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Originally published Friday, November 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM

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Great greens the secret to beautiful holiday displays

Magnolia-inspired garland, swags, picks and wreaths create a fresh look.

Scripps Howard News Service

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To build great 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 holiday displays drop-dead gorgeous.

Magnolia garlands

If you want a fresh look for the holidays this year, decorate your home with magnolia-inspired garland, swags, picks and wreaths. 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.

Magnolia picks are a great choice if you want to add zest to a Christmas tree. For one display, we took a plain old fake evergreen tree and gave it star power by tucking in magnolia-blossom picks. You barely need ornaments when you have this much visual interest in a tree.

Evergreens with berries

If you want a smashing holiday look in a hurry, try using evergreen garland accented with bright red berries. The combination of 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.

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 red berry picks into your Christmas tree to give it more depth and interest.

Infuse your living room with holiday charm by hanging berry-studded wreaths from the window sashes. Put fallen branches into a garden urn, then lace berry garland up the limbs. The possibilities are endless.

Better fakes

Faux greenery has gotten better and better during the last decade as manufacturers 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 in a wide variety of styles.

There’s nothing like traditional evergreen boughs 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.

Start with staircase

The first place I decorate for the holidays is my front staircase, dressing up my banister with miles of garland. If you have a traditional home with a staircase in the entry, it’s a must-do. I tuck up the garland in strategic spots along the railing, then use swags, picks and ribbons to fill out the display.

Before I hang the greens, I divide the 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 that my garland is evenly spaced along the banister, not loose in some areas and bunched up in others.

For looser, lighter looks, consider going with a long-needled pine garland. I like this 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.

Don’t forget tree

Extend the life of a fading fake Christmas tree by embellishing it with a variety of pine picks. Adding greens dotted with pine cones and berries will make your tree look richer, fuller and more natural.

If you don’t have time to create new holiday displays on your mantel, dining-room table or side tables, just add a few evergreen picks to existing displays and you’re ready for Christmas.

For a fast and easy exterior display, tie an evergreen pick to the top of a lantern, insert a battery-operated pillar candle and place it by your front door.

If you want to make your holiday gifts irresistible this year, insert a small pick under the package’s bow.