1. Herb Tree
If you don’t have the space for a real holiday tree in your home (or the storage space to keep all the ornaments when not in use), opt for a miniature tree made of rosemary. Set it atop your kitchen counter and decorate it with red ribbon garlands and homemade ornaments made of dried apple and orange slices — who knew decorating could be so delicious? Widely available at garden stores or online.
2. Sprigs of Greens on Napkins
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to dress up a simple white place setting and white napkins for the holidays, or even buy napkin rings for that matter. Just add a sprig of something green, either pine or an herb. Use red ribbon or burlap twine to tie each napkin, stick in the sprig, and add a red place card, if you wish. Or make a ring of herbs, like at left. Want to give guests a preview of what’s to come? Opt for some of the same herbs that you’re using when cooking — it’ll make everyone’s mouth water.
3. Greens Instead of Flowers
Flowers look great on a holiday table, but they’re expensive and start to look shabby after a week. Instead of spending a lot of money on a giant rose and freesia-filled centerpiece that deteriorates after one night, pick up a bundle of roses and a couple bunches of herbs at the market and do it yourself. Place a vase of mint here, rosemary there, and intersperse them with cups of the red roses. The best part is that very little goes to waste — use the herbs once you’re done to make pesto, toss in a salad, or even dress up that pizza pie you order for that casual get-together the next day.
4. Herb Bundles
Too many fireplaces and too few stockings hanging over each? Create a garland of herb bundles that you can hang from the mantle. Choose fresh lavender, sage, verbena, or rosemary, either from the garden or the market, and tie them in individual bunches you can string across the mantel. And once Christmas is over, clip off individual bundles and then toss them on top of the logs the next time you set a fire. It adds a really nice yet subtle fragrance to the room.
There is something about a classic fir wreath tied with a bright red ribbon that is so Christmas. But there is the hassle of dropping needles to deal with, and then there is the expense.
Instead of purchasing a wreath you’ll just throw out after a couple of weeks, why not make your own with fresh herbs? All you need are some fresh herbs like lavender, rosemary, bay, or sage, floral wire, a wreath frame, and some wire cutters. Short on time? Order one like this made with bay, sage, oregano and chiles.
6. Alternatives to Mistletoe
According to the Scientific American, mistletoe might not be around in 20 years. A scary thought, because what are the holidays without a little kiss under the mistletoe ball in the hall? Better get used to smooching under something else — a pot of herbs hung upside down, perhaps?
These cool potters are just the thing for growing a variety of kitchen herbs, without leaving a trail of dirt underneath. You can grow basil, cilantro, and parsley — whatever you might want around your kitchen. Dress each up with a red bow for the holidays, then put the plants to work in the kitchen come January.
7. Easy Alternatives to Garlands
Have a mantle in your home but don’t feel like schlepping in the fir or prince’s pine garland (or dealing with dropping needles)? Glossy green magnolia leaves, when paired with gold spray-painted fruits and seed pods, look awfully classy. And should you feel lazy come January and not want to take the leaves away, they stay intact for up to two months or so.
8. Herb Place Cards
With so much happening around the holidays, something almost always is forgotten from the to-do list, and in my family, it’s place cards. I almost never use them, so I never have them on hand, but assigning seats is a good way to handle feuding family members. And all you need are white index cards, Elmer’s glue, and some herbs with big leaves, like basil, cilantro, sage, or flat-leaf parsley. Simply fold each card in half, paste on an herb leaf, then let the cards dry before writing names.
9. Hanging Pinecone Decorations
December is the one time of year where window decorations are a must. Walk any city street, and you’re sure to see greens or ornaments hanging in the windows. In towns, houses will have electric candles. But what about hanging pinecones?
Forage for cones outside and then tie the ends with ribbon. Then, tack them to the window frame. Try this over the center of your dining room table if you have no chandelier or over the counter in the kitchen. And when the holidays are over, save the pinecones to use instead of fat wood when starting a fire!