Nature ornaments

Felder Rushing recently created holiday ornaments out of different items he found outside.

Sounds worse than it was, but while making naturalistic holiday decorations from garden gleanings, I took off a minor part of my face.

Started out as a nostalgic throwback to the not-so-glorious days of my youth, attempting something like anyone with one too many kids bouncing off the walls or staring sullenly into handheld screens, thumbs being their only moving parts.

Making our own Christmas tree decorations was a boring day activity put into play by my mom, who worked tirelessly at keeping four restless kids occupied during wintery holidays. What we made weren’t great, mind you, but they were originals. Among the different creations were hardtack flour-and-salt cookie ornaments and garlands of chains made from glued rings of colorful strips of craft paper.

Did I mention this was way before the internet, when we only got a handful of black-and-white TV channels?

Mom would have us forage for whatever materials we could scavenge from both our yard and across the street in my great-grandmother’s naturalistic garden. Think spiky round sweetgum balls, long thin trumpet creeper seedpods, little wild gourds, pecans, acorns, pine cones, colorful bits of lichens, shiny green magnolia leaves with their furry brown backs and carefully snipped bits of holly and berries.

Like Rumpelstiltskin weaving golden garments from common straw, we coaxed those materials into ornaments using rough jute string, craft paint, fast-drying white glue and, in those pre-environmental days, colorful glitter. I suspect some of that glitter is still floating around.

Anyway, during last week’s MPB radio broadcast I was reminiscing during this abundance of spare time about delving into recreating some of the craftsy holiday décor from my childhood. I was enthralled with a cute ornament made by Shelly Battista, a Master Gardener friend from Crystal Springs: a long, skinny Santa face painted on a dried okra pod. Said I’d love to make some myself, and fished aloud for more ideas.

During the broadcast, I received a listener’s email with a photo of her favorite homemade creations, which were other-worldly stars made from sweetgum balls with toothpicks glued into the seed holes, spray painted, then dusted with glitter.

Inspired, I set about making some nature-craft things along these lines, which involved a lot of suspicious-looking walking around the neighborhood looking for fodder and risking my health trekking to a hobby store for supplies.

First thing up was something my kids and I put together one year for holiday presents, a “gourdian angel” made from a pair of angel wings cut from thin tin with tabs inserted into slits opposite each other in a dried gourd. Later, I built a gumball tree from a twiggy branch off a thorny shrub — in my case, a hardy citrus tree, but a twiggy crape myrtle branch would work — and stood it up in a clay pot and festooned the stickers with red and green gumdrops. Cheesy, sure; but ... yeah.

I made little trees and stars from twigs, wove mini wreaths from vines and berries, sprinkled glitter over Elmer’s glue designs squeezed onto magnolia leaves, and hot glue gunned acorns, tiny pinecones and frilly lichens onto everything.

It was that latter trick that led to my accident. Not-so-funnily, my inexperience with a hot glue gun led me to accidentally get clear molten glop on a finger, which I instinctively stuck in my mouth to cool off. And it stuck to my procheilon — that little fleshy bump some of us have on the bottom middle of our upper lip. Which promptly stuck fast onto my glued fingertip.

I couldn’t sip hot coffee for days, but could still smile at my retro-rustic creations.

Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to

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