Decorate your home with beautiful greenery that will last throughout the holidays.

One of the season's most celebrated plants can fill your home with Southern holiday style. With their rigid, slightly cupped form, magnolia leaves are glossy and deep green on one side and coppery, teddy-bear soft on the other. Their shape and texture make them easy to work with. They can tumble over a mantel, drape a buffet, or make a striking centerpiece for the dining room table.

If you have magnolia trees in your landscape, you can clip leaves and make your own wreaths and garlands. Even if you don't have a tree of your own, you can still enjoy beautiful magnolia decorations thanks to The Magnolia Company based in Barberville, Florida. This family-owned company creates handmade swags, wreaths, and garlands from fresh magnolia and distributes them all over the country. We gave them a call and had all the magnolia items used for this story delivered right to our door. By simply embellishing what we bought, we created great looks throughout the house. Try these ideas at your home.

Greenery All Around
Magnolia garlands and swags are great choices for framing a dining room buffet, setting the stage for a few large decorations. At the center stands a simple red glazed flowerpot. Filled with sand, it holds a pillar candle covered with a hurricane-style globe. A few magnolia leaves and red ornaments are tucked around the globe. Oversize red ornaments on either side of the glazed pot complete the display.

Lasting Tree
Instead of decorating a traditional cedar, fir, or spruce Christmas tree this year, try stringing lights on a live 'Little Gem' magnolia. Positioned in a container next to a sunny window, this evergreen can live indoors for two to three weeks, sometimes longer. Set a large plastic dish underneath the container you'll be using for the tree. It will catch any runoff water and protect your floor. Once you add the tree, cover the container and water dish with burlap or a tree skirt.

Keep the soil evenly moist but not drenching wet, and always unplug any lights before watering. After the holidays, remove the lights and plant the tree in your yard.

Make Over a Mantel
The keys to this display are contrasting colors and varied heights. For a focal point, we hung a rich green wreath over the fireplace. It offers the perfect contrast to the neutral stone chimney. Next, we softened the edges of the mantel by letting the garland spill over the ends. For a little height and dimension, we added potted paperwhites. Anchoring the whole display are two crucibles. Placed at each end of the mantel, they hold silver-colored bromeliads accented by clusters of bright nandina berries and dogwood branches spray-painted red.

Table Topper
The base of this centerpiece is so simple: magnolia leaves layered down a gold table runner. We tucked red ornaments into the leaves to mimic berries on a shrub in winter. To create a few showy candleholders, we bought small terra-cotta pots, covered the drainage holes with duct tape, spray-painted the pots gold, and filled them with sand. Then we put in candles and surrounded them with red ornaments.

Going Green Made Easy
Unlike needled conifers, magnolias don't shed as they dry. Instead, their leaves turn a lighter green and begin to pucker, giving them added texture. We have friends who have used the same wreath for two years. This holiday season, give magnolias a try. Your decorated home will stand out from the rest.

Magnolias By Mail

The Magnolia Company: P.O. Box 67, Barberville, FL 32105; www.themagnolia company.com or 1-800-880-4662.

"Magnificent Magnolias" is from the December 2007 issue of Southern Living.

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