into desired lengths with a miter saw.  Then, using a 1 ½” bit, drill a hole deep enough to fit a tea light candle.  Use sandpaper to smooth any rough edges. If you find a larger branch, it can be transformed into a “chandelier” that may be hung over a console table, kitchen island or bar.  Simply screw some hooks into the ceiling and mount the branch using clear, heavy-weight fishing line.  Decorate the branch chandelier with ornaments, battery-operated clear twinkling lights or hanging tea light candle jars.

Fallen pinecones can be used in a host of decorative ways.  Before using wild-gathered pinecones however, they must be baked in the oven to stop the flow of sap and eradicate insects hiding among the scales.  Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Bake them at 200 degrees for approximately one hour, or until the cones are dry and the scales are fully open.

Love the smell of those cinnamon-scented pinecones at the craft store?  It’s easy to make your own potpourri.  Place pinecones in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.  In a spray bottle, combine ½ teaspoon cinnamon oil with 1 cup warm water.  Spritz the pinecones until well coated, then seal the bag and shake well.  Let the pinecones sit for 24 hours.  Remove them from the bag and allow them to dry in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet before placing in a decorative bowl.  The aroma is amazing!

Like branches, pinecones may be embellished with a coat of spray paint or a dusting of glitter.  Mix them with ornaments in clear vases or bowls to create stunning centerpieces.  Nestle pinecones among candle arrangements or use them to make place cards for table settings.  Print the names of your guests on cardstock paper, then insert the slips of paper into the scales.  They can also be wired onto round metal or grapevine forms to create stunning wreaths.

Nothing says Christmas like the scent of fresh cut fir, but think outside the box when it comes to decorating with gathered greenery.  Aside from garland and swags, greenery can be used to line glass candle holders or be tucked around serving bowls on a buffet.  They can also be secured to chandelier arms for a festive flair.  Arrange several branches in a vase to create a miniature Christmas tree that may be used anywhere in the house.  For hours of fun, let children design and create ornaments for a tree to be placed in their bedroom or playroom.

Slip on your coats, don those mittens and hats, and begin to gather.  A wealth of natural decorative items waits right outside your door. Happy holidays!

Randi Wilson is a Certified Interior Decorator and owner of Wilson Interiors, LLC.  She can be reached by phone at (707) 616-4687, or by email at  Photos of her projects can be viewed at