Hampshire Garden garlands

Pick your Christmas decorations fresh from the garden this year, from rustic wreathes to berry baubles

Try your hand at making your own decorations from nature’s winter bounty. It’s a fun activity for all the family and has an added economical benefit. Have a wander around your garden, the woodland or the hedgerows and be inspired by the possibilities – from green or variegated foliages, berries, seed heads, coloured stems or even winter flowers. Remember that you are actually pruning plants when collecting live greenery so take care when cutting and ensure that you retain the form. There is more than you may imagine that can be fashioned into wreaths, garlands, tree decorations or table centres to personalise your Christmas. Although gathering from your landscape will be fresher and possibly offer a wider variety of unusual choices, your local garden centre or florist may have additional seasonal material to augment your findings.

The wreathAn essential is a wreath or garland to decorate your front door. Bases can be around florist’s oasis frame or wire circle, however you can also make your own with entwined stems of coloured willows, cornus or any pliable shrub or vine. Attach background greenery with fine wire. Classic choices include holly, conifers, yew, ivy, box or eucalyptus. Decorative detailing comes from adding colour from berries, seed heads, flowers, pinecones, dried oranges, cinnamon sticks or even mini apples. Try physalis, rosehips, papery hydrangea blooms, holly berries, mistletoe, vibrant purple callicarpa, viburnum or snowberries. Finish with ribbon or raffia.

Adorn the fireplaceGarlands for the fireplace or stairs can follow the same theme as the door. Try laying out trimmed conifer branches and lengths, wiring them together and using as a base for adding those personal touches. Ensure needles all point in the same direction. For extra sparkle, spray paint cones or seed heads before adding them.

Tree treatsTurn your attention to adorning the Christmas tree. Some ideas include berries strung like necklaces, clusters of wired pinecones, spray-painted seed heads (such as spherical alliums), chains of brilliant orange Chinese lanterns (physalis) as their hollow stems are easy to thread, twisted red dogwood stems in festive shapes or dried flowers in tiny bunches. Don’t forget the presents under the tree as they can have the garden touch too.

For the tableFinally the Christmas table can continue the theme. Overly abundant or paired down, colour co-ordinated or more eclectic, the choice is yours. A wet oasis shape, placed in a container, is one of the easiest bases to add greenery and build up with a range of material. You could finish off with beautiful candles and even decorated napkin rings or place cards.

The traditionsDecorating our homes at Christmas echoes the traditions of the past. Many of the customs we associate with the season are from the Victorian period, however most originated much earlier with pagan festivals that celebrated the Yule and Winter Solstice. Many of the symbols refer to the concept of rebirth and hope in darkness. Evergreen trees and shrubs were used to decorate homes as they represented a continuity of life, protection and future prosperity for many cultures. Three plants in particular have a long history in the season’s rituals – holly, ivy and mistletoe. Holly is associated with eternal life and good fortune; ivy with fidelity and protection, while kissing under the mistletoe originates from Norse mythology and is unsurprisingly linked with peace, wellness and fertility.

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Learn howA Country Christmas Fair at West Green HouseThackham’s Lane, Hartley Wintney, RG27 8JBNovember 24 – December 12, 11am-4pmWednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.Practical and price conscious gifts with the gardener in mind. Plant supports, topiary frames, fun Christmas ideas, garlands, wreaths, decorations, fresh flowering plants, morning and afternoon teas, light lunches and if you wish, a complimentary glass of Christmas cheer to celebrate the season.

Christmas Decorations WorkshopSir Harold Hilliers Gardens, Ampfield, Romsey SO51 0QASunday, November 28, 2pm-4pmPopular workshop with head gardener, learn how to make wreaths and swags from material in the gardens. �45, includes lunch and materials, booking essential.

Children’s Christmas CraftsSir Harold Hillier gardensThursday 16 – Thursday 23, December, 11am-3pmChristmassy things and decorative crafts, with natural materials from the gardens, to make and take home.Free with normal admission. Booked by timed ticket on the day only.

Tips for keeping greenery fresh• Use clean, sharp cutters.• Crush ends of woody stems to allow water in.• Soak well before bringing into the house.• Keep away from radiators• Mist water spray.• Anti-desiccant spray when first arranged may help seal the pores on the leaves.• Use damp oasis, wrapped in cellophane or in containers for arrangements.• Small decorations can be placed in button-hole type holders.• Cedars, pines, firs dry out more slowly than spruce.• Keep cut ends of ivy in water.• Ensure any greenery brought into the house is very fresh and pliable as dried evergreens can be flammable near candles.• Check your decorations every few days and replace any dry portions.

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