When it comes to decorating your home for the festive season look closely at what nature offers us at this time of year. It may be more subtle than during other seasons, but it is just as lovely. Carefully collect and clip foliage, berries, seedheads, cones, stems and winter flowers, often scented as an extra bonus, to bring inside and make an array of festive decorative touches.

You may be surprised what your garden could offer with a plethora of interesting choices. Whether simply popped into large vases as seasonal statements or turned into Christmas wreaths and decorations, the process is fun and easy for the whole family to get involved in. Evergreen foliage comes in such a range of different shades, textures and shapes - from tactile pines and spiky holly to silvery eucalyptus. There’s the skeletal fragile beauty of seedheads from grasses and perennials that you have left standing for wildlife over winter, including miscanthus, eryngium and achillea and often quite insignificant flowers almost hidden by bold leaves, such as sarcococca or tiny clusters of viburnum.

Even the bare stems revealed in your garden offer a range of ornamental opportunities to get creative. In particular the bright stems of willow and cornus in golds and reds are eye-catching but any pliable stem is a possibility. They can be twisted into seasonal shapes such as stars or as wreath bases for the door or table centres.

Great British Life: See what you can find in your garden (c) Leigh ClappSee what you can find in your garden (c) Leigh Clapp

Great British Life: Gather your materials (c) Leigh ClappGather your materials (c) Leigh Clapp Great British Life: Stems can be twisted into Christmas stars (c) Leigh ClappStems can be twisted into Christmas stars (c) Leigh Clapp

Look on the ground for fallen cones, of different sizes and shapes. Stems adorned with jewels of berries, whether traditional hollies, clusters of dangling sorbus or the bright purple callicarpa make glorious arrangements and are ideal to detail wreaths and swags.

You have your selection, not what to make? Start with your front door and create a wreath, symbolic that the endless cycle of seasons will bring the return of the light. Wreath bases can be moss wired onto florist rings, oasis circles or simply twisted stems. With a double wire ring you can use as is or attach sphagnum moss in handfuls, or foliage such as yew, and bind tightly with a roll of wire to form your base.

Alternatively, use your pliable stems that can be twisted together to form your base, such as birch, coloured cornus, willow, or any shrub or vine that you can manipulate easily. Mix a variety of stems or keep to one type, the decision is yours to be as creative, naturalistic or formal as you like. A good combination could be willow, cornus and eleagnus. Soak stems for a few hours, up to 3 to 4 days, then mellow 24 hours before use. Bend from the tip of a stem and form a circle with a long length of flexible stem. Work with the stem’s natural bendiness rather than forcing it, persuading it gently, either in your hands or across your knee.

Great British Life: A double ring with bound on moss (c) Leigh ClappA double ring with bound on moss (c) Leigh Clapp Great British Life: Your base could be covered wire which you can use every year (c) Leigh ClappYour base could be covered wire which you can use every year (c) Leigh Clapp Great British Life: A subtle combination of greens (c) Leigh ClappA subtle combination of greens (c) Leigh Clapp

Whichever base you choose, ensure the back is smooth or stems are tucked away so as not to damage your door. Once your base is prepared, add a loop or hook for hanging before you get onto the greenery stage. Wire on the foliage first in small bunches until the wreath is full. Then wire items for detailing, such as cones individually, flowers in little groups of three, and stems with clusters of berries. There is a wide range of possibilities such as holly, physalis, winter jasmine, rosehips, mistletoe, hydrangeas, snowberry or viburnum. Dried options include statice, paper flowers, seedheads and teasels. For an extra flourish feathers, cinnamon stick bundles, chillies and dried citrus slices are popular. When grouping your embellishments keep checking the balance and design by holding up the wreath, and remember odd numbers are best. It’s a good idea to colour-theme your base and decorations, whether you’d like a traditional red and green look or out of the box with tangy orange berries and physalis on a lime green cornus base, a white and green theme with snowberries and viburnum flowers, or pinks and purples with sorbus and callicarpa berries.

Take the look inside. Greenery may not last as long as on the front door, so it’s best to make these arrangements closer to Christmas. Co-ordinate your wreath with table decorations, swags for the fireplace or stairs, and ornaments for your tree. Table decorations could be a wreath with a candle in the centre, tiny bunches of scented foliage such as herbs at each place, or a long table runner down the length adorned with greenery. For garlands and swags bind moss onto a rope, then add foliage and finally add in your decorative detailing with pinecones, berries, dried fruit and flowers. A useful tip is to tie knots down the length of the rope at about 30cm apart to stop the greenery sliding down the length. Don’t forget to loop one end of the rope for hanging and secure with wire. The best garlands and swags are plump and rounded so be generous with both the moss base and the foliage. Variegated foliage will add light to the design and scent can be added with cinnamon sticks. Little fingers may be particularly adept at making mini-wreaths to hang on the Christmas tree, everyone could get involved stringing seedheads such as bright orange physalis and making present toppers really personalises the gifts under the tree.


Great British Life: A silver birch and pinecone table arrangement (c) Leigh ClappA silver birch and pinecone table arrangement (c) Leigh Clapp Great British Life: You could also make natural napkin rings (c) Leigh ClappYou could also make natural napkin rings (c) Leigh Clapp

Top tips

• Greenery - blue spruce, pines, yew, eucalyptus, viburnum, berried ivy, nandina, box, laurel, bay, rosemary, mistletoe, sarcococca, variegated ivy, Skimmia japonica

• Decorative detailing – pine cones, poppy seed cones, rose hips, berries from callicarpa, holly and cotoneaster; physalis, hydrangeas, winter jasmine, dried citrus slices and skins, cinnamon sticks, feathers, ribbon

• Aim to use compostable ingredients where you can, to be eco-friendly and sustainable

• For longer lasting displays use vases, oasis in trays or narrow containers

• Spray with water every couple of days to keep fresh

• Dried flowers and seedheads avoid the problem of wilting flowers

• You can also entwine some battery operated fairy lights through arrangements for a twinkling effect

• The airing cupboard makes a great place for drying seed heads, fir cones etc., or in a basket a safe distance from an open fire. Or if you are lucky enough to have an Aga/Rayburn, set a basket of ‘ingredients’ near to it

• Safety tip - ensure any greenery brought into the house that will be near candles or fires is very fresh and pliable as dried evergreens can be flammable

• Traditionally all Christmas decorations are brought inside on Christmas Eve and should be removed on the 5th of January, Twelfth Night