Yvonne Steele has always loved gardening. When the economy began to sputter a few years ago, the Oak Park mom finally decided that it was time to get her hands dirty on behalf of someone other than her family. She founded Smoke Tree Gardens to provide garden, landscaping and planter services.

While the holidays may bring an end to the outdoor entertaining season, things are just getting started inside people’s homes. Steele helps clients define their entryways with holiday planters, appropriate for indoor and outdoor use, and she often carries over the design into interior holiday help as well.

Steele emphasizes that, in some ways, decorating for the holidays is no different than decorating any other time of the year.

“For me, one thing always stays the same when I’m working with clients. From beginning to end, it’s all specific to that client and her interests and vision. I make sure my interior holiday decorating and planter designs follow the client’s taste.”

Steele creates planters for single-family homeowners, apartments and condo buildings, as well as businesses. During the holiday season, she likes to use seasonally appropriate materials such as fir trees, juniper berries, holly, branches and pine cones.

“I use typical evergreens in an atypical way,” she explains. “It’s great to get inspiration from the things that are thriving at this time of year. I try to configure the wintertime natural materials into designs that are both classic and modern.”

Steele frequently uses other materials to highlight what is natural in her arrangements. Glitter, white paint and flocking are often her tools of the trade. She has come to find that a lot of clients are interested in using moss in indoor and outdoor arrangements.

“It brightens things up and gives a little natural punch to the design.”

Many clients call on Steele throughout the year to create planter designs for the front of their homes that they change seasonally. She works with clients’ own containers or can provide containers to suit a home or building. Circumstances often dictate the scope of the project.

“Some people may be selling their homes in the winter and want me to provide a little something extra on the front porch,” she says. “Others will have me do the holiday decorations for their whole house. It can be a busy time of year. Some people don’t have the time to do this themselves or aren’t sure how to create a certain look, so I can help out with that.”

My Holiday Home

This story is part of My Holiday Home, a special section packed with local ideas to help ready our homes for the holidays. Click here to view the entire My Holiday Home special section.

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