Sprucing up the front step on a shoestring budget

It was early November when I stumbled upon a dazzling display of blinking lights and Christmas trees decorated in this year’s hottest colors. I was on an errand to buy tree insecticide at a garden center, and never expected to encounter such a festive scene adjacent to the aisle of crabgrass killers and pest eradicators. 

I was especially drawn to the large, lush containers of evergreen boughs, birch twigs and red berries, and could envision one ... or two ... dressing up my front stoop. Then I saw the price tag: $79.95 apiece, not something I could justify for an ephemeral that would give a month or two of beauty before its pretty foliage faded to dingy brown. 

A few days later I was thumbing through a magazine and spotted a story on “2018’s biggest holiday decorating trends.” It suggested grabbing “wintery greens and wispy dried branch stalks” to make an easy, economical “pop of texture” for indoors or out.

I thought about the three flower pots already on my front step and realized I could replace their now-frozen summer annuals with something more attractive. 

In the backyard I snipped off twisty red dogwood branches, and then headed to the basement to rummage through Christmas decorations looking for the leftover pine cones that my mother and I had gathered a few years ago for a wreath project. 

At a craft store I bought half-price stems of artificial berries, and later at a thrift shop I found a bag of evergreen picks for $2 and, best of all, a freebie 2-foot Christmas tree. After placing the giveaway tree in one of my pots and encircling it with lights and cherry red berries, I stood back and decided that, like Charlie Brown’s “sincere tree,” my tiny one was quite cute.

It took a couple tries to get the overall effect I desired, but, for less than $10, I now have three cheery pots on my step that give me pleasure whenever I walk in and out of the house. 

I’ll admit their simplicity doesn’t have the same “wow factor” of the showy $80 evergreen planters at the garden center. But I created them on a shoestring, and those little winter decorations make me smile every time I see them. 


—Mary Lee Hagert

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