Let it GROW
WITH WINTER GREENERY
BOUGHS of fragrant, fresh-cut pine, cedar and balsam in shades of green. Rich, red berries and rosehips. Chunky stems of white birch and slender branches of curly willow or fiery red dogwood. These are just a few of the colours, scents and textures of the festive season. Take a walk through your garden for inspiration and you may find some of these natural elements or others that can be used in making a wreath, swag or container display.
Inspiration is also waiting for you at your local garden centre, craft store and flower shop, although be prepared for an even wider array of materials to choose from. From hemlock boughs to stems of milo berries and pepperberries, bunches of boxwood and oregonia, coloured bear grass and eucalyptus, even lichen-covered twigs, there is no end to the decorating possibilities. Why not let your imagination run wild and create a festive atmosphere that will delight your family and wow your holiday visitors. It’s your choice whether you will create a display from scratch, participate in one of the many wreath or container workshops at local garden centres, purchase ready-made creations or have a unique design created especially for you. For that all important first impression, your front entrance is a good place to start. I stopped into The Floral Fixx on Kenaston Boulevard to talk with floral designer Julie Pritchard for some ideas. This year Pritchard is taking the use of stems and branches in her container designs to whole new heights. In one example, the smooth bark of thick, four-metre tall maple branches that The Floral Fixx carries have been grouped together in a thigh-high pot for a statement that is both rustic and elegant. Billows of burlap at the top of the container conceal the container’s interior, which is weighted down with rocks while also softening the overall look. Vintage Edison bulbs in a range of sizes hang from the branches, creating a soft glow at night. To visually expand the size of her front entrance and create a continuous flow, Pritchard has mimicked the same display just outside her door, but this time substituting outdoor lights for the Edison bulbs as the latter won’t withstand freezing temperatures. Pritchard directed me to a client’s home where tall maple branches have also been used to create an outdoor display, but this time in an even more dramatic manner. Inspired by a twig arbour she saw while travelling in Quebec, the client envisioned an arbour made from natural elements that would frame her front entrance year round and lend itself to seasonal changes. The finished effect is simply stunning. Two tall concrete containers stand opposite glass doors at the entrance to the contemporary-styled home. After firmly ensconcing tall maple branches in the containers to a height that extends well past the top of the home’s entry doors, the design team at Floral Fixx next created a twig arbour overhead that spans the distance between the two containers. Designed as a permanent structure, the homeowner has dressed the containers for the holiday season in layers of cedar and balsam and added pine cones together with silvery stems with rhinestone berries. For an added flourish, a huge silver mesh bow adorns the front of each container. Thin, barely visible strands of flexible silver wire with tiny but bright fairy lights on a timer have been molded around the branches for nighttime displays. What’s notable about most outdoor holiday displays is they make creative use of materials we already have on hand. When Pritchard’s neighbour, Darlene Plett, created her outdoor containers, she filled grapevine orbs with strings of lights, securing them to tall branches underplanted with lush winter greens and magnolia leaves for an appealing outdoor display. Even outdoor containers filled with potting soil we never got around to completely emptying in the summer can be used for creating holiday displays. Theresa Schroeder, greenhouse production manager for Oakridge Garden Centre in Steinbach, says the frozen layer of soil can serve as a base for ready-made nursery pot inserts filled with fresh greens, natural branches such as birch and dogwood, stems of berries, and of course, bows and ornaments. Or keep your outdoor design simple with a ready-cut plantation-grown Christmas tree in a convenient size no more than 1½ metres tall. If you are using one of your empty containers, fill with potting soil, available at garden centres, or shovel in a layer of snow around the base of the tree. Tuck in fresh greens for a soft lush skirt and decorate with wide burlap ribbon, lanterns or baubles and a string of lights. Or not. Your design can be as uncomplicated as you please and still say welcome. It’s important to water in thoroughly to ensure your design freezes into place quickly. While ready-made wreaths in various sizes are available for purchase, many garden centres offer classes on making your own with all of the materials close at hand. Schroeder says classes are fun and easy. After selecting two or three evergreen boughs about 46 centimetres long, registrants wrap 28-gauge floristry wire from the cut end to the tip end, stopping ¾ of the way. Then the next set of branches are firmly pressed in, keeping the wire nice and snug, gradually forming the circular shape of the wreath for an outside diameter of about 30 cm. Once the base is completed, shorter stems of greens, in bunches of five about 15 cm in length, are layered, clockwise around the wreath and secured with wire.
GREENS may include a mix of white pine, silver fir and cedar, depending on your preference. Incense cedar is particularly fragrant with golden yellow tips. Add a bit of boxwood, some pine cones or whatever grabs your fancy. There is usually the option, too, to purchase a ready-made wreath and ask to have it customized. Front Door Stories, owned by Sharlene Nielsen, has a new home at T&T Seeds on Roblin Boulevard. Nielsen, as T&T’s new design coordinator, brings her keen design sense and creativity to a local business that has decided to branch out from its traditional holiday offerings. For the first time, customers at T&T can participate in hands-on wreath and container workshops throughout the holiday season. Nielsen has a love for natural materials that includes big pine cones and richly coloured magnolia leaves with glossy green tops and gorgeous, contrasting chestnut-coloured undersides. To create an elegant magnolia wreath, Nielsen uses fresh magnolia leaves, a wire wreath form, florist wire, wire cutters and sphagnum moss. For wreaths with fresh greens, Nielsen prefers to use cedar and pine, which she says hold their needles better than fir, important when a door is being opened and closed regularly. She mixes in oregonia — a variegated boxwood — with a smaller leaf and combines it with seeded eucalyptus that has a distinctive silvery-greygreen colour.
In terms of berries, she has a clear preference for cultured rose hips which retain their rosy colour throughout winter compared to ilex berries that turn to a disappointing black in freezing temperatures. Symmetrical or asymmetrical placement of the various elements achieves the look you want. For a Scandinavian touch, Nielsen likes to add a scarlet red, narrow grosgrain ribbon tied in a simple bow. Nielsen says components for your container display can be similar to what you use in your wreath. Follow the same thriller, filler and spiller