If cut flowers are preferred, late chrysanthemums will
usually provide them at Thanksgiving time if the plants are
realously protected from frost on cold November nights by
averted baskets and burlap bags.
Christmas, without question, is the day of days. For this
event year-long planning is none too high a price to pay. The
project might be a holly bush, barberry, or winterberry (Ilex
ferticillata) to provide red berries for wreaths and center
Little Christmas scenes, however, constructed in sand
filled flat bowls or trays, would be the greatest fun. This means
earlier collecting of materials such as mosses, tiny evergreens, twigs for fences, mirrors for lakes and small rocks for boulders. Miniature figures of ice skaters and Santa Claus, little sleighs, reindeer and Nativity materials will help to make scenes truly representative of the season.
To aid in this undertaking you might start a small nursery bed of evergreen seedlings. Some of these could be used for tiny trees in a dish garden for the first couple of years. As they grow larger they could serve as miniature table Christmas trees.
Dazzling Christmas tree ornaments can be concocted from a variety of plant material. Not all of this can be grown by the youngster himself, but investigating this source will make him appreciative of the wonderful diversity of form and color that nature provides.
All sorts of seed pods in highly decorative shapes can be sprayed with gold or silver paint, or dipped in the "glitter" sold in hobby shops and art supply stores. Ornaments far more distinctive than most man-made products will result. Tiny pine cones, sweet gum and sycamore balls and teazel heads make delightful decorations. So do pods from the trumpet vine, Clematis texensis, wisteria, okra, milkweed and unicorn plants. The skeletal framework of Queen Anne's lace heads, after the seeds are gone, is unusually decorative. There are many, many others. Nature's beautiful designing of these various forms becomes delightfully apparent when accentuated with gutter or metallic paint.
For decorating miniature trees there is a wonderful source for the tiniest of ornaments among the most commonplace dried seedheads and pods. Every flower in garden and field, after summer petals have dropped, should be suspected of hidden charms and examined critically. These intricately fabricated small forms, masked in drab winter tones, do not flaunt themselves, and must be searched for. But they are in bountiful supply.
At a certain point hollyhock pods turn into little straw-colored buttercup-like flowers; gas plant pods spread out into
pudgy little five-pointed stars; and perennial cornflowers collar fluffy centers with shiny turned-back sepals. Columbine, annual phlox, bells of Ireland, mock orange, Clematis jackmani and countless other seedheads expose surprisingly varied and attractive miniature formations. So do an infinite number of weeds and burr-bearing plants.