How wonderful to approach a house that boldly announces its solidarity with the festive season. Family and friends will know a warm welcome awaits them inside your home when they see you have adorned the exterior with Christmas greenery.
A well-chosen wreath is a crucial start. The circular shape is a symbol of eternal life. First, consider the size most suitable for your door. A larger wreath can look more opulent and dramatic. But a simple holly wreath with a bright red bow can have just as much impact, with its red berries almost sparkling in the winter grey.
Consider buying a plain wreath made from fir branches from the garden centre so you can decorate it to your chosen theme and level of magnificence. If you haven’t tried this before don’t be put off by thinking it’s a complex operation. A few baubles, berries, a metre of ribbon, some florist’s wire and about thirty minutes of your time will see the job done.
Starting with your pre-trimmed wreath, turn it around until you find the best place from which to hang it. That should be a part that is slightly thinner than the rest to allow the over-the-door-hook to sit snugly. Lay out all of your intended decorations and ribbons in a circle on the table to see which arrangement or grouping you prefer. Using thin florist’s wire, thread through and around your decorations to hold them securely, leaving enough of the wire to wrap around one of the branches. Be bold and be generous with your baubles, berries and ribbon. Consider adding battery-operated lights.
Customise the Custom
If starting from scratch doesn’t appeal, you can always make modifications to a basic pre-decorated wreath and turn it into a glorious winner. Once more, think about adding battery operated lights secured by cable ties, making sure you have easy access to the battery pack for the lights once the wreath is hung. Embellish further with real greenery, inexpensive baubles and sleigh bells. Failing feeling crafty, ask your local florists to create a wreath of splendour.
While a wreath with fresh greenery is our preference here at How to Christmas, there is also a place for beautiful artificial wreaths – especially if you are looking for a brightly coloured, contemporary style. These can also be used to great effect inside the house: over a door, a mirror or fireplace. Remove a picture and replace it with a wreath, perhaps. You can opt for a rustic feel, something opulent and covered in baubles or a tinsel-tousled affair. Also bear in mind the splendid swags that are available to hang alongside mirrors, down the sides of mantelpieces or on doors. These are more of a diamond shape and easier to make should you become a bespoke swagger. It is also possible to re-create the smell of fresh greenery by carefully incorporating artificial fragrance boosters such as Scentsicles. These simple ornaments, available in a range of Christmas fragrances, can be used to enhance both artificial greenery and trees too.
Elf Helper: Petersham Nurseries, always so inviting in the Christmas season, offers Festive Wreath Making at its Covent Garden and Richmond locations in late November and early December. For more details, check out the ‘What’s On’ section at petershamnurseries.com. You will find other wreath making sessions at a location near you, like garden centres.
For centuries, filling the house with winter greenery was a reminder that spring was on its way. Long before Christmas trees were used in British homes, boughs, swags and garlands were used to bring outside colour indoors in the bleakest of seasons. Garlands decorated with both natural and artificial decorations can be used to great effect draped over and wrapped in and around porches and pillars. Garlands draped across fireplaces or framing windows look majestic, especially when intertwined with white LED lights. Simple red ribbons used boldly and generously to secure lights and additional foliage or baubles on to garlands works wonderfully well in traditional homes. Basically, if you think garlands, think greenery, baubles and lights in sumptuous combinations used on mantelpieces, mirrors, curtain rails, doorways, pillars, balustrades and balconies.
Add a Tag
Personalise a front door wreath by attaching a chalkboard tag. You can then customise messages for expected guests. Sets of four 11 x 5cm chalkboard tags are available for less than an average bottle of wine. They work well with chalk or chalkboard pens and are reusable if the chalk is rubbed off – so each batch of guests can be greeted with a fresh message of good cheer. Each tag is made of eco-friendly wood and painted in chalkboard paint. They each come with kraft string twine.
Elf Helper: Think about using an extendable curtain pole or shower curtain pole for hanging garlands and lights over doorways – be it from wall-to-wall in a hallway indoors or in a porch outdoors.
Mantelpiece Garlands – Protective Measures
When decorating your fireplace with a garland, use a piece of plywood cut to the size of the mantelpiece. Use G-clamps to secure the wood to the mantel. You can now hammer and pin items to the wood without damaging the mantelpiece. Use matt tinsel in green as ‘filler’ at the back of the wood and to wrap around the G-clamp. Put real festive greenery at the front, attach lights with cable ties or green wire ornament hooks and embellish with decorations of your choice. If you have a real fire, make sure all decorations are fireproof or well away from the naked flames.
christmaswreathsdirect.co.uk: This company has featured on Kirstie Allsopp’s Christmas programmes on Channel 4 and produces an array of spectacular wreaths, swags and garlands from its Devon workshop. Its stunning garlands are handmade to order and created from a mix of scented Noble, Fraser and Nordmann firs, Scots Pine, holly and ivy. Get in touch by mid-September at the latest to avoid disappointment.
