Deck the hall with ivy, yew and laurel!By Linda Fort
November 27, 2009
The gardening column is cribbing some great ideas for Christmas decorations from an expert this week.
Former florist Neil Shaw now runs Basildon Park and has some pretty magnificent halls to deck at this time of year.
He suggests using natural materials as a good way to save money. He said: “When decorating the home for Christmas with fresh foliage, many people think of using just the traditional favourites of holly and ivy.
“I always include these in my own arrangements, but there are many other evergreens that make delightful compositions, such as laurel which is very glossy, yew, evergreen oak and winter flowering shrubs such as Vibernum tinus with its star-shaped white flowers and small blue-black fruits, which are just beginning to bloom now.
“Popular variegated garden shrub euonymus with its dark leaves and white/pink stripes also looks fabulous in any arrangement.
“You can even make use of the smaller branches you trim off your Christmas tree, thus avoiding any waste, and introducing a fragrant pine aroma to wreaths and table displays.”
He suggests adding splashes of colour with holly berries, rose hips and the fiery red fruits and foliage of pyrancantha and cotoneaster.
He went on: “To get the best out of any arrangement, make sure all foliage is cut at the very last minute before using it.
“Cut all stems with a sharp knife, on a slanting angle. This will expose a larger surface area of stem, allowing the foliage and flowers to absorb more water.
“Then condition the stems by plunging them into buckets of water for between 12 and 24 hours.”
Flowers bought from a florist should also be re-cut and conditioned.
If using water absorbent floral foam for an arrangement, make sure that the foam is well soaked.
To do this simply fill a washing up bowl with water and allow your foam to float on the surface until it starts to sink.
Don’t be tempted to push it under the water to hurry up the soaking as this will cause air locks and it will remain dry at the centre.
Continue to check it daily to keep it wet and don’t use old foam as bacteria builds up in the holes.
Mr Shaw concludes: “Be Bold! Don’t hold back, but experiment with the different leaves and flowers in your garden. Don’t just dress your front door, but think about placing arrangements on window sills, mantelpieces, dining room tables and the backs of chairs. By tying stems on to twine or rope using florist’s wire you can decorate your staircase too, which will look terrific.”