Christmas Ideas Needed: Unusual Natural Materials for Tree

kswl2July 12, 2014

I am already starting to think about Christmas decorations for our newly renovated lower level. The furniture is transitional and the decor is sort of Natural History--- majolica, botanical prints, framed natural history book covers. Quite by accident, the majority of accessories are of German origin, so I'm thinking of a tree with a natural theme although not all natural materials. For example, I have always liked the old blown glass frosted pine one ornaments, and just purchased a few vintage ones on eBay and Ruby Lane, and new ones on sale at Ballard Designs. I am also looking for a few old (or old looking) mercury glass balls and would love to find paper leaves I could hang as ornaments.

I'm looking not only for sources, but inspiration pictures. I have an idea of what it will look like but need something a bit more solid. Our other Christmas decor has evolved over decades and this one will have to spring fully formed out of my head (like Minerva from Zeus, lol).

Any and all help will be very much appreciated!

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My DIL has a tree of most all Christopher Radko items and it is beautiful. Most of them are the blown glass including the few that I have given her that still look good from my mother's bag of ornaments. There are lots and lots of Radko ornaments at the Bay for 20% to 50% of what she has paid for hers. I know most of her purchases because we shop together quite a bit.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:31AM
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Christmas? No, no no no no.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:34AM
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Mtnrdredux, Christmas is my crack and I am an addict! The big wholesale place in Atlanta to which I have access thru my wonderful SIL has it all RIGHT NOW. I am going up next week and already shopping ebay and online retail, but want my bigger purchases there to be as focused as possible.

Yes.....CHRISTMAS!!!!! I confess I even listed to a Christmas song a few weeks ago. Who could possibly object to Aaron Neville's Ave Maria?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:40AM
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Forgot to say that last summer (in anticipation of this Christmas, lol) I purchased many rolls of a taffeta 3" plaid ribbon in brown, cream, black and a red orange....almost a Burberry looking plaid. I plan to use that ribbon, plus thin orangey and green ribbons,as the main sources of color ----on the tree, especially. The ornaments will be old silvered, or bronzey glass, iykwim.

These are the foundation ornaments for the tree, I just bought 20 and may order more if they are as nice as they look: (sorry about the fuzzy picture)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Here's the pic .And they are on sale , Really cute !

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:19AM
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Oh! Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I love all the colors and lights.

Your room sounds wonderful and I love the decorations you are choosing. Looking forward to seeing more!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:27AM
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Thanks, forbiystoo! I am using an ipad and it's difficult to get a good saved image when it keeps enlarging.

Yes these are about 75% off and exactly what I was looking for. Now looking online at pressed cardboard ornaments...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:29AM
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When I was young and poor and couldn't afford many ornaments I racked my brain trying to think of ways to fill up our tree. I found some inexpensive cube shaped gift boxes that were about half the size of a large tissue box. I wrapped the boxes with craft paper and finished them off with a thick gingham ribbon.

I stick them in the depths of the tree and they stay nicely. I change out the ribbon every few years but I have never tired of how the boxes add dimension and depth to the tree.

The craft paper would work with your natural botanic theme and you could use the new ribbon for the bows. I also occasionally use raffia as another layer of garland.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:01AM
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Great idea Deee! I use tiny white and red tissue paper wrapped boxes from IKEA in our family tree, and love them. I like this, especially the first year or so, as I agree they would add some depth to the tree. Thank you for this idea, and please share any more you might have!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Etsy has a lot of vintage Christmas ornaments, including the pine cones. You could also add some glass birds for a little color tucked into branches. Many shown on Etsy, very reasonable. It was typical to hang nuts in their shells and cranberry garland on vintage trees. You would probably have to toss them after the season, or buy fake cranberry garland, which might be nice in the room. You can find vintage mercury glass acorns. Leaves can be purchased at Michael's or collected. Not sure of the safety of dried leaves near the lights, though the tiny lights don't get so hot. Birch bark and real birds nests can be used. Fun project!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:14PM
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The most beautiful tree I ever saw was in an ancient German church. Just real candles and real apples - nothing else.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:19PM
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Don 't know how you feel about DIY projects, but Pinterest has several interesting and look to be easy ones.

Here is a link that might be useful: ornaments

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:45PM
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I love Christmas, too. We must not be alone because I noticed that OneKingsLane had Christmas items on sale today.

I like the gilded metal leaves that Crate & Barrel usually sells. They look better in person than in the picture.

