Christmas decorations, naturally

A Christmas wreath. Photo: PA Photo/Handout/Tobias Smith
A Christmas wreath. Photo: PA Photo/Handout/Tobias Smith

You may be tempted by expensive, fancy table decorations and wreaths in the shops, but, if you look in your garden, you’ll find some brilliant indoor adornments for free.

All you need for an effective table decoration, for instance, is a few uniform-sized small glass holders into which a single cone can be placed, topped with a flower such as an orchid, as demonstrated by Judith Blacklock, principal of The Judith Blacklock Flower School, who has taught celebrities including Kirstie Allsopp, Gordon Ramsay and Keeley Hawes.

“It’s such a wonderful time because gardens and hedgerows are full of wonderful things you can use at this time of year, including bare stems, fir cones and berries. Just use your eyes and if you see something exciting, you can make something wonderful with it,” says Judith.

Garden foliage can form the base of a cornucopia of decorations. Take clippings from evergreens including conifers, box, holly and ivy, to make a base for wreaths and swags to which you can add berries, fruits, baubles and bows.

Common plants which are ideal for indoor decorations include Skimmia japonica, which has glossy red berries and leaves which are much easier to handle than holly because they don’t have the accompanying spikes, Judith says.

“Variegated holly is another great choice because of the wonderful variegated foliage, while berried ivy, Hedera helix ‘Arborescens’ produces black fruits which are at their best at Christmas.

“Fruiting ivy can be found in virtually every garden hedgerow and placed in a vase with flowers like anemones threaded through,” she explains. “Spray the leaves with gold for a really festive effect.”

Add skimmia and bay from your garden to traditional wreaths. If you want to add bits of dried fruit, cinnamon sticks, berries or baubles, make sure you have plenty of them because, if you only have a few, they are much harder to place.

Judith says: “Go natural - collect, use and spray leaves, berries, seed heads and cones. The best way to spray is by placing your finds in a small box. Spray once, close and rattle the box, then open and spray again.

“Smooth textured plant material takes spray much more effectively that those with a rough texture such as teasels.”

I personally always buy a real Christmas tree because the clippings go some way to creating an impressive wreath or table decorations.

Even if you have an artificial tree, you can clip a few branches of your own conifer or pine to make it look real, Judith notes.

“Place them at intervals on the fake tree’s branches, pushing the stem ends to the trunk. You’ll find it hard to tell the difference. You can also use Christmas tree off-cuts or conifer branches on your mantelpiece, window ledge or for a long-lasting centrepiece. Cut branches into short pieces and insert in foam, add a few roses or gerbera to complete.”

Achieve more scent with a room spray or an unobtrusive scented stick such as the newly launched Scentsicles, biodegradable dark green or brown sticks, which you can easily add to a festive wreath or decoration (£6 per pack of six in a choice of four fragrances, from John Lewis and leading garden centres).

Judith has even developed a design featuring a Brussels sprout base topped with skimmia berries and anemones. Just cut a piece of foam (keep it dry) into a vertical column that is sufficiently wide and tall to hold a container.

Press the container firmly into the foam to mould the shape and depth of it and then remove the container and with a knife cut out the piece of foam so that your container will fit. The rim of the container should rise just above the foam.

Cut some cocktail sticks in two. Trim the spouts so that they have a smooth base and insert a stick into the base of each sprout, positioning them in the foam. Repeat until the foam is covered. Pour water into the inner container and evenly arrange your foliage, berries and flowers.

Bringing a little of your garden inside can really get you into the Christmas spirit.