MONEY tight this Christmas? You don’t have to spend a fortune on ready-made festive decorations – materials from your garden, and a bit of creativity, might be all you need!
Christmas tree offcuts can be really useful for wreaths and table decorations, while berries, variegated foliage and colourful stems can add vibrancy to other displays around the home.
Which plants to use: “Dogwood (cornus) has brilliantly adaptable and strikingly coloured stems, perfect to add structure to a display or create a simple wreath base,” says Sarah Squire, chair of Squire’s Garden Centres (squiresgardencentres.co.uk).
“Look out for ‘Midwinter Fire’, ‘Winter Beauty’ and ‘Baton Rouge’, which are shining stars of the outdoors in winter with their vibrant stems. Willow has brilliantly flexible stems in yellow or green, so this is another good option too.
“Corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) is a super stem to bring in from the garden,” she adds. “Its contorted, twisted stems look great in a vase simply adorned with baubles, or as a framework for a feature piece. It also makes for a useful orchid ‘stake’ if you are fortunate to have this exotic houseplant in your home this festive season.”
Forage for foliage: There are many options when it comes to foliage, says Squire, including variegated holly, Ilex aquifolium ‘Variegata’, which provides a wonderful blend of colour.
“Variegated ivy with green and white/cream-coloured leaves may be found in abundance at this time of year and, when it carries berries, it lends added interest to a display,” she adds.
“Conifers should not be overlooked to add texture and layering to a display. Blue cypress has striking soft blue/silver foliage and a lemony scent and works well with lots of other natural textures brought in from the outdoors.”
Craft a super centrepiece: If you don’t have access to outside space but are planning on having a real Christmas tree, keep hold of the bottom branches that you trim to fit it in the stand. Or if you have Christmas bouquets, the greenery such as eucalyptus or pine usually survives longer than flowers and can be kept for tablescaping, suggests flower expert Caroline Grimble of Bloom & Wild (bloomandwild.com).
“Pine cones too can add interest to a table and if you’re feeling crafty, they can be sprayed in gold, silver or bright colours to pop among the green foliage. Foliage down the middle of a rectangular table or the centre of a circular or square table is going to elevate your tablescape from familiar to festive in moments,” she says.
Include floral baubles: Put dried flowers in clear glass open mouth baubles for stunning tree decorations, which will cost less than anything in stores, says Mary-Anne Da’marzo, founder of Soho-based preserved flower shop The Last Bunch (thelastbunch.com).
“Instead of putting tea lights in them, add in festive dried flowers and branches. You can keep them loose or use a glue gun to create designs and fix in place.”
Create a festive look with tiny bouquets: Creating tiny dried bouquets is a great way to add versatility to your festive theme and can easily be made using cut flowers from your garden, says Da’marzo.
“Thread twine through the stems and hang them on your Christmas tree, intersperse them throughout wreaths, or mantel decorations, or just dot them around your Christmas table – these also make stunning gifts and you can make miniature Christmas cards to go alongside them.”
Use easy-to-dry greenery, she suggests. Eucalyptus is now naturalised in many UK woodlands and makes for a great base. Gypsophila (also known as ‘baby’s breath’) is widely available in supermarkets for around £2 a bunch, which could make around four or five miniature bouquets if you add in singular colourful stems. “You can also make these using cut flowers from your garden. Holly and clematis will all look fabulously festive.”
Pretty up place settings: Autumn and winter leaves come in a variety of rich colours and can serve as excellent place settings. Or if the trees near you are already bare, you can use large, flat stones. Simply use a marker pen, even a gold or silver one for an extra festive feel, to write the names of guests on each leaf or stone, Grimble suggests.
Try a hanging branch chandelier: Creating a festive-inspired branch chandelier really adds to the Christmas build-up, says Da’marzo. “People can get wrapped up and venture to their local park or woods and forage the sticks or greenery for this,” she offers.
This is obviously a trickier and more involved job than other decorations, requiring ceiling hooks, chicken wire, cable ties and string to secure – but it could be a Christmas showstopper.
Forage for a large branch, making sure it has twigs sticking out at different points, which will help with structure, she advises. Then drill hooks or command strips (if it’s a smaller installation) into your ceiling in preparation, making sure you measure out your branch from each end so you know where to drill the holes.
Wrap your branch in chicken wire using cable ties or string and suspend from your ceiling using two pieces of string either side, then poke your foliage all the way around the outside, using different foliage to give it texture and keep building until you’re happy with the shape.
When you’ve created the desired base, add dried flowers such as gypsophila, which provides a neutral backdrop for dinner party themes. For a more festive feel, try adding stems of amaranthus or chasmanthium. To make it more festive, hang decorations from your branch – fairy lights or glass baubles make a stunning addition.