They had these pine cone ornaments last year.

Usually, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn will have the heavy mercury glass ornaments in good colors. I find them at Tuesday Morning sometimes, too.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 5:46PM
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Here is a link that might be useful: Feathers

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:04PM
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Love those feathers, Fun2B. Patty_cakes had a lot of ideas with her link, like the feathers atop the gold balls. I wonder how they would look on other colors?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:24PM
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I'll join Mtn, in her "No, no no no" chant!

We went away last Christmas, so I thought I was free from having to decorate ... but DH volunteered our house for a party, so I had to put up some garlands and our collection of Nutcrackers. I refused to go to the trouble of setting up a tree. No one else helps, so I don't feel like I should do all the work.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 8:36PM
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Thank you for all the ideas! I love the feathers tipped in gold, and have already been scouring the crate and Barrel site for those metal leaves--- they are EXACTLY the kind of thing I am looking for! Birds, either feathered or glass, are another possibility, as is birch bark--- I love the look of that stuff.

Patty cakes, I am not too crafty but I def like the idea of putting acorns or small pine cones or acorns in a glass ornament and think I could at least do that :-)

I feel your pain, Chispa. I have no help with the Christmas decorating at home except my mother --- who can stand it for about two days---so I hire it out. Handy Guy and I have it down to a four day science.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Kswl, do a search on "RAZ natural Christmas decorations" and you'll see a nice selection. I tried to link the search here, but it blew up for some reason.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:26PM
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I love the feathered balls and I think raffia (or grapevine) would work great too.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:34PM
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These birds don't have feathers, but they are a nice size and would add some sparkle. I bought the gold last year and was very pleased. The chocolate and pearl are new colors this year. I'll bet the chocolate will be amazing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mercury glass birds

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:11PM
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We made most of the ornaments for our keeping room tree last year--pomanders, sliced oranges, etc. You could also look into the raw wood carved snowflakes and get some Steiff birds for your tree.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:47PM
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I left you a message in the Holiday Forum where you posted.

I have been a member here on Garden Web for A Number of years, but tend to hang out on the Holiday Forum, B/C I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!

Hope to see you later!!


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:35AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Way too soon to think xmas! (Reminds me of my gramma who, at every July 4th picnic announced summer was over!)

When you said natural materials, I thought natural GF's very religious father wanted the family to eschew the materialism around xmas so allowed them to have a tree only if they made every item on it out of natural was actually a pretty fun project.

We used to have a sweet gum tree outside my office at work and it made the most awful mess of gum pods. But I picked a bagful once thinking they could become something for xmas. Never did make anything with them, but I thought of wreaths, or tipping the points in paint for ornaments or something. They look so much more interesting to me than the std pinecone.

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Mon, Jul 14, 14 at 7:56

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:53AM
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You might check out Save-On-Crafts for natural decorative items to fill spaces in your tree. Even if you only use them as place-holders until you find enough other ornaments.

Some things that might work are dried and preserved botanicals, feathers, small bird cages, bird nests, small baskets with candies, even silk florals. Such things as dried baby's breath or Queen Anne's lace tucked in between ornaments would work well.

I often do an overly decorated tree and have used silk poinsettias to fill in spaces beautifully.

Here is a link that might be useful: Save-On-Crafts

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:51AM
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Thanks for all these great ideas! I just ordered a few things from RAZ (what a great resource!) and am headed for the mercury glass birds next.

Threeapples, I love the Stieff birds and have put bids on a couple on ebay----they have gotten so much more expensive I'm hoping to snag a few bargains.... I was always a sucker for boiled wool anything :-)

I like those feathered balls, too, Tina, and I can see those sweet gum balls dipped in gold, Annie! I appreciate all the help, I need to get a jump on this stuff so we aren't scrambling at the end of October!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 1:36PM
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Annie, did you see these cute little mice in Patty_cakes link?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

thanks voila, I hadn't!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 7:54AM
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I purchased new ornaments last year for our big tree. They are plastic but look like mercury glass or glass ornaments. I was thrilled to find them, at Lowe's off all places. The pinecones are enormous. They glow when the lights are on, DH loves them. Easily bought 100 of the laser cut wood snowflakes. Gave some to DD2.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Allison, that is EXACTLY the look I want! I'd forgotten about your new ornaments but now remember the pictures and how impressed I was
last christmas..... Thank you so much!!

