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Natural elements add beauty to fall decorating

By Judy Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Julie Robinson wants everyone to know that they can make beautiful fall decorations from their own backyards.

"Autumn is my favorite time of year. I really like the dusty colors," Robinson said as she gestured to six floral arrangements and centerpieces she made the evening before that could be used to decorate a dining room table or front porch stoop.

The Fort Hill resident, a former features writer for the Charleston Gazette, was named executive director of the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association in June.

She also started a small business, Natural Elements, last year. She creates custom designs from fresh and seasonal materials.

"I've always liked to decorate with fresh things, and I think about how things will look together. This is all from nature," she said, turning to a cornucopia arrangement of small winter squash, bittersweet vine, pyracantha, boxwood, hydrangeas, mums and goldenrod.

"When I make floral arrangements and centerpieces, I include as much seasonal, fresh and locally grown materials as possible. I am inspired by the natural beauty of garden flowers and woodsy materials," Robinson said.

"I find things in season, whether in my own yard or walking in the woods. I buy some things when necessary or when something is requested. I avoid artificial, but sometimes it is necessary for front doors that get a lot of sun and exposure," Robinson said.

"Wildflowers don't last as long in cut arrangements but there are things you can do to condition them to last longer. You can use an oasis, the water absorbent form, cut them the day before, and place them in water," she said.

Robinson creates centerpieces, bouquets, wreathes, outdoor urns/pots and window boxes featuring eye-catching plant combinations for mild weather or wintry greens, branches and berries in cold weather.

Her designs often feature vintage containers, or the customer's special vessels.

A footed bowl with candles arrangement features hydrangea, callicarpia, also known as beautyberry, pyracantha, cypress, and hemlock.

"This is one of my favorite color combinations, purple and orange. I sometimes plant this color combination together," Robinson said.

She has filled an antique gardening tool tote with pinecones, pyracantha, magnolia pods, rosehips, goldenrod, nandina shrub, gourds, candles, pomegranate slices she dried the year before, and birch tree stumps that her husband sawed from trimmings given to her by a neighbor.

"I basically just tucked in these things I found. A lot of the items are things I picked up on a walk with Max, my dog," Robinson said.

She has filled a vintage pottery urn with wild aster, hydrangea, bittersweet, nandina shrub, goldenrod, ferns, crab apples and mums.

"I love the monochromatic look, then I add gold and orange to make the arrangement pop," Robinson said.

"The point is, you have a lot of this in your own yard. Which you can do yourself or call me and I can do it for you," she said.

Robinson's business has a Facebook page and she can be reached at 304-444-9517 or

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at or 304-348-1230.


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