Christmas season 2019, I learned to forage. Raccoons, chipmunks, birds and other woodland creatures have been good at it for a millennium, but it took me longer to follow their lead.
Two things happened that decorating season:  I priced live greenery at local stores—yikes!—and,  I watched an episode of my favorite YouTube channel--Garden Answer—where the host and her mom went on a foraging jaunt in the Washington State mountains. I watched in amazement as they gathered a variety of pine boughs, seed pods, pine cones, rose hips, and holly branches, then brought everything back to make into wreaths and bouquets and mantel displays…for free. Wow.
After that, I really started looking around my friends’ yards, common areas, and my own woods with a much-sharper eye. I started noticing pine trees with tiny, frosty-blue berries on them, holly limbs with red berries, dramatic branches, dried hydrangea blooms, sweeping grasses, chunks of old wood. When we picked out our Christmas tree, I noticed a bin of discarded boughs and stumps. I snagged those, too. Before I knew it, I was decorating in the “native” style like a pro! For free.
Since then, I’ve gotten really good at shopping my own yard. When my shovel hits rock, I dig around it and often unearth a large and beautiful piece of Tennessee limestone. I talk my husband into fully freeing it, scrub it clean, and add it to the landscape. I mentally attach a price tag to it: $30. That’s what I could have paid. Fallen branches are a great addition to a woodland landscape: $25. Discarded bricks pop up in the woods all the time: $20. People throw out artistic roots—$20, old flower pots—$30, and rusted metal—$25—all the time. “What’re you gonna do with that?” I often hear. I’m not sure…something cool.
Even if your budget is wide open and you’re not jonesing for a bargain, I encourage you to look around your yard. There’s a bit of a thrill in being creative with natural things. And it’s delightful to see the surprise on guests’ faces when I say, “Oh, I dug that out of the woods.” Priceless.