For inspiration in holiday decorating, take a look at natural outdoor settings: soft evergreen branches, a flash of red or gold berries, fresh herbs and warm light.
See what you can find to use from your own landscape, and scout what's available at your favorite garden shop or nursery. The scent and sight of pine boughs in wreaths and swags are bound to bring about good cheer.
When gathering family and friends around the dinner table, create a centerpiece that allows conversations to flow easily. Keep it low enough to talk over, transparent and uncluttered enough to see through, or high enough to form an out-of-the-way canopy.
Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service agent Jamie Dockery, whose Gardener's Toolbox series of lectures covers a broad spectrum of garden lifestyle topics each year, has some great ideas.
"You can't go wrong just scattering mixed greens with some pine cones and red ornaments," he says.
A simple, modern and graphic display can be assembled by lining up a couple of rows of 2-inch-square glass votive candle holders, placed adjacent to one another along the length of a table's center.
"Make a checkerboard pattern of alternating colors and textures by filling each one with a contrasting bunch of colored leaves, berries, pine cones or small candles," he says.
Dockery suggests using grasslike, bluish-green pine needles; small, dark green and glossy magnolia leaves; yellow-fruited crabapple berries; and small pine cones. Later, the display can be moved to highlight other locations, for instance along a mantel or atop a piano.
Dockery says greenery can be found everywhere, from a final gleaning of waxy blue-green cabbage, Brussels sprout leaves and funky dried okra pods in the vegetable patch to scavenging moss-covered branches that have fallen in a wooded area after a storm.
If you're a forward thinker, consider planting shrubs such as red-berried nandina, winterberry holly and golden Thread Branch cypress, which can be used to add color and special effects to your yard and then your table.
John Michler, whose family-owned Michler's Florist, Greenhouses and Garden Design has put together holiday floral pieces for generations, designed an arrangement that is at once practical, artistic, earthy and innovative.
He took a well-weathered wood board and lined the top with moss before building up layers that include air plants, tricolor sage, Calamondin oranges, rosemary, bay and pale peach-petaled roses. To add height without blocking the cross-table view, a few airy fronds of asparagus and some narrow pheasant feathers crown the display.
"The board allows this arrangement to be moved and set anywhere," Michler says.
The addition of colorful air plants — which looked great in a grouping of clear glass spheres hanging at the shop and would be a modern take on a centerpiece hanging above a dinner table — brings something new and different into the arrangement. The herbs and oranges add a freshly harvested scent perfect for Thanksgiving.
Another idea that would allow easy communication at the table is to elevate flowers and greenery by putting them atop a tall, narrow clear glass vase.
A platter fastened on the top of the vase can be draped with overhanging white pine, holly and other evergreen branches interspersed with red- flowered Christmas cactus.
At table level, a few greens and pine cones form a bed that circles the bottom of the vase, which can contain a low candle or a few inches of berries or sparkling ribbon. Special touches, like a whimsical elf toy to catch a child's eye or heirloom ornaments to highlight the season with a personal touch, are easy to add.
To get some hands-on guidance in working with holiday greenery, sign up for a local workshop where you can learn how to make a wreath, work with succulents or do bonsai.
IF YOU GO
Here are holiday workshops and classes at some area garden centers. If you don't see your favorite center here, call to see whether it offers classes.
Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service. 1140 Red Mile Pl. (859) 257-5582. Fayette.ca.uky.edu.
■ Holiday decorating ideas from the landscape. 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10. $20. Registration required. At King's Garden Center. 4560 Nicholasville Rd. (859) 272-7077. Kingsgardens.com.
■ Holiday porch pot workshop. 9-10:30 a.m. Nov. 23. Create outdoor pot with greens, grasses, hydrangea blooms, berries, etc. $29.99.
Michler's Florist, Greenhouses and Garden Design. 417 E. Maxwell St. Preregistration is required for these limited-space programs. Groups may request special workshops. (859) 254-0383. Shop.michlers.com/collections/classes.
■ Wreath workshop. 5:30-7 p.m. Dec. 3. $55.
■ Terrarium class. 5:30-7 p.m. Dec. 10. $15 plus materials.
■ Bonsai beginners workshop 5:30-7 p.m. Dec. 17. $55.
Springhouse Gardens. 185 W. Catnip Hill Rd., Nicholasville. Pre-registration is required for these limited-space programs. Groups may request special workshops. (859) 224-1417. Springhousegardens.com/current_events.php.
■ Wreath workshops. 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 3; 10 a.m., 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 5, 10, 12; 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Dec. 7; 10 a.m. Dec. 14. $45 per wreath.
■ Premium wreath workshop. 1-4 p.m. Dec. 14. Includes guided winter walk, greens cutting and wreath making. $75.
Wilson's Nurseries. 3690 East-West Connector/Ky. 676, Frankfort. (502) 223-1488. Wilsonnurseriesky.com.
■ Holiday open house. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 23.
■ Holiday centerpiece workshop. 10 a.m. Nov. 23. $35.
■ Windowsill herbs made simple workshop. Noon Nov. 23. $18.
■ Living gift workshop. 1:30 p.m. Nov. 23. Learn how to force paperwhites or amaryllis bulbs. $25.
■ Holiday outdoor container workshop. 10 a.m. Dec. 7. $15.
■ S'mores With Santa. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 7. Meet Santa, eat s'mores, make s'mores ornament.
■ Holiday wreath crafting. 2 p.m. $35.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: email@example.com. Blog: gardening.bloginky.com.