Festive flair in Kent

PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:12 20 February 2013

Festive flair in Kent

Festive flair in Kent

Why not pick your Christmas decorations fresh from your garden this year? It's fun, saves money and helps give your plants a bit of a pruning too

Festive flair in Kent

Why not pick your Christmas decorations fresh from your garden this year? Its fun, saves money and helps give your plants a bit of a pruning too

Try your hand at making your own decorations from natures winter bounty. Its a fun activity for all the family and has an added economical benefit. Have a wander around your garden, the woodland or the hedgerows and be inspired by the possibilities from green or variegated foliages, berries, seed heads, coloured stems or even winter flowers. Remember that you are actually pruning plants when collecting live greenery so take care when cutting and ensure that you retain the form.

There is more than you may imagine that can be fashioned into wreaths, garlands, tree decorations or table centres to personalise your Christmas. Although gathering material from your own landscape will be fresher and possibly offer a wider variety of unusual choices, your local garden centre or florist may have additional seasonal material to augment your findings.

The traditions

Decorating our homes at Christmas echoes the traditions of the past. Many of the customs we associate with the season are from the Victorian period, however most originated much earlier with pagan festivals that celebrated the Yule and Winter Solstice.

Many of the symbols refer to the concept of rebirth and hope in darkness. Evergreen trees and shrubs were used to decorate homes as they represented a continuity of life, protection and future prosperity for many cultures.

Three plants in particular have a long history in the seasons rituals: holly, ivy and mistletoe. Holly is associated with eternal life and good fortune; ivy with fidelity and protection, while kissing under the mistletoe originates from Norse mythology and is unsurprisingly linked with peace, wellness and fertility.

Getting started

An essential is a wreath or garland to decorate your front door. Bases can be a round florists oasis frame or wire circle, however you can also make your own with entwined stems of coloured willows, cornus or any pliable shrub or vine.

Attach background greenery with fine wire. Classic choices include holly, conifers, yew, ivy, box or eucalyptus. Decorative detailing comes from adding colour from berries, seed heads, flowers, pinecones, dried oranges, cinnamon sticks or even mini apples.

Try physalis, rosehips, papery hydrangea blooms, holly berries, mistletoe, vibrant purple callicarpa, viburnum or snowberries. Finish with ribbon or raffia.

Garlands for the fireplace or stairs can follow the same theme as the door. Try laying out trimmed conifer branches and lengths, wiring them together and using as a base for adding those personal touches. Ensure needles all point in the same direction. For extra sparkle, spray paint cones or seed heads before adding them.

Turn your attention to adorning the Christmas tree. Some ideas include berries strung like necklaces, clusters of wired pinecones, spray-painted seed heads (such as spherical alliums), chains of brilliant orange Chinese lanterns (physalis) as their hollow stems are easy to thread, twisted red dogwood stems in festive shapes or dried flowers in tiny bunches. Dont forget the presents under the tree as they can have the garden touch too.

Finally, your Christmas table can continue the theme. Overly abundant or paired down, colour co-ordinated or more eclectic, the choice is yours. A wet oasis shape, placed in a container, is one of the easiest bases to add greenery and build up with a range of material. You could finish off with beautiful candles and even decorated napkin rings or place cards.

Plant choices

  • holly

  • ivy

  • box

  • conifers spruce, yew, fir, pine

  • small-leafed bay

  • eucalyptus

  • viburnum

  • physalis

  • snowberry

  • sarcococca

  • cornus

  • salix

  • contorted hazel

  • hydrangeas

  • sorbus

  • rosehips

  • cotoneaster

  • pyracantha

  • winter jasmine

  • mistletoe

  • rosemary

  • laurel

  • eleagnus

  • euonymus

  • malus

  • seed heads of allium, teasel, grasses, globe thistle, vernonia

  • skimmia japonica

  • nandina

  • magnolia grandiflora leaves

Tips for keeping greenery fresh

  • use sharp cutters

  • crush ends of woody stems to allow water in

  • soak well before bringing into the house

  • keep away from radiators

  • mist water spray

  • anti-desiccant spray when first arranged may help seal the pores on the leaves

  • use damp oasis, wrapped in cellophane or in containers for arrangements

  • small decorations can be placed in button-hole type holders

  • cedars, pines, firs dry out more slowly than spruce

  • keep cut ends of ivy in water

  • ensure any greenery brought into the house is very fresh and pliable as dried evergreens can be flammable near candles

  • check your decorations every few days and replace any dry portions

  • traditionally all Christmas decorations are brought in on Christmas Eve and should be removed on 5 January, Twelfth Night

For further inspiration

11 December (9.30am-12.30pm)

Christmas wreaths workshop, with Alan Sage of AJS Crafts

Godinton House, Ashford TN23 3BP

Booking essential, tickets 45


5 December and 12 December (10am-2pm)

Willow Christmas decorations, with John Walker

Bore Place, Edenbridge TN8 7AR

Booking essential, tickets adults 35, children 20

01892 740 303

15 December (10am-12pm)

Beckenham Public Halls, near St Georges Church, Bromley Road BR3 5JE

Make your own garland or decoration. All materials and seasonal refreshments included. Led by professional florist. Tickets 20

Booking essential, ring or email Marion Baker

0208 778 3093 or marion@reddonsroad.com

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