December 2013
The Herb Lady

Christmas Decorating with Nature’s Bounty

 In the early 1990s, Richard and I were involved in the remodeling of our home in Goshen. This house had been built by my great-grandparents George Soasbe and Delilah Wilson Johnson around 1890. I was also tending my herb garden and writing an herb column for The Montgomery Advertiser.

When my editor asked if I would decorate early for the holidays and allow my home to be featured in a special Christmas edition, I was thrilled. Of course, parts of the house were in chaos, but I hurriedly made some parts presentable for this occasion.

I had grown up on a farm and learned early in life about nature’s bountiful supply of wonderful, natural Christmas decorations. For this 1990’s project, I relied heavily and happily on this early knowledge. From the countryside and the Conecuh river swamp, Richard and I gathered smilax, magnolia, holly, cedar, yaupon, pine foliage and cones, wax myrtle (also known as bayberry) and Spanish moss.

We made swags, wreaths, centerpieces and other ornamental arrangements. Along with the greenery we used other decorations appropriate for the season. This included red, green, silver, gold and crystal. Of course, there was a nativity scene in a special place.

Pine trees are so common they need no introduction. However, they provide us with many useful products other than lumber. In my youth, there was always a bottle of turpentine (a pine product) in the medicine cabinet.

Smilax is a twining vine. I can only praise it for its use in decorating.

Magnolia is as Southern as I am. This magnificent tree provides fragrant white blossoms in the summer. In the winter, it provides huge, glossy, green leaves for decorating.

Cedar is a tree providing us with a moth-repelling wood. It also provides us with great greenery at Christmas and often a tree for Santa Claus to visit.

Holly produces bright red berries which are at their best at Christmas times. Most woods provide all we need for decorating - and we need quite a bit.

Yaupon is a relative of holly. It has small green leaves and pretty red berries just in time for Christmas.

Wax myrtle is a large evergreen shrub. Its fruit or berries are used to make candles. Both the greenery and candles are great additions to Christmas scenes.

Spanish moss is another truly Southern asset. You can drape it artistically with your Christmas greenery. The gray tendrils add a unique aura to your home and even to the Christmas tree.

The blended aroma of the wax myrtle, cedar and pine is very pleasing.

The scenes from my old house appeared along with my herb column to cover a whole page in The Montgomery Advertiser that December. The gathering, the creating, my husband’s willing help and the appearance in the newspaper all formed wonderful memories for me.

 As always, I advise you to consult your physician before taking any herbal remedy.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 866-570-7302, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..