Charleston Style and Design

FALL 2015

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Page 179 of 291

Let's face it: We need more than sticks, twigs, berries and fuffy stuff to make our Christmas memorable. We need to jazz up our decorations to refect the season's joyous mood. Too often, however, despera- tion leads to disaster: artifcial garlands, red plastic bows and perhaps the greatest lily gilder of all time—glitter-sprayed poinsettias. But there's another way to add seasonal spice. Create arrangements that make use of plants that are native to or associated with the Lowcountry. Whether you prefer edgy, dramatic or whimsical, there's a wealth of botanicals connected to Lowcountry Christmases. Nearly a century before North Carolina's Moravians began chopping off pine treetops for yuletide decorations, Charlestonians were cutting boughs of swamp and gran- difora magnolia to mix with loblolly, longleaf, slash and Walter pine for holiday trim- mings. And do you really think that the colonial Yankees had sole proprietorship of mistletoe and holly? The former, as well as four evergreen hollies, are indigenous to coastal Carolina. While Lowcountry pluff mud might not fow in his veins, hor- A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS get creative this season with decorations inspired by nature BY PJ GARTI N | PHOTOG RAPHY BY HOLG E R OB E NAUS ticulturalist and designer Nicholas Askew is deeply connected to Carolina's native coastal plain fora. He grew up on a farm situated slightly east of North Carolina's upland tidewaters where he discovered the artistic potential in pines and mag- nolias. And while no respect- able 18th-century Charleston planter ever considered turning his valuable crop, Sea Island cotton, into holiday embellish- ments, Askew discovered ways to transform his daddy's cotton bolls into magnifcent Christmas decorations. Askew's fare comes from his ability to abandon the con- ventional while respecting the traditional. And, like the pru- dent farmer or the experienced horticulturalist, he skips the superfuous and heads straight to Mother Nature. For example, he will feature a fresh pineapple in a centerpiece arrangement. Long known as a symbol of hospitality and wealth, this fruit was so coveted by early settlers that entrepreneurs rented it out for festive occasions. Askew omits the customary red or silver glass ornaments and uses bright yellow lemons for a pop of visual surprise instead. He L E I S U R E G A R D E N I N G 178 CSD

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