Decorating Naturally


With its year-round natural beauty, the Lowcountry offers abundant choices for holiday decorating — endless colors, fragrances, textures and other elements that can be used to welcome the season. 

Inspiration for making and decorating garlands, wreaths, Christmas trees, planters, mailboxes, mantels and front doors is everywhere — in your yard and the nearby woods as well as at local nurseries. 

Decorating Naturally3One local nursery manager suggested that the first step in holiday decorating might be getting a Fraser fir. 

“Nothing is better than a fresh cut Fraser fir tree,” said Jordan Bruno, nursery manager at Bruno Landscape & Nursery on Hilton Head Island. “That’s your starting point.” 

The family-owned nursery brings three truckloads of Fraser firs from North Carolina every holiday season and puts them in containers holding water once they arrive. Bruno’s most popular Fraser firs are big ones — standing 6 to 8 feet high. 

“It’s a very fragrant and sturdy tree,” said The Greenery’s Lisa Kiggans, also on the island. 

Other kinds of trees have become holiday traditions for many families, too, including those that are still in the ground at tree farms. 

Decorating Naturally4In Beaufort County, A & A Christmas Trees in Okatie and The Family Tree Christmas Tree Farm in Bluffton grow their own Leyland and Murray cypresses, which have soft needles and a subtle scent. The farms also grow white pines, which have long needles, sturdy branches and a soft pine scent, and red cedars, known for their prickly needles and more distinctive scent. 

At the tree farms, customers choose their favorite tree and saw it down themselves or have a worker at the farm do it for them. 

Real trees — either purchased from retail outlets or cut down at tree farms — make attractive and fragrant backdrops, especially after they’ve been decorated, said Janet Fanning, manager of The Greenery’s garden center and nursery. 

“You start with a base and add to it,” Fanning said, adding that the options for add-ons are limitless. 

She suggested driftwood, white pine pine cones, starfish, oyster shells, red berries, sprigs, wood picks, Christmas cactus, and cyclamen and croton plants.

Her list of favorites also includes magnolia leaves, bent heads of agapanthus plants, grasses, crepe myrtles, bay leaves, plus rosemary and thyme for fragrance. 

Fresh garlands made of white pine intertwined with magnolia leaves make a striking decorative statement. Birch bark on a bed of evergreen spread across the fireplace mantel also attracts attention. 

“The great thing about the Lowcountry is that there are natural items available to us outside our doors,” Kiggans said. “They can provide different textures, spray painted or not, inside or outside the home. 

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“You can cut from the branches of all our trees; there are a multitude of pine cones that you can bleach, which is a neat idea, instead of the natural brown color,” she added. To add a special feeling of the coast to your home, oyster shells can be attached to pine cones, she said. 

Turning an ordinary looking wreath into a much more distinctive one is easy, she said. Just use florist wire to attach add-ons from the outdoors to the branches of the wreath. 

Colorful poinsettias always are a staple as a holiday adornment. They brighten the inside of any home or can be placed outside, where they’re unlikely to be damaged by the Lowcountry’s moderate climate. 

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Poinsettias have an extra benefit, too: Instead of tossing them out when the holiday season ends because their leaves begin drooping, they can be potted or planted in the ground to await the arrival of next year’s holiday season. 

Decorating Naturally6Caring for a Fraser Fir

Fraser firs are the most popular Christmas trees grown in North America. They have strong, dark green limbs, upwardly angled soft needles and a delightful scent. Fraser firs sold in the Lowcountry come from North Carolina. With fairly simple care, they’ll last about five weeks before drying out. 

Here are some care tips:

  • Cut off one-half inch from the bottom of the trunk to prevent dried sap from impeding the absorption of water into the tree.
  • If you’re not ready to put the tree in a stand, place it in a tub of water in a cool spot.
  • Try to avoid whittling down the tree’s trunk to fit your tree stand.
  • Fill the stand with one quart of water for every inch of the trunk’s diameter
  • Check the water level in the stand daily to make sure the tree stays hydrated.

The photos in this section are courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff, where decorating with natural elements is an art. Explore the beautiful lights and decorations of the Inn and enjoy events including a boat parade and special holiday meals. For more information go to