The Signal Tribune newspaper

Quick, easy ways to a welcoming exterior for the holidays

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Jennifer E. Beaver

Though Halloween is dead and gone, I still have some frightening words for you: The holidays are right around the corner. Less than a month till Thanksgiving, less than two for Christmas. (Strike up spine-tingling violin from Psycho.)
Company coming? If so, don’t tackle a major garden overhaul; there’s not enough time for plants to fill in and look presentable. You could lavish megabucks on full-size plants, but why bother when you can spend a little time and a little money and still make your home look welcoming?
Borrow a couple of tricks from decorating pros. First, use bright colors to guide the eye toward areas you want to emphasize. Second, cover bare or unsightly places. Interior decorators use rugs and blankets; gardeners use mulch.
Unless they’re particularly nosy or are staying for several days, most people won’t notice landscaping beyond the front entry path. Walk it yourself and see what it needs. Dig out the frayed stuff and replace it with colorful annuals. In sunny areas, go with pansies, dianthus, ornamental kale, calendula, stock, carnations and mums. For shade, use impatiens and cyclamen. Throw in a few wispy grasses for height and movement.
Flank the front door with festive pots containing small evergreens or other trees. Dress them for the holidays. Red berry garlands and a string of small white lights can take you from Thanksgiving through Christmas and beyond.
Now about those outdoor eating areas. Make the area enticing— quickly— with more containers. Try grasses and beautiful trumpet-flowered mandevilla and a sweet-smelling vine like jasmine or honeysuckle. For inspiration, check out the site of mandevilla breeder Sunparasol at .
Add charm with hanging baskets near doors and entryways. Save time by picking up a pre-planted version at a nursery or a big-box store. Or if, like me, your existing baskets are semi-viable (with, say, half of the flowers still living after the scorching heat wave), take out the charred stuff and tuck in a lime-green sweet potato vine and some sweet alyssum. Then shell out 20 bucks for four bags of mulch and spread it artfully over the bare soil in your front yard.
Feeling crafty? Create a long-lasting festive succulent centerpiece at Rancho Los Cerritos on Nov. 17 from 2pm to 4pm. For adults only; $28 for the general public, $25 for members. All supplies and materials will be included. Class size is limited; pre-registration is required by Nov. 15. Call (562) 570-1755 to reserve your space.

Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California and Edible Gardening for California.

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Quick, easy ways to a welcoming exterior for the holidays