Holiday Red

Everyone reacts strongly to color-I am no exception.  I am not crazy about red in the landscape.  I design with red foliaged trees and shrubs on rare occasions.  Something or someone has to nudge me in this direction.   I am a card carrying advocate of green.  All kinds, shades, and manner of green.  In summer container gardens, red can be ruthlessly overbearing.  Too bright and cheery.  But I will try anything-won’t you?  The year I featured red in my containers was a good year, but not my favorite.  Red in the spring-that color after a long winter is so welcome.  Red tulips underplanted with lavender pansies-scrumptious.  Red at the holidays is a blessing.  The skies, the ground, the trees- most everything in the landscape goes drab. Trees with persistent red winter fruit, and red-stemmed shrubs are prized by northern gardeners, for good reason. I decorated this Christmas tree some years ago; I still love this celebration arranged around red.  My clients had just moved in.  Moving boxes were everywhere.  This red ornamented tree, and its red sinamay tree skirt stood out-a reminder that the color red celebrates every warm gesture people make at the holidays.  Instantly this newly restored house felt much more like home.  

I have a client that orders up a pair of holiday wreaths.  One for her front door, and one for the library.  I concentrate on whatever natural materials are available to me.  Pine cones, anise balls, red preserved eucalyptus, reindeer moss, platys seed pods, dry tallowberries, fresh magnolia leaves pack this mixed green wreath with a variety of colors and textures.    

The red berry picks energize all of the other elements.  No real red berries exist in my garden  like these, but I have no problem with these shiny faux red berry picks.  It’s the red that represents the spirit of the holidays.       

I decorated this house for the holidays 6 years ago. I have published a few of my pictures from this project before; I still like it.  The red light covers look like glass ornaments during the day.  They glow red at night. The lit vertical stems are intertwined with a few very long red berry stems.  That red reads from a distance both day and night.  In early evening, the landscape is muted and somber.  This red in the wood boxes is a visual version of happy holidays, friends and family-welcome to this home. 



Holiday red can take a lot of forms.  Red ribbon, berry stems, preserved eucalyptus,  pomagranites, apples, red twig dogwood, glass ornaments-in this case, a red felt tree skirt with a felt pointsettia petal border.        

Red can be very dressy. 

Red can also be simple and striking. The client who gets this wreath has a collection of nutcrackers that sit on her porch for the holidays.  The colors of those figures are bright, and accented with lots of white.  In this case, the white ornaments and white based velvet ribbon help pop that red all the more. 

The cardinal on this wreath is the last of the 256 of them we had in the shop.  Gardening people appreciate the birds; cardinal red is the name of one of the cultivars of red twig dogwood whose branches we stock at the holidays.       


This wreath made of giant wood curls, and its wood rose have been dyed the most intense shade of red.  Though red may be a very traditional holiday color, it never fails to catch my eye.  Should your holiday decorating plans seem a little anemic, try a little red.  



  1. Fabulous! Every wreath and arrangement a winner, particularly that first wreath! Oh, my, Deborah! (And I don’t usually gush.)

    We Northerners have to have red at this time of the year. The Winterberry, wild and cultivated, has been marvelous this year – those red accents in the current beige landscape just leap out at you.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Suzanne, red this time of year just makes me feel better. And it certainly makes my landscape look better. Deborah

  2. I saw a 60-something woman out on the town last night in cherry-red leather from head to toe…her lipstick was of the same shade…and her shoes were “dyed-to-match.” It made me smile. Mathias refers to this style of dressing as “le look total”…or the “total look.” Indeed. Happy Holidays!

    • Deborah Silver says

      This sounds like it was an enthusiastically total look! It would be a dull world indeed if everyone dressed, gardened, and decorated for the holidays in the same way.

  3. I like red sparingly during the growing season and the holidays….maybe it’s b/c there’s an abundance of slightly tacky red things around during the holidays? But I agree that a little red makes holiday stuff pop. 🙂 Your wreaths are gorgeous. I love the red cardinal!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Jennifer, Everyone has their own idea about beautiful, don’t they? It is a a challenge to do something fresh and different with a traditional color or form. Years ago I had a client fuss as me for planting gobs of red geraniums in big pots. The mass and the color was great-she objected to planting an “ordinary” plant. What makes any planting special or intriguing is the way in which it is used-not the material itself.
      Those little feathered cardinals were great. Deborah

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