This past week I found myself walking through the Christmas aisles of one of the many big box stores looking at the holiday decor. I came away rather uninspired by the many fake (or perhaps I should use the more trendy ‘faux’) decorations. Why would I want to adorn my home - especially my outside railings and my front door with plastic greenery? Thanks, but no thanks. I much prefer the natural - and often aromatic - garlands, wreaths and arrangements made with an assortment of local pine, balsam, juniper and cedar boughs.
An evergreen garland is a quick and easy way to dress up the outside of your house for the holidays. You can run them along a railing, twist them up a pillar or use them to frame windows or a front door. We typically gather a mixture of spruce, pine and balsam for our homemade garlands, but if you have no time or talent for crafting your own - it’s easier than you think! - many of the local garden centers have thoughtfully done it for you.
To make a garland, begin by gathering your materials - a big pile of greenery (cut to about 10 inches), a pair of pruning shears, a cord (I often use an old length of thin rope) cut to the desired length of the finished garland, wire cutters and floral wire or jute cord to secure the branches to the central rope or cord. Before you start, cut 20 or 30 4-inch sections of the floral wire (or jute cord) to make things go faster. Once you’re ready to make the garland, gather up a small bundle of assorted greenery and use the floral wire to secure it to the main support. Continue adding bunches of branches, overlapping as you go to disguise the central cord. Once you’ve reached the desired length, you can tuck a few sprigs of berried branches or pinecones among the boughs or weave a strand of Christmas lights through the garland and hang it with pride!
Arrangements and centre pieces:
I have finally - after 2 1/2 months - removed the fall mum from my front doorstep and replaced it with a winter planter. A few weeks ago, I wrote in detail about creating a natural masterpiece (read it online here http://www.halifaxnewsnet.ca/Author-Niki-Jabbour/352/162/1), but if you missed that article, here’s a quick summary. To create a dazzling arrangement or center piece choose a range of greenery and natural elements like pine, juniper, balsam, holly, boxwood, magnolia, or even the vivid red branches of red-twigged dogwood or the unique architecture of curly willow. Also, don’t shy away from natural accessories like pinecones, berries or even citrus fruits that will add a pop of colour and interest to your designs.
Other fun ideas:
Tie one-foot bundles of greenery (pine, juniper or balsam), birch or dogwood branches and berries together with a brightly coloured ribbon and attach to the indoor banister posts leading up your stairs every few feet.Fill a simple glass vase with heavily berried branches and place on top of your mantle.Hang assorted sized pinecones from your dining room chandelier. Fill a vase, large jar or glass bowl with green apples and small handfuls of pine or fill a bowl with cranberries and top with a small votive candle.Combine pine, pinecones and bright orange clementines in a large wooden bowl or tray for a wintery centerpiece.Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show (currently gone dormant for the winter). Find her online at www.nikijabbour.com or on twitter @NikiJabbour.