Not to put any pressure on you, but this is the time you want your house to look its best.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and then comes the craziness that surrounds Hanukkah, winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year – whether you celebrate just one or several of them. And if you are proud of your garden, you want to use things you have grown as part of the holiday season decor.

Katy Gannon-Janelle of Falmouth, a member of St. Mary’s Garden Club, loves using plants from her garden for decorations at this time of year. She recently spent a full year without buying so much as a single flower from a florist after reading “Flower Confidential” by Amy Stewart, a book about the cut-flower industry and its huge carbon footprint.

“I decided to take a year off,” Gannon-Janelle said. She is back to buying a few flowers for color, but most of the plant material she uses comes from her yard or places along the roadside.

She uses a lot of astilbe. “It’s a beautiful shape, but it’s brown now,” she said. “I’ll spray-paint it silver and put it in with some greens.”

She will use invasive plants such as bittersweet, which she will be cutting down now anyway, in indoor arrangements. Don’t use for outdoor decor, because birds will spread the seed. She burns bittersweet when she is done with it.

Gannon-Janelle also uses rose hips from roses she also is trying to get rid of in her yard – probably one of those dreaded multi-flora roses seeded by birds.

At the beginning of the season, she will create arrangements with needled evergreens and such branches as red-twig dogwood, sticking them in floral foam. Such arrangements usually last for several weeks, and she’ll periodically refresh them with roses or other cut flowers.

Thanksgiving is all about food – being thankful for the harvest, whether you have produced it yourself or bought it from the farm down the road. Traditionally, the table is decorated with a cornucopia spilling out colorful Indian corn, squashes, gourds, pumpkins, beets, garlic, onions, potatoes, apples and any other fruit or vegetable that can survive at room temperature. Surround it with a few bright maple leaves – any colorful leaves you find in your yard will do.

You may want to pick up leaves early and flatten them under heavy books – put a towel or foil in between the books and the leaves and check them every day or so until the leaves stay flat. Or you may prefer a more natural, curled-up look. If a cornucopia doesn’t suit you, use a basket or a huge bowl.

Gannon-Janelle loves the shape of Brussels sprouts in arrangements. “It has a great texture,” she said, “but you can’t leave it in too long.” She uses purchased vegetables such as artichokes and cabbage in her decorations, too.

Remember, most of these designs work as well outdoors as in. Put them on the steps or porch by the door where your guests will be arriving.

I admit I told you a couple of weeks ago to clean up your garden before winter – but I didn’t tell you to do it immediately. Spent blossoms and foliage can look really good in arrangements.

My wife Nancy recently had to do a flower arrangement for a garden club meeting, and she used slightly brown blossoms of Cimicifuga racemosa and ornamental grasses – along with a few Physocarpus branches, but they have lost their foliage by now.

Other perennials that are attractive even after they have gone by are Siberian iris with stiff stems and seed pods, the astilbe that Gannon-Janelle likes, echinacea or coneflower, asclepias (milkweed), aruncus (goatsbead) and just about any ornamental grass with a wonderful seed head.

Hydrangea blossoms stay up all winter, and after they have been hit by a freeze turn deep purple or slightly tan and look beautiful, either with other plants or on their own.

For Thanksgiving decorations, I would skip needled evergreens and holly because tradition ties them to Christmas – and you don’t want to push the season the way retailers do. But there is no reason not to do a bit of judicious pruning on your broadleaf evergreens, including rhododendrons, kalmia, boxwood, euonymus or similar plants.

You can also prune trees and shrubs without foliage. Dogwood with yellow and red stems, Harry Lauder’s walking stick or curly willow, with their contorted stems, and branch tips from white birch all make great statements.

Use the woody parts to create a wreath for Thanksgiving. Craft and flower shops sell wreath forms, and you can add gourds, nuts, hydrangea blossoms, vegetables or anything else your imagination suggests, using floral wire or a hot glue gun to attach them. If something is too short, add a stick to the bottom. Nancy uses bamboo skewers to fasten mini-pumpkins into centerpieces for Thanksgiving.

For the December holidays, go for the needled evergreens. But don’t limit yourself to balsam fir. Spruce works well, as do arborvitae, chamaecyparis and pines.

The tips of yews may work for you, and junipers may or may not. Sometimes you need to remove the foliage at the bottom of the juniper or yew in order to insert the branch into the floral foam.

If you grow holly, cut lots of it (partly because it is assertive, and you want to keep it in bounds). It looks good by itself, but even better if you mix in a few flowers or glittery balls – just as Gannon-Janelle does with evergreens.

So take a walk around your yard, looking closely at the plants. Enjoy yourself, because once the snow arrives, you aren’t likely to be taking such walks. And if a plant looks good as you stroll, it probably will look good inside, too. So use it.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at [email protected]