I like to think I’m not the only one who is a bit behind on Christmas preparations. With Christmas only one week away, I’m ashamed to admit that I’m just now putting up my decorations. Like many gardeners, I love to bring fresh greenery and branches into my home to use in vases, garlands and wreaths.
I contacted Hilary Bellis of It Can Be Arranged in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., to get some basic tips on decorating with greenery and ideas for using new materials. Hilary gives workshops on holiday arrangements, and decorates many of the hotels, businesses and wineries in the town. She knows her way around wreaths, mantels and banisters.
Hilary gravitates toward colour and textural contrasts in arrangements, and some of her favourite materials for holiday arrangements are B.C. cedar because of its nice drape, oregonia because of its variegated foliage, and southern magnolia because of its two-sided leaves (a rich green side and a suede rust side.) Looking at different materials, whether in the woods or in her studio, she then imagines various ways they can be combined. She tends to create more natural-looking arrangements that don’t have a lot of “bling,” so they can carry on through the winter until spring.
All that matters, though, is that you use what you’re drawn to, she says. There aren’t really any trends when it comes to decorating with greenery, so create something you enjoy looking at, and others are likely to feel the same way.
Our homes can get warm and dry this time of year, so it’s important to keep your indoor arrangements in fresh water or floral foam. Hilary recommends making outdoor arrangements in soil or floral foam. “Keep them watered until the temperature drops enough for the soil or floral foam to freeze, then they’ll keep fresh right until spring,” she says.
If you’re creating a garland for indoors, boxwood or magnolia are the best choices for base materials. They’ll hold their leaves better, and though they will still eventually dry out, they’ll last longer than other options. “Anything with needles that isn’t in water will drop those needles fast,” she cautions.
Hilary recommends waiting until the week before Christmas to create or put up your indoor garland, so it stays fresh through the most important days. Since I live in an apartment and my fresh, green decorations are all staying indoors, maybe it’s good that I waited until now! I guess I knew what I was doing when I kept putting off my decorating.
Here are some of Hilary’s go-to ingredients for holiday arrangements: