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Baton Rouge

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“Baton rouge” is French for “red stick” I learned that in fifth grade.

For many people, decorating for Christmas is its own tradition. Most people haul out a box (or six) of beloved ornaments. A mishmash of construction paper/popsicle stick school-made ornaments (with a picture of your kid posited in front of a classroom bulletin board like a Merry Mugshot). And tacky dime store ornaments of snowmen and sleighs. And country Christmas ornaments bought at a church basement bazaar.

Some people shove love aside (me) and decorate their tree in a tasteful “theme.” A sterile collection of only red and silver glass balls, with swaths of gold ribbon and only white lights. Or a “that’s fabulous!” tree of the trendiest craft-store color pairings (teal and purple with accents of silver and lime green).

For me, like I even need to say it, decorating for Christmas is a tradition of scavenging to make Martha Stewart-meets-MacGyver creations. I use found greenery (check out my favorite sources here) along with garage sale finds to fake an elegant look. My style is richer than I’m ever will to pay for: I crave tasteful, interesting Christmas decorations and love nothing more than bragging, “That cost fifty cents, total!”

This year I finally got around to a project that I spied awhile ago in a decorating magazine. Some gifted Southern gardener had designed a really hip arrangement featuring bright red sticks as an accent. The basic arrangement was a pairing of simple greenery: rather forgettable on its own. But the bright red sticks gave the arrangement a dramatic pop. I loved it!

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So I borrowed this cool look for my Christmas decorations this year. I took dry sticks from our own yard waste and spray painted them a bright red hue (I used “Sweet Tomato” from Rustoleum American Accents, but any 99 cent red spray paint will work perfectly, too). I stuck them in the soil of my favorite terra-cotta planter and surrounded the sticks with pine boughs and champagne-gold, oversized ornaments. I love how the red sticks elevate this arrangement out of “traditional.” And in this bright red “Chinese lacquer” hue, the sticks have a an Asian torii kind of presence. So chic.

I think this idea has some great variations, too: You could paint the sticks white or silver pearl if red’s not your style. And I think these would be pretty sweet come Fourth of July, plunked in a planter of angelina sedum and trailing vinca.

Ah, Merry Christmas!