Christmas tree decorating the natural way! Laurel McIvor, Community Outreach & Education Coordinator Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens November 2006 Earlier this fall, one of the members of our Friends of the Gardens group suggested that we decorate our annual Christmas tree at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre with natural ornaments this year. What a great way to promote appreciation for nature by having a tree that reflects our mission to present the ecology and plants of the Acadian Forest Region! For the last month we have been on a quest for both interesting plant material and creative ways to make them into ornaments. Keeping in mind that the Friends of the Gardens are largely a group of gardeners, not necessarily crafters, this has been a fascinating learning experience. Our first week we collected all sorts of berries, seedpods, stems, pine cones, or anything that we deemed to have ornamental potential. We discovered that rosehips and Canada holly berries dry very well whereas others such as high bush cranberry and snowberries just mushy. We also learned that while cones from white pines are very beautiful, the resin is super sticky. Fortunately, we found that resin will dry out and leave a shiny gleam if the cones are baked in the oven for about 20 minutes. In collecting plant material, we were very careful not to overharvest from any one source. As a general rule, no more than 10% of the plants in any given population should be removed and never harvest in sensitive habitats or any rare or endangered plants. An exception to the 10% rule is using when material from invasive species, those introduced nonnative plants that aggressively compete with and ultimately displace native plants. Using these plants actually helps native plants thrive. We were very happy to discover that rosehips from the invasive multi flora rose, make great red“berried” sprigs and dried pods of the nonnative common milkweed make great birds on a nest of caribou moss or nifty sleds for pinecone critters. We will be hanging our natural ornaments on th November 30 and are really excited and curious to see whether we have enough to cover a 12 foot tree. Come for a stroll in the Gardens and drop by the lobby of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre to have a look and let us know what you think! Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens and Woodland Trails are open daily and free to the public.