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How to create wow Christmas decor with foliage

How to create wow Christmas decor with foliage

If, like me you have been known to buy the Christmas editions of well known interior magazines for the promise of pages of fabulous Christmas decor, than you too will have experienced the disappointment of making crafty decorations which never quite resemble the glossy pictures in said magazine...Does anyone really have time to faff about with the fads and fashions that come and go each Christmas?  Take it from someone who devotes a considerable amount of time perusing the Christmas look for the coming year, what's in this year will be tired and dated in 12 months time. When we put together our Christmas ranges at Bowley & Jackson the emphasis is firmly on a traditional and classical Christmas, an extension of how we decorate our own home for Christmas. We hope that our decorations become part of the fabric of Christmas and likewise my own thoughts of decorating for Christmas have evolved over the years and a natural display using foliage is central to decorating our own home.

alt="traditional christmas foliage"

A scandinavian style Christmas

Decorating with foliage offers many advantages, the most obvious being that much of the material can be gathered for free. Foraging for suitable foliage is a really pleasant way to spend time and a great excuse to spend a few hours out in the fresh air. I will set off with a wheelbarrow and the kids in tow, (but lets not get too misty eyed, taking the kids has on occasion proved to be a mistake!).Here is a list of tools and kit useful to have on hand:

  • Secateurs
  • Long handled loppers
  • Wheelbarrow or large trug
  • Heavy duty gardening gloves
  • Florists wire
  • Chicken wire
  • Small cable ties (Preferably clear)
  • Garden twine

The type of foliage you gather depends very much on the type of display you're looking to create. Here is a list of different types of foliage that can be useful:

  • Birch twigs
  • Blackthorn twigs
  • Hawthorn
  • Willow twigs
  • Berried Ivy
  • Variegated Ivy
  • Berried Holly
  • Variegated Holly
  • Dried Hydrangea heads
  • Hebe
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rose hips
  • Italian Cypress
  • Norwegian Spruce
  • Bay leaf
alt="hawthorn foliage"

    This is my list and is strongly influenced by what is available in my garden and the hedgerows surrounding our paddocks. It is worth cultivating certain plants such as Bay and Hebe for this very purpose and over recent years I have come to know where to find certain species such as a prettily coloured berried Ivy. 

    alt="the room before decorating"

    Creating a twig ceiling

    Our Christmas twig ceiling has been a feature in our stores for a number of years and is much photographed by visitors each year. What started out as a practical way to display our Christmas decorations has become a display in itself. A really easy look to create, we create a version of this in our kitchen at home every year. I usually use blackthorn for this design, simply because the thorns offer rigid spikes from which to hang heavier glass decorations. In recent years I have also used silver birch branches which creates a wonderful Scandinavian style Christmas and this year I found some Hawthorn with dark crimson berries which looks sooo Christmassy without adding anything else. Here's a step by step how to:

    alt="creating the christmas display"

    1. Start with a sturdy single strong branch that can be used as an anchor. Take a screw hook and screw into the beam and cable tie the brach to the hook, repeat to hold the branch securely and trim the cable tie ends. 
    2. Decide on the effect you're look to create, are you looking to cover a large area of the ceiling, thus creating a ceiling of twigs or a narrower stretch over the length of a dining table? Add twigs accordingly, adding more hooks and cable tying each piece as you go along to ensure a firm structure.
    3. If you wish to add lights to the display, add them at this point. I use Micro Brights, these are small warm white lights mounted upon wire which makes them very easy to align with the branches. The resulting effect creates a twinkling tree like look.
    4. Add your choice of decorations, I tend to opt for a classical display made up of glass icicles and vintage style glass baubles. Thread each decoration on clear fishing line for a neat job and hang at different levels. I like to hang some quite low over the table below. In the stores we hang whatever features within our Christmas range that year, this results in an eclectic vintage look which also works well.

    alt="securing the branches with brass hooks"

    A close up of the screw in brass hooks, use these to hold the twigs or to secure cable ties to.

    alt="hawthorn berries"

    alt="vintage style glass baubles"

    alt="scandinavian style christmas foliage"



      Adding greenery

      Greenery was traditionally used as a way of warding off evil spirits and even if you aren't too worried about the spirits it brings a fabulous warmth and grandeur to your decor. You can really go to town with rich garlands made up of greenery including conifer, holly and ivy to dress up fireplaces and staircases.  A garland is easy to assemble, here is a step by step how:

      alt="making a greenery garland"

      1. Take your garden twine and floristry wire and unravel equal lengths of both, lay the two side by side with the start end at one end of the table and the two rolls uncut at the other.
      2. Wrap the floristry wire around the twine to join the wire and twine together, this will form the base of your garland. Now create a hanging loop at the start.
      3. Take a handful of a selection of foliage, with all the stems together place the bunch on top of the twine, wrap the wire around the bunch of stems and twine to attach to the twine. 
      4. Take the next bunch of foliage and place on top of the first stem bunch and once more wire into place.
      5. Repeat until you have reached the length of garland required.
      6. Cut the wire and twine and add a hanging loop to the end
      alt="Hanging greenery over a fireplace"

        A greenery garland will transform a fireplace, add in fairy lights and candles to really max out on an opulent display. 

        Christmas Table Centrepiece

        For the Christmas table itself use the fruits of your foraging trip to create a beautiful table centre piece. Here, I have used an old Indian brick mould, but you can use anything from a ceramic bowl or cache pot such as our Barnsley Cache pots. For a vintage design, an old tomato tin similar to the fabulous tomato tin from our range. Here is how I created the table piece:

        alt="making a table centre piece"

        1. Take your receptical and the piece of chicken wire from your kit list
        2. Fold the chicken wire to create a snug mesh rack within the pot
        3. If your chosen receptical is water tight, add water to make a longer lasting arrangement.
        4. Take the candles you wish to use and insert, ensuring they stand straight.
        5. Arrange your foliage around the candles.

        alt="Christmas table centre piece"

        This Antique Indian brick mould is used to create a table centre piece with ivy, rose hips and two Danish dinner candles. It contrasts well against the red gingham oilcloth.

          You can also add fruits such as oranges, apples or pomegranates to the arrangement.

          alt="scandinavian vases filled with twigs"

          Danish glass hurricanes filled with foraged twigs with pumpkin glass tea light holders complimenting.

          A hurricane glass filled with oranges and a simple pillar candle is super easy to create and will add a wonderful citrus aroma to the room.

          alt="narcissus potted in a ceramic pot"

          Paper Whites and other bulbs

          Pot up Paper White Narcissus to decorate a windowsill or dresser surface. Something as simple as an old terracotta pot planted with these delicate flowers, finished with moss to the top is very effective. Amaryllis or hyacinth bulbs are also seasonal and can be easily purchased in Garden centres and Supermarkets. 

          alt="the finished article"

          The kitchen ready for Christmas... on to the tree and wreath...