It was so fun over the weekend to welcome the hundreds of guests who toured my home during the Nell Hill’s Holiday Open House. As visitors drank in the lush seasonal decor we wove throughout my home, they wanted to know how we created the spectacular scenes. The secret is simple: Great greens. To build show-stealing holiday displays, you have to start with a base of beautiful faux greenery. Here are my favorite greens for holiday decorating this year, plus some tips on how to use them to make your holiday displays drop-dead gorgeous. 

Magnificent Magnolias

If you want a fresh look for the holidays this year, decorate your home with magnolia-inspired garlands, swags, picks and wreaths. We’re crazy about all-things-magnolia right now at Nell Hill’s, and we used magnolia greens to decorate my home for the Holiday Open House. You’ll also find magnolia greens and blooms in many of the over-the-top seasonal displays in all three stores. With their leathery leaves in deep green and plum, and showy white flowers, faux magnolias can’t be beat when it comes to drama.

I especially like magnolia garland roped around banisters because it holds its own in big, open spaces like foyers and stairwells. For a fuller effect, combine magnolia garland with evergreen garland, looping the two together then threading them up the banister to the top.

The snapshot above is of my front door, dressed for my Holiday Open House. The magnolia buds mix in well with the evergreen picks and soft green ribbon to create romantic holiday door decor that’s fresh and new.

Here’s what the magnolia picks look like before they are inserted into displays. The key to making the flowers look their best is to fluff them up a bit, working open the leaves and pedals so they look more lifelike and not straight-from-the-box.


Berry Pretty Berries

If you want a smashing holiday look in a hurry, I recommend using evergreen garland accented with bright red berries. The combination of the vibrant red berries and deep green garland screams Christmas so loudly that you don’t have to add much else to create a cheery display.

Use a berry garland on your bannister, as I did for my Holiday Open House, pictured above. Twist a rope of berry laced garland through an existing display on your buffet or mantel for an instant holiday makeover. Loop it through the arms of the chandelier in your dining room or kitchen for a high-impact display that takes just minutes to create. Poke some red berry picks into your Christmas tree to give it more depth and interest.

In the snapshot above, taken of my Holiday Open House, I hung a berry wreath from the mirror in my entry for a splash of cheer. You can do the same thing from your mirrors, pictures and even window sashes. So easy to do!

There are lots of styles to choose from when picking garland that’s finished in red berries. Here are a few of our hottest sellers at Nell Hill’s.




Berries on Ice are Twice as Nice

Faux greenery has gotten better and better during the last decade as manufactures have mastered a host of special effects that make the greens more lifelike. One of my favorites is greens and berries that look like they are dusted with frost. The faux ice gives them a bit of shimmer and shine, adding to the magic of any holiday display. Icy berry greens come is a wide variety of styles, like the garland pictured above, which has just a few dark red berries for a more subtle look.


Here are a few of our hottest sellers right now:


This garland, with its lime green holly leaves, thick berry clusters and sprinkling of ice, offers a lighter, brighter look that is ideal for whimsical or vintage Christmas displays.


Wonderful, Woodsy Evergreens

There’s nothing like traditional evergreen boughs when you’re decorating for the holidays. I used to decorate with real greens because I loved the aroma and natural look, but now I am a convert and use fakes in all my displays because they don’t drip sap or drop needles in my home.

The first place I decorate for the holidays is my front staircase, dressing up my banister with miles of garland. Before I hang the greens, I divide my banister into three even sections, marking the beginning of each section with a twist of green pipe cleaner so I know where to tie up each strand of garland. This little system helps ensure my garland is evenly spaced along the banister, not loose in some areas and bunched up in others.

Here are some of my favorite natural-pine greens at Nell Hill’s:

For a looser, lighter looks, I suggest the long-needled pine garland pictured above. I really like this one for mantel displays because it adds texture and color but not a lot of bulk so there is plenty of room left for accents like candles, bronze reindeer statues or mercury glass Christmas trees.


You can extend the life of a fading fake Christmas tree by embellishing it with a variety of pine picks, like these. Adding greens dotted with pinecones and berries will make your tree look richer and fuller and more natural.

Next Week …The English equestrian theme is one of my favorites for the holidays. Come see how to add a bit of this ever-popular lifestyle look to your home this season.


Want to receive the latest blog posting
in your email inbox every week?
Click here to sign up.

16 Responses to “Great Greens Are the Secret to Beautiful Holiday Displays”

  1. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    Yes!!!!!!!! I saw all of this in person. Spectacular. It reallylooked stunning as usual. Thank you so much for opening your home to all of us. Such an experience and I am applying so much to my holiday decor thanks to you. So lovely.
    I actually also brought in my statue from outside and brought her in because you have so many lovely statues that add so much to the home. Love it!
    This post is wonderful the way you break each garland and idea down to all the pieces we might need. Thank you for doing that. You always make everything so easy for others to do.
    Lisa (I posted two full posts on this weekend for all to see.)

  2. Paulette Wilson Says:

    Enjoyed our first time to your home and store. Thank you for being so accomodating to my mother her walker. It was a great outing for her.

  3. JoAnn Says:

    Oh wow, can’t wait for next week!!!

