At the approach of the holiday season, early American colonists decorated their homes with greenery in the English tradition. They found that the winter foliage in their new land was somewhat different, so they added mountain laurel and pine to the holly and the ivy. Shiny big magnolia leaves were also added when available.
During the middle ages holly was associated with good fortune and an English poem in the 1500s states, "Get ivy and holly woman, deck up thine house," and in the 1800s an anonymous poet wrote, "From every hedge is plucked by eager hands, the holly branch with prickly leaves replete, and fraught with berries of a crimson hue."
How to Arrange
If you have holly and ivy growing in your garden, be sure to hammer the ends of the woody stems and stand the branches in warm water for a few hours before arranging them. For a holiday centerpiece, use a block of well-soaked foam in a low bowl and insert the stems so that the greenery covers the foam.
Let the ivy trail down the sides of the container. Buy some small red carnations, which last well, and insert the flowers into the foam amongst the greenery. Holly and ivy have been treasured for centuries and enhance any flowers that are nestled among them.