Green is the background and foundation of the indoor Christmas, but the background may be brightened with all the colors of the rainbow. We may use many materials to accent decorations, but they should be selected with a sense of fitness. A colored candle may be suitable where a bright patch of fabric would be out of place.
Instinctively we turn to nature for color to enliven our displays. Nature is generous in supplying it. There is brilliance in fruits and berries, more subtle tones in cones and seed pods. All these are fruits, in fact, with different seasons. Only at Christmas time are they in season at the same time, if used ingeniously and artistically to beautify our homes.
Fruits present the problem of keeping them fresh and firm while they serve their purpose on a wreath or as a decorative accent. If sound fruit is handled carefully and thoroughly coated with shellac, it should last through the holidays in average temperatures. In extreme cold most fruits turn brown. At room temperature the fruit ripens, but may still keep quite well. As fruit matures and mellows its color usually changes, but forethought in its arrangement will allow for this alteration. For example, limes turn yellow as they ripen, while lemons, kumquats and lady apples turn brown. Cranberries shrivel, but stay red.
One fruit not very suitable for our purpose is the pear. Pears have a lot of flesh which ripens to softness. They are of awkward shape and difficult to work into a wreath; if desired, they are better for garlands or sprays.
The lady apple (Malus) a red fruit for decoration as well as the table appears during the winter months. It should not be confused with the love apple (Solanum integrifolium) which is orange and inedible.
Grapes are suitable and offer varied rich colors. Artificial grapes will be easier to handle than fresh fruit. A coat of shellac makes them appear more natural.
With one notable exception, all berries may be coated with shellac to preserve them and heighten their colors. Shellac will spoil the dull gray surface of the beautiful bayberry. Nandina berries, if you can obtain some from the South, are true Christmas red and keep well. They do not shrivel or drop when dry. Deciduous holly or winter-berry (Ilex verticillata) with berries similar to those of the common holly is probably the best that can be bought.
The fruit of the American holly (Ilex opaca) is a dull red in comparison to the shining scarlet of the English (Ilex Aquifolium). When these two are used, more fruit can be displayed by trimming out the leaves around them.
Fruits of the common barberry (Berberis thunbergi) are excellent in color and withstand hard freezing. The barberry's thorniness makes it hard to handle, but beautiful effects can be created with its bright little berries.
In my opinion the Chinese tallow berry (Sapium sebi-ferum) is the best of the white berries; it dries hard, does not shake off, handles easily and lasts indefinitely. Cotoneasters in variety may be had in some sections of the country. The fruits are a good red, some produced in showy clusters, others singly along the stem.
Small gourds ripening in many shapes and colors offer dramatic decorative effects. More delicate possibilities may be discovered in silvered and gilded pods of milkweed. The pods have a lovely sheen inside, which is a joy to those who seek subtle effects in their arrangements.
The fruit of most evergreens is the cone. Those unfamiliar with cones may not realize their value in creating distinctive decorations, but the subject is well worth a little study. They differ greatly in size, color and form. They may be produced in clusters, as on some of the spruces, or singly, as on the pines. The cone of the common hemlock is tiny, about half an inch long, but cones twenty inches long appear on Pinus Lambertiana.
Cones can be gathered in the forests at any time of year and it is an interesting hobby to collect them. The Christmas decorator will do so with a special purpose. This will make their varied shapes, sizes and colors of absorbing interest.
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