  4. Jerry Ballard Says:

    So sorry I missed your Open House last weekend. It is always so-ooo much fun and gets me inspired to tear into my seasonal decorating! I feel like I was there via Lisa Ferandes blog! It is wonderful! We went to your store in Atcheson a couple of weeks ago and always find some new things to work in with my old stuff…you’re right, you do have great Xmas greens…and my goodness you certainly know how to use them!!

  5. Loraine Allain Says:

    Love receiving your emails with all the beautiful rooms and ideas.
    If possible, could you tell me the brand and color name of the yellow paint on the walls in the front hall. It looks like a lovely color.
    Thank you.
    Loraine Allain
    Big fan. I love my state of Louisiana, but sure do wish I lived closer to you and your beautiful stores.

  6. Sydney Martin Says:

    A group of seven, very excited ladies from Olathe, Kansas, jumped in my friend Elizabeth’s minivan Saturday morning and headed your way! What great conversations we had as we drove north, so full of anticipation we could hardly stand it! We went straight to your magnificent house first, found a great parking place right on the street close by and took our place in line. The line moved quite nicely. No complaints there. Once near the front porch we listened attentively to the hostess with the mostest who warmly welcomed us inside. Oh, the wonders that awaited! We were not disappointed. Every visit there is a wonderful adventure with all new ideas and themes that knock our socks off. Not sure how you do it. I know you have the most incredible and talented staff to help and assist. It’s just an utter delight. Kudos to all involved. Thank you x 7 for the invitation to this holiday open house and blessing us so!!! We’ll be back. :-D

  7. Robin Frank -- Vision Interiors Says:

    Hi Lisa Fernandez … You made the trip to the tour of Mary Carol s home . Wasn’t it just tons of fun . All the wee details are the treasure details are my passion when I go now . Anytime you’d like to head this way you are welcome to join a few gals and go with us always welcome at my guest house rooms !!! Loved all the delicate changes and tweaks . The tree in thr urn SOOO beautiful Robin

  8. Phyllis Airington Says:

    Mary Carol
    Have been to your stores in Knsas and Missouri. A year ago my daughter and another lady friend went to Atchiison with the purpose of going to your home and by the time we saw as much as possible we were too tired to tour your home so went hme disappointed . This year my two daughters and another lady friend decided to tour your home first and then back to your store for shopping. Woked better. I am 85 so I was glad to see the beautiful house and impressed on how gracious you were to meet us at your front door and visit and answer questons. We loved seeing you and went for Mexican food at the restaurant you said we would like. You were so right.
    Your home is not only beautiful but very comfortble looking. I too got ideas and was so very glad to see the table in front of the divan in the what appeared to be a office/den or whatever in front of the divan was a half circle coffee table that I grew up with in our home and to see it again thrilled me. We still have it but it is in my daughter’s home.
    Youir talent and friendly helpful tips on decorating make you so warm and make you the sucessful lady you are so please keep up the good work and see you again next yer
    For the crowd in your store every one there, as crowded and busy as it was ,were so polite and helpful. Not a disgruntled person, tells you something abut your help and clientele’.
    Phyllis n Kansas City..

  9. Pat Crowder Says:

    My husband and I have made the eight and half hour trip three times to see this beautiful house, and as always it was exceptional. The foyer took my breath away, with that beautiful statue displayed on the newel post. I always come away inspired and love my purchases.
    We also like to drive around the quite little town of Atchison to admire the varied and beautiful architecture, of course this house stands out as the most beautiful.
    Thank you Mary Carol for the opportunity to tour your lovely home and for being such a gracious hostess.
    Pat – Fort Worth

  10. Annette Adams Says:

    You always make such beautiful decorations. Wish I could get up there this year from MO. I still haven’t given up.
    Happy Holidays and Blessings, aa

  11. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    Hi Mary Carol,
    Are you selling your little garden statues (the little cherub in your urn and inside your lanterns outside at the store? I don’t remember seeing them. If so how much are they? Also how much are the silver balls?
    Everything is so beautiful. I’m so excited for the holidays.
    Thank you.

  12. Linda Says:

    I am soooooo jealous of other who get to decorate their homes early! We are having a huge New Home house warming party on December 1st and it is 4 against 1 I start before Thanksgiving!!! Ugh. As an interior designer and stylist, I am going to live vicariously through your photos for a week more then I am going for it!


  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi LIsa—Just call Janet @877-746-4320 for information on these items.

  14. Mary Carol Says:

    Thanks so much to everyone who made the trip to Atchison for our 2012 Holiday Open House–it was great to see everyone.

  15. Cary Pappas Says:

    I live in Lexington, KY but my sister lives in Kansas City. Whenever I come to visit, we go to Atchinson and now to your store in Briarcliff. I love, love, love your stores and your blog. I hope that one year I can come for your open house. I have many things in my house from your stores!
    I do have a question, I have a long swag that I use on my fireplace mantel. What do you use to secure your greenery on your mantelpiece so other things on the mantel don’t get knocked over accidentally?

  16. Holiday Hearth | NSPJ ARCHITECTS Says:

    [...] of Mary Carol Garrity and the offerings at her Kansas City retail store Nell Hill’s.  Here she blogs about the effect fresh greenery can have on your mantle decor.  A variety of Holiday [...]

Leave a Reply