Let it GROW


Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - COLLEEN ZACHARIAS

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


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