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by Jules Kendall

Jules Kendall shares the sweet and savory at her blog, Pancakes and French Fries. She almost never writes about food. Instead, she focuses on her improving her health, decluttering and simplifying her home, and life with two loud boys and one quiet husband. She is the creator of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that encourages people to have nothing in their home they do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

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  • If you asked me as early as last year, I would have told you I saw no point in seasonal decorations. I felt they encouraged people to accumulate and store too much "stuff," which went against my goal to create a simple, uncluttered, intentional home

    That changed when I started volunteering as the librarian at my sons' school this past year. The library needed a little color, and I didn't know most of the kids. I wanted them to think the library (and their new librarian) was fun and happy. I bought a few decorations for the first week of school thinking it would make the place look cheery. I was surprised by the positive response. The kids loved it. The faculty and staff loved it. The parents loved it and, if I'm being honest, I loved it, too.

    The kids wanted to know what I was doing next and couldn't wait to see how it would look for Christmas. All of a sudden, seasonal decorating was less about show and more about heart. I'm all for it now, but with a few caveats. These guidelines are especially important when it comes to decorating your garden for holidays, like the 4th of July. A red, white, and blue garden is pretty, but you're going to look like "Super Patriot" if you don't use a little restraint. ​

    Subtlety is Your Best Friend

    One flag is good and plenty. Maybe a pretty flag bunting or banner on a deck rail if you want to go all out. The rest of your items can be red, white, and blue, but try to create a patriotic look that isn't so literal. Not every piece of fabric needs a flag or stripes or stars. In the picture above—one of my favorites—only the flag and the bunting are patriotic. (I'm ignoring the star on the end table.) The pillows are in simple blues and naturals. The quilts are red and white star patterns, but they don't scream "Look at me, I'm Paul Revere!" The use of quilts, by the way, is brilliant. For all we know, underneath those quilts are seat cushions in a green and gold tropical print fabric.

  • Containers and Hanging Plants are Best

    Red, white, and blue plant groupings and gardens are rare, and there's a reason for that. They can look cluttered and theme-y. Also, there are very few truly blue flowers. Most are a variation of purples and lavenders.

    That meteor of patriotism above is a giant ball of wave petunias. It's a little much for me (understatement), but this image is popular on Pinterest, so what do I know? If you'd like a red, white, and blue hanging basket with more variety and texture, try a combination of Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Purple', Verbena 'Aztec Cherry Red', Snapdragon (Antirrhinum 'Bells White').
  • Think Ahead, Think Temporary

    You can't deny this window box is super charming and patriotic. While I can't say the homeowners were thinking ahead to the 4th of July when they picked it out, someone was thinking temporary when they planted the geraniums. Look closely: they're still in their plastic garden store containers. I'm sure they'll be somewhere in the garden after the holiday. A little forethought makes a huge difference in the garden. If you know you like to deck out the garden for the holidays, think about how you'll do that for each holiday of the year before you make a big purchase. You'll spend less money over time, which is always good.

    Tip! Yellow flowers in the same blue box are perfect for spring. The oranges and rusts of autumn will pop against the blue and white. In the winter, white poinsettias or trailing Little Johns would look nice.
  • Be Eco-Friendly

    This last tip is a personal preference, but it's something I'd like everyone to consider before we hit the nursery. As pretty as the preceding blue window box with the red geraniums is, it would be disappointing to know those plants were discarded after the holiday because they no longer went with a theme. It's a waste of money and resources to treat plants as something disposable, especially when it's so easy to add the spirit of the holiday with flags you can buy in bulk.
    As lovely as seasonal decorating is, it's not the décor we are celebrating.
    "Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed—else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die." — Dwight D. Eisenhower
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