Channelling my Christmas Martha

Janice Wells
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Linda Ryan is an activist in the fight against breast cancer, and she’s also a reader whose blog pictures remind me what I used to be like when it came time to decorate the house for Christmas.

My front entrance will never look as good as this but it will be somewhat improved this year. Linda sets a high bar! — Photo by Linda Ryan

Friends would tell me that nothing made them feel as much like Christmas as our house. I was inspired by the Victorian style but never in as elegant a fashion as Linda. And my creativity was mainly indoors. The only memories I have of the outdoor decorating is the year Former ’Usband put the lights up on Boxing Day and took them down at Easter. I think it was always pretty basic anyway, enhanced by candles in the windows.

In recent years, I’ve sort of lost my enthusiasm for creative Christmas decorating indoors, and Newman is eerily like F.U. when it comes to getting the outdoor decorating done. (How did I end up with two men who are neither gardeners nor outdoor decorators?)

I have to admit, though, Linda’s pictures have stirred up my dormant Martha instincts. Plus, this year Daughter No. 1 will be home with me from school, just like in the old days, and she’s such a Christmas enthusiast she’s already decorated her Halifax apartment. I can’t let her down.

I decided that the usual old fake garland around the railing and a few strings of lights weren’t going to be quite enough for the outside of the house. Especially since we have two “outsides”: the front of the house, of course, and the back, which is the entrance we and most guests use.

Given that my go-to helper, Newman, is a decorating Grinch, I had also decided that my inner Martha was not up to fresh greenery outside this year. A couple of four-foot pre-lit trees in decorative urns caught my eye in a flyer, 50 per cent off. How easy it would be to just set them in place on the front veranda I thought, so off I went to check them out.

Well! I am now Newman’s hero. With his peculiar gallant wit, he told me that that day I had definitely earned my keep.

What I found was a boxed set of two four-foot trees, a wreath and two six-foot garlands, all prelit and decorated with pine cones and berries, regularly $199, for $39.99. They’re not LED lights so perhaps they weren’t selling well.

Anyway, I struggled with this huge box off to the checkout, so pleased with myself for finding such a bargain that I could live with the not-so-economical lights, so you can imagine my astonishment when the price came up as not $39.99, but $18. 74!

The clerk called a supervisor. She couldn’t figure out why the scan kept coming up at that price either, so she told him to just put it through. I considered going back immediately for another set for the back entrance, but decided not to push my luck and hightailed it home.

I can’t tell you the store because I’m afraid (irrationally, I know) that they might change their minds and come after me.

I am tickled, of course, but then I read Linda’s note regarding some of her planters; “bloom boxes” on my upper deck look great year round planted with easy everlastings: mini cedar trees, mini boxwood and perennial English ivy (translation: no deadheading ever — gin and tonic gardener style!). I simply push into the soil a few sprigs of pine, fir and cedar at Christmastime. Easy peasy.

What a good idea! I have variegated vinca and some small perennial ivy in my back gate planter and have already put some Christmas bells and a bow in with it, but in general I use planters for annuals.

I do have a dwarf Korean lilac in a pot and its bare twiggy look might be quite nice combined with some evergreen branches.

Next year, however, I will plant my planters with year-round interest in mind. (Even though my annual alyssum is still blooming!)

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at Note to readers: please do not send

thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Halifax

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