pollyfields.co.uk: Also in Devon, this family run business excels in making gorgeous wreaths, garlands, natural arrangements and decorations. It designs and creates its range of products from its farmhouse base there. The company has developed from the cottage industry started back in 2000 by Fiona Jackson, who leads the team of designers, to now cater for shops such as Fortnum & Mason, The Eden Project and Kew Gardens.
tch.net: The Christmas Home Brussels Sprout Wreath has been a big seller in recent years. These handmade paper wreaths are for indoor use only and come in circular, heart and star shapes – ideal for kitchens, conservatories and modern homes.
petershamnurseries.com: The festive collection at Petersham Nurseries is as enticing as ever, from tree decorations of quirky delight to beautiful wreaths. Petersham Nurseries wreaths can be pre-ordered and are usually dispatched from mid-November.
daylesford.com: Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire is one of our must-visit places before Christmas, not least for its wonderful room of festive greenery. It also stages wreath-making workshops. Pick up some delicious powdery mince pies to reward you for your greenery crafting or purchasing prowess.
Christmas is a time when flower prices are in full bloom – especially if they are red. We don’t want to see your bank balance in the red, though, so here’s how to create a seasonal arrangement without breaking the bank.
Lower branches trimmed from the Christmas tree or discretely nipped from the Conifers in the garden are perfect. Most non-prickly hedging, such as Laurels or Euonymus, can also be used. And we cannot forget good old holly and ivy. They do have a song named in their honour after all. Many people have ivy in their gardens. It exists quite happily without water as it takes moisture from the air. This makes it suitable for a variety of applications. Don’t forget that holly (and for that matter mistletoe berries) are poisonous so keep them well away from children and pets. Greenery from the florists such as Eucalyptus (this gives off a wonderful smell), Bear Grass and Fatsia Leaves (that’s the Castor Oil Plant) are relatively inexpensive considerations as well. With the greenery as your foundation you just need to add a few flowers such as roses or Amaryllis, before completing the display with Christmas baubles of your choice tied with ribbons or raffia.
Vases and Containers
Choosing the right vase or container for your flowers is like choosing shoes for a special occasion – get it wrong and it doesn’t matter how stunning the outfit, it just won’t quite make the grade. The right container will hold your arrangement securely, allow you to position your flowers and greenery as you wish and will complement the colour, shape and height of the flowers.
The traditional Christmas palette tends to apply to vases and containers too. Clear glass, white, red, silver and gold all frame the dark greens, vibrant reds and snowy whites perfectly and are one more step towards your co-ordinated room. Depending on the space you have for an arrangement, you may like to consider a number of vases instead of one solitary carrier. The eye loves to see a pattern, be it a pair of tall elegant vases either side of a mantelpiece or a row of smaller vases along a window ledge or surface.
Look around your room to find the best location for your Christmas flowers. They need to be somewhere they can be appreciated but still be out of the way of the dog, cat and possibly your little helpers. Avoid placing flowers near radiators or in draughty hallways if at all possible to make them last as long as possible. If you feel that taller displays can be a little precarious, go for wider based vases or a number of shorter ones. Always check the surface on which the vase or container is going to sit and protect it if necessary with a cloth or coaster.
Vases need to be as clean as possible to reflect the sparkle of the season. If your glass vases have become dull and cloudy, it’s easy to clean them using either denture tablets or vinegar. Start by filling the vase with water then either drop in two denture tablets or a few teaspoons of vinegar. Leave it overnight and you should find any cloudiness should have disappeared. Wash in warm, soapy water, rinse and leave to dry.
Coloured Sand, Pebbles and Beads
Most shops that sell candles will also offer the coloured sands, pebbles and beads that can be used at the base of vases to add interest. Antique silver and gold glass beads work well in dried displays and in hurricane lamps with pillar candles. Clear or coloured glass beads will create a similar effect for your fresh flowers. You might like to try water-retaining gel beads. These non-toxic, biodegradable crystals absorb up to four hundred times their weight in water and expand to make beautiful clear or coloured gel-like water crystals. They can be used for certain types of floral displays and will alleviate the need to water. Products are available through Amazon, among other stockists.
Artificial flowers are like Marmite. There are two distinct camps when it comes to the fakes of the flora world. You either love them or hate them. Our canvassing shows there is very little middle ground. However, there can be a satisfactory balance.
If you are not a fan, we suggest don’t be too hasty in dismissing artificial flowers. It is possible to incorporate some dramatic silk blooms into festive displays to great effect. Think of it as a very thin, almost indistinguishable, spreading of Marmite on your toast. When mingled with greenery and even fresh flowers, the artificial blooms blend well. They have the advantage of not fading throughout the festive season and when placed strategically in a room, it will be difficult for guests to notice the difference. Artificial flowers and berries always work well when combined with wreaths and garlands. You can easily incorporate colours that match your room scheme, when to find that certain colour in a fresh flower at this time of year may prove difficult.
We strongly suggest using dried chillies, oranges, cinnamon sticks and pinecones in Christmas arrangements. Easy to position, no watering required, vibrant colour and great smells – what’s not to like? Combining scented pinecones with coloured glass baubles in a large vase or hurricane lamp is a simple, effective and aromatic way to introduce the season to any room.