Christmas decorating with snowballs from the garden

Fat flowers from mophead hydrangeas dry on the bush and are easy to transform into natural Christmas decorations for tree, mantle, or table.

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    A large floor basket piled with natural and painted dried hydrangea blossoms makes an attractive and easy natural Christmas decoration.
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If you live in the South, I’m predicting you won’t be seeing any snowballs for Christmas. Not even the so-called snowball bush, Viburnum macrocephalum, holds onto its spring flowers this late in the season.

Still, you can gather mophead hydrangea blossoms (Hydrangea macrophylla) and turn them into faux snowballs to decorate your tree, mantle, or table. Even those of you who have the real, cold drifts outside your window can decorate for the holidays with non-melting snowballs.

If you haven’t cut your hydrangea blossoms off the bush yet, you can do so now if they are still shapely. Just make sure you cut them off with a short stem above the first set of buds on the bush. You don’t want to cut off next year’s bloom buds, and besides, you don’t need much of a stem on a snowball.

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Even if the blooms are dark brown, or any shade of tan in between, you can paint them white.

Your snowballs don’t even have to be white. Maybe your décor lends itself more to gold or silver. Maybe this year you want to have a touch of aqua on your tree. If you are a traditionalist, red will be your choice. There are sprays for that. Want your snowballs to sparkle and glisten, like the real snow in winter sunshine? There are glitter sprays for that, too.

Spray paint just for flowers

My friend Gigi Huckabee clued me in to craft spray paint made especially for flowers. Be sure to purchase this specialty quick-drying paint, available at craft stores, to gild your hydrangea blossoms gold, silver, or any number of colors. If you use regular spray paint, they might still be drying come Christmas morn.

Admittedly, to get really white snowballs, it will take several coats of the white craft paint. If you were fortunate enough to have dried Annabelle hydrangea blooms (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'), they can be used as is or sparkled up with some glitter.

If you are a purist, like me -- or more correctly, as I was -- you can use any of your hydrangea blossoms au naturel, without any veiling. They will still look pretty in a basket, vase, or adorning a tree. I confess that this year I am having fun experimenting with gilding.

Once your snowballs are ready, use them on your Christmas tree. Just slide them between branches. You don’t need to fasten them. Or, just pile your glistening white snowballs in a big basket, set it by the door, and tie a big red bow on top.

After the holidays

In January, your faux snowballs will still be seasonable if you change the color of the bow on the basket. Or, after the holidays are over, you can carefully pack away your hydrangeas or repurpose them in a floral arrangement.

I like to pile hydrangea flowers. It’s quick and easy. Light-colored blooms look good in covered clear glass jars and open bowls. Dark blossoms look great in pottery containers and dark wood or wire baskets. Anybody can make snowballs for winter displays, even artistically challenged gardeners like I am.

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Anne Moore is one of the more than a dozen garden experts who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She lives in South Carolina and is the horticulture editor, gardening consultant, and e-newsletter editor for GardenSmart.tv. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association.

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