Decorating your home for the holidays should be a time of reflection and a way to create some new memories and traditions. Using gifts from Mother Nature is a good place to start decorating for Christmas. You can brighten up any corner of the house with greenery gathered from the garden and adding berries, twigs and cones you might find in the woods.

Cedar, boxwood, pine, spruce, camellia and other greenery will add a festive and elegant touch as well as a fresh scent. Filling your house with the sights and smells of fresh greenery, helps bring on the spirit of Christmas.

That’s why I like to start decorating with greenery. Shiny magnolia leaves make an elegant display and will last a long time indoors if your home is not too dry. The older varieties of magnolia have large glossy leaves and are great for larger spaces. Some of the newer varieties have smaller leaves and work nicely in smaller arrangements or placed on a mantel.

If you like red berries, there are many different kinds of hollies that have a perfusion of berries. Winterberry holly is a favorite to use in a vase by itself or with different evergreens. You can remove the leaves of burford holly stems and have a completely different look that can be used the same way as winterberry branches.

Nandina is another easy to find shrub that works well in decorating. The red berries will dress up a simple green arrangement or add color to a grapevine wreath. The leaves of a nandina provide easy to use greenery when you need leaves that will lay flat in an arrangement. Many of the newer varieties of nandina have leaves that turn red as the weather cools and can make a dramatic arrangement. These red leaves are stunning to use in different ways.

Boxwood is another evergreen that people use at Christmas. You can make traditional wreaths of boxwood and add fruit or berries to give it color. You also can mix boxwood with white pine, wiring them to a metal wreath form. Both of these ideas can be accomplished with a straw wreath form, securing the stems using floral pens.

Items from nature can be left natural or sprayed gold or silver. There are all kinds of things that can be used. I have used stems of millet sprayed gold as well as okra pods that had been left in a vegetable garden to dry. If you can find cotton bolls, the bottom resembles a flower and makes a fabulous addition to a wreath or in an arrangement. Nuts, cones and large feathers give a bold and masculine touch to decorations, too.

I recently was admiring a store window that had taken thick branches and painted them gold. They hung bright red balls from the branches, which made a very simple and sophisticated display. I plan to do something similar in our bay window this season.

Poinsettias are the flower most associated with Christmas. Today, these traditionally red flowers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I happen to be partial to the solid red and solid white poinsettias. The plants themselves make a lovely decoration but that is not the only way to use them. Most people would not think of cutting the flowers and using them as the flowers for a center arrangement for your dining room table but they are very dramatic used this way.

Hydrangeas cannot be over looked. Dried hydrangeas have a special place in our home, especially since I just published a book about hydrangeas. Some years I have sprayed them gold and placed them on the mantel mixed with magnolia or woven into a garland. Another time I used them sprayed silver to help adorn a spot with a silver Santa. Visiting a friend during the holidays last year, I was fascinated at how he had used the blooms of his limelight hydrangeas in his Christmas tree. He had taken the blooms and put them in among the branches to add an extra dimension. It looked terrific.

I live where it is too cold to grow smilax. However, when I go visit friends, who have it growing in their garden, I bring some home to drape over a mirror or place down the middle of our dining room table. Ivy can be used in a similar way if you have long pieces not attached to the ground.

Make sure you do not get overwhelmed during the holidays. Do not make things too difficult for yourself. One big focal point in a room will set the tone. Also remember that you do not have to decorate all at once. Take your time and enjoy the festive season and make sure you have plenty of time to relax and visit with friends and family.

— Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy,” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at