Winter Decorations: There’s Variety in Pods and Cones

Wherever you live, there are all sorts of materials within your reach that you can use as winter decorations. Just step outside and let your imagination have free rein. You will be amazed at the many unique and interesting items that you will find to lend sparkle to your arrangements and provide conversation pieces for you and your guests.

We cannot begin to show them all here, but I do hope that these few will so whet your appetite that you will explore your little world with renewed vigor and enthusiasm and find your treasures. Good luck in your search!


Materials You Can Use For Decorating

Now for a few words about the specimens:

Grains Such As Oats, Wheat, or Rye

Grains such as oats, wheat, or rye can be found in nearly all parts of the country, either as commercial crops, used for winter covers and green manures or as volunteers springing up around bird feeding stations. 

It doesn’t matter how you get them, their seed heads are always interesting. If these aren’t available, there are many wild types of grass you can use. In many marshes – and some gardens – pampas and other ornamental grasses flourish. Or, if there is a dry, parched, gravelly area near you, you might find the delicate sprays of poverty grass. All are good.

Cat Tails

Used properly, cat tails always lend interest to decorations, and, fortunately, there is practically no part of North America without some—whether it’s Alaska’s bogs or Florida’s marshes, Newfoundland or Mexico, or the central prairies states with their sloughs. 

And in limey waters the best of all are found, the much more dainty-headed narrow-leaved cat-tail. Cut all sorts before they begin to come apart; spray them with lacquer and they will last almost forever.

Palm Leaves, Spathes and Blooms

Gardeners who live where palms grow are fortunate in having several unusual items particularly adapted to indoor arrangements. These include, besides the leaves, palm spathes, plumes, centers, embryo leaves, and the so-called palm boots.


Right in your garden you might find the graceful pods of the hemerocallis or daylily. Don’t cut the flower stems down when they have finished blooming and you will have all the pods you can use. Let them dry on the plants if you wish.

Wood Roses

Gardeners in Florida, Hawaii, and other warm areas can often go outdoors and pick wood roses—the seed pods of Ipomoea tuberosa, a perennial species of morning glory. The moderate-sized bright yellow flowers appear fairly Late in the growing season.

The roses open about three months after the flowers drop. It is this long growing season that makes it impossible to grow the wood roses farther north.

Pine Cones

These show, to a small extent, the great variety which exists among the pine cones. The smaller one could readily be that of the limber pine (P. flexilis), Austrian pine (P. nigra), or the red pine (P. resinosa) while the large one is unquestionably that of the Coulter or big cone pine, whose cones sometimes measure 14” inches long. 

The pitch pine (P. rigida) has squatty cones and the white pine (P. strobus) has long, narrow ones. For still greater variety you might consider the tiny cones of the hemlock or the larch which drops its needles each fall, or those of any of the first or spruces.

Teasel Pods

Teasel pods never fail to evoke comment. While not native to this country, the plants grow wild over much of eastern North America and in isolated spots farther west. Generally, it behaves as a biennial.


No part of the United States is without some milkweed, and where there are milkweeds, there are milkweed pods. Pick them as they are opening, remove the fluffy seed parasols, and use the pods either in their natural color or painted to suit your taste and purpose.


Bayberries are best known to dwellers of the East Coast but they are found occasionally in sandy soils as far west as Ohio. Somewhat similar related species inhabit the Gulf and West Coasts. The best time to gather the berries is in the autumn, just about the time the leaves fall from the non-evergreen sorts, No special handling is needed.

Lotus Pods

Lotus pods are often sold by suppliers of arranging materials. However, if you are fortunate enough to live where the plants are growing, you can acquire a few of your own. It matters not whether they come from naturalized plants of the sacred or East Indian lotus or our native 

species, since there is very little difference in the pods.

Native Willows

Where the native willows grow, you often find the attractive soft, gray bud galls out on the tips of the twigs. Gathered during the winter, they make interesting focal points for dried arrangements and will last for years. And, while we are on the subject of galls, the round, papery ones found on or under oak trees can also be used to good advantage.


Wherever there is moist soil, along a watercourse or at the edge of a swamp, there are alders, and where there are alders there are their dried cone-like fruits that hold on after liberating their seeds. These, too, make excellent subjects for winter arrangements.

Additional Material Ideas

In addition to the materials mentioned here, the possibilities are limitless. In the wet places are the dried fruiting fronds of the cinnamon fern, dry places have their sumacs with large purple-red seed heads, the edges of woodlands have bittersweet berries and hazelnut husks, and occasionally in gardens are found the spiraled branches of the corkscrew willow, Salix matsudana tortuosa. 

Wherever you are, wherever you go, there are all sorts of materials around you. You have to look and you will be well rewarded.

44659 by  Edwin F. Steffek