Holiday Ornaments from Garden Gleanings

Making Christmas tree decorations was a boring-day activity put into play by my mom, who worked tirelessly at keeping four restless kids occupied during wintry holidays What we made weren’t great, mind you, but they were originals.

Among the different creations, were hard-tack flour-and-salt cookie ornaments and garlands of chains made from glued rings of colorful strips of craft paper.

Easy Ornaments from Garden Gleanings

The Santa face, painted on a dried okra pod by Sherry Battista from Crystal Springs Mississippi, is a “must have” favorite of all who see it.

Did I mention this was way before the Internet, when we only got a handful of black-and-white TV channels?

Mom would have us forage for whatever materials we could scavenge from both our yard and across the street in my great-grandmother’s naturalistic garden. Think spiky round sweetgum balls, long thin trumpet creeper seedpods, little wild gourds, pecans, acorns, pine cones, colorful bits of lichens, shiny green magnolia leaves with their furry brown backs, and carefully-snipped bits of holly and berries.

Like Rumpelstiltskin weaving golden garments from common straw, we coaxed those materials into ornaments using rough jute string, craft paint, fast-drying white glue, and, in those pre-environmental days, colorful glitter. I suspect some of that glitter is still floating around.

Inspired, I set about making some nature-craft things along these lines, which involved a lot of suspicious-looking walking around the neighborhood looking for fodder, and risking my health trekking to a hobby store for supplies.

Gumball tree

First thing up was a “gourdian angel” made angel wings cut from thin tin, with tabs inserted into slits opposite each other in a dried gourd. Later I built a gumball tree from a bit of thorny shrub – in my case a hardy citrus tree (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ to you hort geeks), though any twiggy branch (from a hopefully non-poisonous plant) will work – and stood it up in a clay pot, and festooned the stickers with red and green gumdrops. Cheesy, sure; but…yeah.

I made little trees and stars from twigs, wove mini-wreaths from vines and berries, sprinkled glitter over Elmer’s Glue designs squeezed onto magnolia leaves, and hot glue gunned acorns, tiny pinecones, and frilly lichens onto everything.

My inexperience with a hot glue gun led me to accidentally get molten glop on a finger, which I instinctively stuck in my mouth to cool off. And it stuck to my procheilon – that little fleshy bump some of us have on the bottom middle of our upper lip – which promptly stuck fast onto my glued fingertip.

I couldn’t sip hot coffee for days, but could still smile at my retro-rustic creations.

12 Replies to “Holiday Ornaments from Garden Gleanings”

  1. Some cool looking stuff there ole friend. Knew ya was smart as a whip, but never knew ya was talented too. 😂 just kidding. People should see ya yard with all the cool things. Merry Christmas man stay safe. Love ya.


  2. Thank you for posting your handiwork! We are rural and I’m thinking I need a trek to find some treasures. Felt so sorry for your finger and mouth with the hot glue. Now wishing you would post pix of your yard! Merry Christmas!


  3. Darn, chopped out a volunteer sweet gum from the back yard several years back just because of those spkey balls. Sweet throwback idea and pretty result.


  4. Boy, did that post bring back a lot of memories from our homesteading days in southern Indiana! Can’t tell you how many Santas I painted on okra pods, long cinnamon sticks, broken pieces of slate, or smooth rocks! Twig stars painted gold, or “frosted” with leftover cookie icing hung on our tree as well. We also cut slices of hedge apples and dried them, then added glitter or paint. There’s lots out there in Nature to inspire!


  5. A happy occupation for lockdown! Brought back memories too. So far, so good here in Perth and hoping you stay well. Merry Christmas from Down Under, Suzanne


  6. Brought back a lot of memories from my child hood. I still have the salt dough American flag ornament that I made in the 3rd grade in 1973. My mom made okra santas one year.


  7. Thank you! I enjoyed seeing your stumpery and reading comments. Will view video later and check the HDTV link. We lived on the CA coast a couple years late 90’s. Loved hiking the redwoods (Eureka), Valencia Peak on the Central coast and visiting San Diego/Coronado. Now tackling TN “soil” and rocks! So enjoyed meeting you twice in Georgia (early 80’s) and getting 2 recently authored books autographed.


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