There are many natural objects, large and small, that we as humans can easily become enamored with. Many gaze up at the stars, others out at the sea. Some of us are dumbfounded by the intricate design found in a single , tiny snowflake. One of the more readily available and amazing feats of nature we can all appreciate is the humble pine cone.

It may sound a bit daft, but pine cones have been a big part of humanity. We’ve decorated with them. We’ve eaten them. We’ve used them for weather forecasts. We’ve made toys out of them. We’ve even included them in our religious symbols. For that matter, Ancient Celtic women put them under their pillows in hopes of getting pregnant. The state of Maine has made them the state flower, despite the fact that pine cones are not flowers.

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For whatever reason, and there are a myriad, pine cones have captured our imaginations. So, for those who’d like to have them around a little more, here are some creative ways to put them to good use.

pine cone layers

Source: waferboard/Creative Commons

1. Prepping Pine Cones

While some of us will view our pine cone crafts as temporary achievements, it’s not a horrible ideal to prepare pine cones that are for permanent indoor decoration. Pine cones from the wild are likely to harbor mildew or mold that will then enter your home. To prepare pine cones for indoor use naturally and chemical-free, simply soak them in a bucket of water with a ½ cup of vinegar mixed in. Then, they should be left overnight on some newspaper to drip dry, and for extra measure, they can be baked at a low temperature (200 Fahrenheit) for a while to fully dry them out. Once dry, they will be full opened and beautiful, as well as worry-free.

2. Fire Starter/Kindling

Pine cones, with all that space for oxygen to get into them, make fantastic fire starters and/or kindling for the home fireplace. For something with a decorative swing during the holiday season, melt and color some soy wax to coat them with and, if the spirit moves, add some oil for scent. Some people even go so far as to add a wick for easy lighting.

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small bird sitting on pine cone

Source: tinyfroglet/Creative Commons

3. Bird Feeder

Turning pine cones into bird feeders is a classic craft, and it’s a wonderful way to fill the garden with more color (from the plumage), particularly during the winter. Spread and stuff peanut butter into the crevices of the pine cone, sprinkle the coated cone with a bird seed mix, and hang it up outside. The birds will pick it clean.

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4. Mulch

Pine cones can be a really protective mulch for patio gardens and, even more so, container gardens. A pine cone mulch keeps slugs at bay and will effectively prevent cats from finding their own version of litterbox. Just like any natural mulch, the pine cones will slowly break down and feed the soil.

5. Wreath

Holidays or not, pine cone wreaths are beautiful for hanging on the door, wall, fence and so forth. It’s as easy as getting a vine, such as grape, kudzu or bittersweet, and wrapping it several rounds into a circular base. Then, attach the pine cones to the vine wreath base. Some crafters like to color them with metallic paint, but au natural is great, too.

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6. Ornaments

Undoubtedly, pine cones make fantastic Christmas tree ornaments. They can be donned with ribbons and bells or dressed up as Christmas characters. Some people glue pompoms, a la gumdrops, to them. Glue a string to the top, and that’s an ornament worthy of Saturnalia.

pine cone Christmas centerpiece

Source: Breta Valek/Creative Commons

7. Table Display

For that matter, pine cones make good natural decorations any time. They can fill a basket or sprawl out on a wooden platter with acorns, sprigs of holly, and few colorful leaves. Again, while the cone on its own is worthy of display, some decorators like to frost the tips of them to provide that snow-covered look.

8. Faux Tree

Pine cones are sometimes grand enough to operate as centerpieces all on their own. For those giant pine cones, such as from the Coulter pine tree (biggest) or the sugar pine (longest) in California, sometimes it is enough to just mount the pine cone upright, as if it’s a tree, and marvel at the natural spectacle. Smaller versions of this can be nice of shelves or bedside tables.

Pine cones are truly one of those moments where we need to stop and smell the roses… or evergreens. They are marvelous morsels of the natural world that warrant appreciation inside (the house) and out.

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