Allison, all your beautiful ornaments are "no longer available" on the Lowe's site, so I am hoping they were such a good seller last year they will be reprised this Christmas. I even checked the Lowe's Canada site and ebay...... No stars or pinecones anywhere. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

This post was edited by kswl on Wed, Jul 16, 14 at 5:23

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 4:39AM
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Thanks. Maybe they will! The pinecones are 6" tall. I just love them! When I saw them at the Lowe's near me, I just bought almost everything they had but decided I needed more (big tree!) I looked online to order, but they were never available to purchase. You could check stock though. I went to a second store a few days later to buy their stock - if DH hadn't been with me, I might have bought even more. ;) The tin angel on the treetop is 1 of 3 of various sizes votive holder (between her wings). I've always used one on the tree. I didn't use the copper ribbon from previous year last December, but I might this year.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Thanks for that info--- I will stalk Lowe's like the ghost of Christmas Past this year to find those great pine cones and wooden snowflakes. I'm going to the mart in a few weeks but would rather have some bigger ornaments than a tree full of small ones.... the tree itself won't be very big, I am considering an Alpine tree for this area. ( The ceiling is only 8' 6" in that back room.)

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 4:39PM
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Start checking in October. It was out early last year. I had our tree up before Thanksgiving (which I have never done before) since it was late and left less time between. The large round balls aren't really my style and I almost didn't buy any of them, but I'm glad I did. They are by Holiday Living, shatterproof ornaments.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 8:57PM
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I was looking at this link below for an historic home staircase we always have open at Christmas. I would change it a little but I liked it for a pre-Civil War home that will be on the tour.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:47PM
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Gr8day I love that look--- we have something quite similar in our dining room!
I never thought of it for stairs, but if we do our back staircase this year it is a perfect fit, thank you!

I went on Amazon today and ordered small mercury glass birds with feather tails (and several vintage German birds on ebay). I also ordered several different types and sizes of these ornaments :

Oops, hit submit too early!

This post was edited by kswl on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 15:54

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:18PM
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Update for the Christmas bugs among us :-)

I've got the whole downstairs planned! The tree will have the glass birds, mercury glass vintage and new ornaments, pinecone ornaments, etc. above, plus I found nice birch wood tags on which I am going to try to do wood burned designs of birds and tie them to the tree with twine. I also found some copper leaf "skeletons"--- both from Sav-on-crafts, thank you for that tip, Luckygal! Also from Sav-0n I purchased six or seven brush animals (squirrels, fox, rabbits, etc) and these I will use on a short garland on the wrought iron railing that goes down the last three steps into the front room. I will mix in other elements with this, possibly raffia and some narrow ribbon and hopefully a few of the large pinecones like Alison's above.

For tabletop, I have purchased a variety of new and vintage Putz Christmas houses ranging in size from5" to 13". made of pressed cardboard and dusted with glitter, enough for a nice display on the mantel and one on each side table, along with several sizes of bottle brush trees. I may replace the large green glass vase on the rattan console with a display of these houses, or possibly with a bowl of real pine cones and gold tipped feathers.

I am so glad I've at least mentally decorated this space! I know we'll probably have to buy some fill in ornaments bit at least I have a plan....I'm ready to sing the Happy song :-)

One of the Putz houses:

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:01PM
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I cannot wait to see pictures once you have your decorations in place this year because I love all of your choices. Don't forget to post even though I know that time of year is crazily busy for most people.

My grandfather used to put a Putz village under the tree every year. I don't know what happened to it, but I sure wish I had it now. I see the vintage ones offered on eBay, but it just wouldn't be the same to me.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:13PM
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I love those Putz houses and every year have tried to figure out a way to incorporate them upstairs but couldn't without leaving off some of our existing treasures. With a whole new area I can indulge! Luckily, by design there are VERY few hard horizontal surfaces so I won't be able to go overboard,even if I wanted to.

Adding: the house pictured above is from ebay. Among the new ones I bought are three wonderful covered bridges!

This post was edited by kswl on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 21:40

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:38PM
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Bottle brush animals for stair rail garland below. Also looking for needle felted birds, (Stieff ones are all either plush or pompom construction) for this garland, and decorative fence for base of tree. Found great green and red vintage metal Lionel fence on ebay, but afraid it will not show up well against brick might just blend in too well with tree and floor, so now looking at white wood fences.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:51AM
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