From The Garden by P. Allen Smith

From the Garden: 12.4.19

Christmas at Moss Mountain Farm is a busy time of year. We enjoy receiving guests throughout the season and sharing the beauty of this special time. Planning our holiday themes and decorations begins in early fall, and we enjoy trying new approaches to decking the halls from one year to the next. No matter how early we plan, though, it always seems like it’s still a scramble. Do you find the same?

I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian when it comes to seasonal decor of any kind. For me, it must flow with the design and colors of the rooms of the house … and for that matter, the exterior as well. So what if the traditional colors of the season are red and green? If these ‘status quo’ colors don’t harmonize with my home, I move past them unapologetically.

The combination of artificial (yes, artificial) and fresh farm greenery is the basis of everything we create. Over the past 15 years, we have used the same artificial garland and wreaths as ‘forms’ on which to apply fresh greens and other elements of interest. Last year, I shared our secret with a group of guests, and one responded in horror, “Artificial? Have you ever made garlands and wreaths from scratch?” I replied, “It’s not a task for the faint of heart or those who are time oppressed.” So much for the judgmental purists. I simply don’t have time.

The real creative fun for me begins when integrating ‘this and that,’ and anything goes, from persimmons to taxidermy. It all provides color, texture and forms that harmonize and create visual interest and the occasional ‘wow’ moment.

My mantra has always been: Use the ordinary to create the extraordinary. And having creative friends help adds to the fun. Holly Chappel, the floral virtuoso, is just one of those shining stars for me. Bodacious white amaryllis blooms in the chandeliers? Why not? We also share the same obsession for Russian Olive, a multipurpose, grey-leafed shrub; Osage oranges; magnolia; and even those glorious grey lichens … you get the idea.

And then there’s that use, reuse and recycle part of me. It’s a voice from my past, my mother and grandmother saying to not throw anything away because you just might need it someday. Use it again and again. It’s an addiction! But I will say, coming from a long and distinguished line of ‘pack rats,’ it does come in handy. We have used the same silver bowls, cone wreaths and various ‘bits and bobs’ of bling for years—always in a slightly different way, of course.

I love a well-set table for special occasions; well, anytime for that matter. Don’t you? It seems to have gone the way of good manners and curiosity these days. I know it seems to be passé with the younger set to drag out all of that old dining accoutrement, but I like it. Our old dishes are a mishmash of gathered and inherited; Williams-Sonoma meets Old Paris cups and 19th-century Coalport. They all play well together.

When you’re decorating for the season, don’t bow to convention. Take a look outside and in your attic, then get creative and have some fun!

P. Allen Smith is an author, conservationist, and TV host of Garden Home on PBS and Garden Style (check your local listings). He uses his Arkansas Home, Moss Mountain Farm, to promote the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry. For tours of the farm, visit pallensmith.com/tours.

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