December 17, 2012

Bark and berries make great decorations



Some deciduous trees and shrubs with attractive branches make a nice addition as well, adding some contrast in texture and form. Red-stemmed dogwood, a common native shrub, is nice as well as the corky, winged branchlets of burningbush, which is very common in landscapes. Birch twigs can be nice as well as corkscrew willow or twisted hazelnut called Henry Lauder’s walking stick. Look around and see what appeals to you.


Everyone loves the look of birch bark, but please do not peel it off living trees. Just under the bark layer is the cambium layer where most of the cell division occurs. If you damage the cambium layer, you can kill the tree.

But in our woods, birches are frequently knocked down by high wind or other trees nearby, so I can usually find plenty of birch limbs on the ground. I’ve seen “to-from” tags made from birch bark and even ribbons made by tearing the bark into thin strips. I have a long, curly strip of birch bark as a wall hanging in my house that I found on the ground in our woods.


If you don’t have woods or a yard of your own, there are several places to purchase fresh greens and boughs. Check with your local garden centers, florists and greenhouses, and any place that grows Christmas trees or makes wreaths.

Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Clinton County. Office phone numbers: Clinton County, 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; Franklin County, 483-7403. Website: Email questions to

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