A trip to the fields and woodlands, or even the back yard, may give you a supply of material for Christmas arrangements.
Milkweed seedpods, painted various colors, can be used for decorations, either individually or arranged to look like flowers.
Try using pine cones upside down. Cut the stems off smoothly, place a wire through the bracts, paint and place in the arrangement with the bottom of the cone facing out. A pine cone may be cut to look like a flower. Cut off the top leaving only three or four whorls of bracts. Wire as you would a normal pine cone and paint.
A few branches from the bottom of the Christmas tree, or trimmings from shrubs around the home, can supply needed greens. Holly, Japanese yew, boxwood, balsam and arborvitae last several days indoors and for weeks outside.
Most pines are quite stiff but the white pine is graceful and soft. Balsam fir, juniper and arborvitae are pleasingly fragrant and cut branches from them keep several months in water or through Christmas without water.
Unless you have a large garden, you may not be able to get enough greens for a large door wreath. Buy an inexpensive balsam or pine Christmas tree and cut it up.
Festoon the mantle with holly: proper pruning helps rather than hurts the holly tree. Use sharp tools and never break off branches. Don't cut a branch back to the main trunk. Keep in mind the typical cone-shaped form of the tree.
Avoid the spruce when selecting greens for indoors. It loses its needles quickly and tends to be messy. It can be used for outdoors wreaths if nothing else is available. The same is true of hemlock.
Rhododendron leaves are durable, and most attractive when used in large arrangements. The leaves can be sprayed, painted or flecked.
Boxwood is traditionally used in making wreaths. It's easy to work with and particularly good for table or mantle arrangements.
Don't wait until the last minute to do your pruning. Take cuttings a week ahead of time, put them in a bucket of water, and keep them in a cool place.
After four or five days, change the water and cut an inch or two off the ends of stems to help them absorb water. Then, when you're ready to use them they'll still be fresh.