From her family’s historic home in Essex County, Virginia, Mary Spotswood Underwood harvests truckloads of boxwood sprigs, cedar boughs, sweetgum pods, pine cones, and even moss each winter. Besides inspiring our December/January cover story, this labor of love transforms her 1751-built Georgian manor, Brooke’s Bank, into a fragrant holiday wonderland. But you don’t need a rambling estate on the Rappahannock River to mimic Underwood’s style. For this particular project, demonstrated in the video below, you can simply head to the grocery store.
Preserving citrus is an easy endeavor that requires a cooling rack, a dedicated oven, and of course, citrus fruit, which you’ll slice into discs of even thickness for a consistent drying time. Beyond that, mixing things up is encouraged. “I source different sizes and varieties, whatever looks prettiest at the grocery store or market,” Underwood says. “Limes, grapefruits, and oranges. Tangerines are also fantastic.”
From there, the opportunities are endless. Add slices of dried citrus to seasonal cocktails. Pierce them with floral wire to enhance garlands and wreaths. Or bring a bit of Virginia to your tablescape by investing in a Williamsburg apple cone, which you can turn into a gorgeous centerpiece using ribbon-wrapped pomanders, greenery, and dried citrus, as Underwood demonstrates at the end of the video.