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Holiday Array That Has a Local Flourish

December 05, 1991|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Those who swing into the holiday spirit often resort to decking the halls with Oregon pine trees, Midwest holly, cards with scenes from Victorian England and carols from Scandinavia and Germany.

The fact is, there is often little "native" about the way we celebrate the holidays, but there are ways to make decorations more fitting to North County. Some are simple, some more costly.

The key is to be creative. Like North County wines? Try painting corks red and green or using burgundy grapes in your decorating. Like North County ranches? Go Western.

You can hold prices down by not being too strict about what you call California. You have to be a little like a vegetarian who sneaks frozen fish sticks once in a while.

According to designer Karen Knox, who has worked with corporate and private clients throughout North County, there are four basic themes unique to Southern California that home decorators can use to dress up the place for the holidays: Hollywood, Spanish Mission/Southwest, Natural and Nautical.


OK, so Hollywood is not precisely North County, but Hollywood stars began arriving in North County with the silent era, so we're close enough.

The first step, Knox says, is to think glitz. That means lots of metallic and jewel tones like deep emerald, sapphire or purple. Then pile on coppers, silvers and golds.

"People can get the paint out and spray ornaments copper, bronze or silver," Knox said. "A good idea is to get something like a tall curly willow and spray it silver. You can display glitzy balls or glass."

Knox also likes to use fabrics like gold or silver lame and hang these on walls or in windows to create an Art Deco effect. You can also change the lighting in a room by covering the lights with colored fabrics or aiming lighting from the floor up.

Ted Prina, owner of California Party Productions, said a Hollywood effect is easy to depict. Last year, his firm decorated a tree for an area hotel with gold lame fabric and red Mylar ribbon. It was a simple operation, but the effect was pure Hollywood.

Another way to go Hollywood is with black and white. Again, fabrics, glass, even dishes can set the tone. These can be accented with deep reds or greens. And don't forget aluminum foil. It's good for just about everything.


There are more similarities than differences between these two. Both use a variety of natural elements and man made artifacts that hint of rustic living in Old California.

According to Knox, the Southwest style may not be quite as popular as it was a few years ago, but many San Diego County residents still like the feel.

One basic ingredient in both Southwest and Mission styles are red chile peppers. These come dried or fresh and are often strung on wire to be hung. Garlands of red and yellow peppers are available in some markets. Plastic red pepper electric lights have been something of a rage for a few years. They create a lighthearted look.

Red peppers and squash can be arranged in centerpieces and lain down the center of tables for a festive dining room.

Candles can be used for either a Southwestern or Mission feel. Try placing lots of candles in small terra cotta pots and arranging greenery around the base of the pots. For more of a Mission look, use votive candles. Luminarias will also create a Mission look. Place these on walkways and hang them in trees.

For a more Southwestern theme, buy some Christmas cacti, available at most nurseries. This species tends to bloom during the season. Place the cacti in heavy terra cotta pots. Arrange them along walkways, or in clusters inside the house.

Other plants to use for either Mission or Southwestern looks include bougainvillea or amaryllis. Some people like to use dried cornhusks arranged in wreaths or boughs. In general strive for a rich, heavy look with deep burgundy colors and terra cotta.


Just about everything grows here or can be made to grow here, so it's easy to take advantage of North County's natural (and grown) vegetation to create a truly California Christmas.

The most obvious plant to use is the poinsettia. North County is the poinsettia capital of the world so it should not be hard to find all the pink, red or white flowers you need.

The amaryllis, a bulb plant that comes in pink and red varieties is a good alternative to the poinsettia. So are paper whites, another bulb plant. Knox likes to put these plants in large pots and create groups of them around the house.

Nandina, a local bush also called heavenly bamboo, has red berries. The stalks of this plant will not go limp after they are taken from the bush and the berries dry nicely.

Paracantha, a bush with very sharp needles, has red and orange berries and there is even a California holly that grows wild in some areas. Pepper trees with red pepper corns are found in the wild and in many North County yards.

Other possibilities include eucalyptus, ficus and palms.

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