Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Holiday Decorating Reflections

the tip of a upright piano with a framed photo pf two golden retriever pups and Analee mice dolls and Santa singing carols.

Hello fellow readers; While decorating for the holiday can be hectic, I hope you find comfort and joy in reflections on Christmas pasts.

You may remember the story of the replacement tree planted in memory of Miss Ellie Mae a year ago. The first tree, a ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ Blue Spruce, died. The roots were severely cut and crisscrossed with very few new fibrous roots, called a “bad dig” in the trades, but it wasn’t really bad. The tree gave us great joy as our Christmas tree, then the remarkable coincidence of a ‘Mary Holman’ American Holly arriving to replace it—representing Mary holding Ellie forever in my heart.

a Mary Holman American Holly in snow decorated with a red and white star and Christmas balls

Ellie’s ‘Mary Holman’ American Holly last Christmas (2021)

The Revival of Ellie’s American Holly 

a black and white dog sitting in front of a holly tree partially decorated with a red star and ornaments I adore the photo of Jolee sitting by the holly as I decorated her last year. And another when beautifully adorned with snow— the star a bit cockeyed atop, adding charm to the conical shape.

As the spring unfolded, the spikey dark green leaves began to turn brown. A heavy heart imagining two memorial trees may face the same fate. Slowly but surely, they all did despite treating it with Wilt-pruf, a natural pine oil that protects broadleaf evergreens from winter burn (drying from winter winds).

But Mary Holman began returning to life after a dose of organic fertilizer and ensuring she stayed damp during the drought. First, a few leaves emerged on one branch. Then as the summer unfolded, more joined them.

I let the brown leaves drop on their own, thinking perhaps they were protecting the new buds as they formed in the thick of the heat. And I kept the naked stems intact, hoping new shoots would sprout. They did! The recovery was a joy to watch. Though the plant was not beautiful through it, the miracle unfolding was.

Although lopsided, she’s still magnificent.
the Mary Holman American Holly a year later after recovering from leaf drop in snow decorated with a red and white star

There’s beauty in imperfection.

To prepare her for this year’s decorations, I pruned the remaining naked branches, no longer pliable. With the red and white star topper in place, I marvel over her revival. Although lopsided, she’s still magnificent. And she’ll even out over time. Or maybe not. There’s beauty in imperfection. Besides, there’s no such thing as perfection anyway.

a softball sized red Christmas Ball on a weeping hemlock with the frosting of a heavy frost. Next comes the tradition of a softball-sized red ornament on the Weeping Hemlock planted to honor brother Bill who passed just before Christmas nine years ago; hard to believe so many years have gone by. It’s at the end of the rock garden next to a swath of graceful Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa) now in its beautiful dry golden state of glory. After the night of a deep freeze, the tree is frosted, and the Christmas ball glistens in the morning light, bringing happiness.

The Treasure of Christmas Pasts

After tending to the things outside, I began putting out the treasures of Christmas past. The child carolers that once graced the drop leaf table beside the piano where my folks lived in Florida. My friend Elsa gifted me a glass bowl on a circle of prancing bronze deer years ago. I fill it with sleigh bells and pinecones.

The felt characters with painted faces, some like my sister say are creepy, designating them as mine when divvying up Mom’s treasures came to pass. I hadn’t researched the history until writing you. “Analee Dolls are A New Hampshire Tradition Since 1934,” notes their website.

“The tale begins with a young woman meticulously dyeing felt fabric and the freehand painting of doll faces during the Depression” after their chicken farm failed. Her children’s activities inspired the mischievous, whimsical faces of the dolls. This year I placed them atop my piano next to a photo of my first couple of pups, Sara and Sadie.

a red elf hanging from a metal Milagro Tree in a bay window.

An Analee Elf topping a cherished Milagro Tree of miracles

A Milagro Tree of gifts.

I especially love the elf I place atop a tree with metal charms traditional in Hispanic cultures known as Milagros or “Miracles.” My college roomie Linda gave me the Milagro Tree a few years back. It stays standing all year, decorated with seasonal doodads—A ghost, a pumpkin, or an American flag plastic ring that once adorned cupcakes Curt’s Mom brings to holiday celebrations sit upon the star.

My favorite “miracle” charms are the crosses made of palms from Palm Sunday trimming the tree year-round. May we never forget or forsake the miracle.

Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

The previous story of  the arrival of Miss Ellie Mae’s replacement treeBall and Burlap versus Potted Trees 

More about Analee Dolls 

There’s much more to the story in Episode 86 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast: 




Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.