It has been four days since Christmas Eve but I am by no means done with it. The build up is great, the event itself magical and the days that come after are just so…nice. I love the days in between Christmas and New Year when things calm down and you have time to just enjoy it all – the tree, the flowers, the chance to look at your presents and eat leftovers. It is a good time to reflect and perhaps make some notes, actual or mental, about things to remember for next year. I thought I would share some thoughts about festive flowers and take a look at the mantelpiece I made for Christmas Eve.
Simple blooms go a long way, especially this time of year when we have been a bit starved of floral beauty for a while as the frost puts an end to the Dahlia bunches in late Autumn. Really, a singe Amaryllis stem is all you need. But when actual Christmas comes, I feel like going for it and doing something really special. Last year we had a floral garland, this year I decided to do a classic mantelpiece. Looks quite impressive but is really easy to do – promise! The key is to have little bit of time set aside to work on it, and to have enough stuff available. I am no florist and this is not something that was planned or designed, more of a spur of the moment thing. I think it is better that way – there are so many other things to plan at Christmas time, I really don’t need the stress and this is meant to be fun.
Most of the material was foraged in the woods and the garden with some added flowers and dried material that was kept since summer. The base is a couple of bits of chicken wire shaped into rolls the length of the mantelpiece, one in front of the other. I knew I wanted candles so had to put the candlesticks in place first. Then I stuck everything down with masking tape (see – so low tech!) and after that all the foliage and flowers went in. Just stick each stem down into the chickenwire and it will stay in place. Best to start with the foliage, building it up gradually making sure to hide all the chicken wire. Then add any wispy delicate flowers and finish off with the main focal point – I used some peachy roses that my mum had bought really cheap as the petals were about to drop. Once they were in I felt I needed something more punchy so I raided the fruit bowl for satsumas which were skewered on chopsticks and studded with cloves. The final touch – long ribbons tied in bows, the most Christmassy thing. And some gorgeous long handmade candles.
If, like me, you have been swooning over those gorgeous House and Garden Christmas covers for years and would like something similar for your house next year, I say have a go! It really isn’t difficult and if you have a bit of time, so much fun – especially with a glass of bubbles in hand and some carols playing. I see so many wreath making and flower arranging courses advertised and while I am sure they are very enjoyable and you no doubt pick up some good tricks, it really isn’t necessary to do this kind of thing the professional way. A bit like gardening – just give it a try. Courses are so expensive too! I would keep that money and spend it ALL on flowers for the house and go to town with some extravagant arrangements. Top tips below:
Go for lots of foliage, you need more than you think and it is cheap or even free if you cut it yourself. When you buy your Christmas tree, ask if you can collect all the chopped off branches on the floor to take home. Keep dried eucalyptus stems and other useful foliage from any autumn flower bunches. Hydrangea are great too – good for bulk and gorgeous dried. If you live in a city, there are still lots of places to forage if you look around. Perhaps don’t take the secateurs to the local park but find a neglected verge or an overgrown bicycle lane. There is ivy everywhere in cities. No one will mind if you chop a bit.
Start building up a stash of things that can be useful for this kind of thing – much better to use what you already have in the house than to buy for the purpose. Keep ribbons from gifts and put them all in a box. Also buy them whenever you see some you like – they don’t have to be fancy, little local shops like Dalston Mill are as good as VV Rouleaux and 100 times more cost effective. So good to buy Christmas stuff out of season!
If you don’t have a fireplace with a mantel to decorate, try a table centre piece instead with a block candle in the middle. Otherwise do it on a sideboard or console table.
The main thing is, don’t be afraid to try. Enjoy seeing your floral piece take shape – it may not turn out exactly how you imagined but it will be gorgeous! And how lovely to light the candles, sit back with a drink and look at what you made. Good luck!