GO Natural

Use decor to weave the outdoors into mantels and tabletops

The Dallas Morning NewsJanuary 8, 2014 

Along cardboard box awaited me on the porch. It could have been lavish silks and exotic spices for the excited anticipation I felt. I scissored through tape and riffled through blank, crisp newsprint to find packet after packet of freshly collected treasures from the Maine woods.

While spring and fall are the seasons for cutting roses and other cottage flowers for the house, fall and winter holidays call for evergreen boughs on the mantel, front door and tops of cupboards. The greens are beautiful, but I also like branches of berries, rose hips, and sticks bearing ruffled green and gray lichens.

I need reds, purples and burnished browns to supply colorful details and surprising textures in my winter still lifes. I have discovered several arty souls on etsy.com who can supply them.

Etsy started as an online marketplace for handmade goods. It has evolved to include a wide-ranging inventory of raw materials for artists and crafters. I am neither, but I have found, to my delight, uncommon botanicals for sale on Etsy.

I have purchased lavender bundles to scent chimenea smoke, long wands of red rosehips, stems of Chinese lantern seedpods, hydrangea flower heads, bittersweet vines and more.

For Christmas, I found an Etsy listing from a glassblower in North Parsonsfield, Maine, who forages near her studio for dried and fresh botanicals. Aimee Winslow, whose online shop is RandomStuff1, packed for me an assortment of white pine, princess pine, spruce and balsam; winterberry; fertile ostrich fern fronds; several sizes of pinecones; a variety of brown seedpods; and my favorites, lichens and mosses.

I rehydrated a brick of gray reindeer moss (really, a lichen), two tufts of creamy-white old man’s beard (also a lichen), pieces of gray-green lichen that look like ruffled silk, and a yard of an unfamiliar oddity called club moss; it looks like an unending string of chartreuse-green pipe cleaners.

With locally bought conifer boughs and magnolia branches from my own tree, it will be hard to wind up with anything but pretty on my mantel and dining room table. And I will have so much fun.

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