Homespun holidays – using plants to create Christmas decorations – Brief Article
From dried-and-gilded foliage to festive garlands, let nature be your inspiration for handmade holiday decorations
home for the holidays: It’s where we want to be. Often, our most cherished memories of childhood yuletides feature homespun scenes: baked goods cooling on the kitchen counter freshly clipped pine boughs perfuming the air, and ornaments fashioned by hand in the company of family and friends. It’s no wonder that throughout our lives, holiday decorations that show a human touch retain their considerable appeal. In Sheffield, Mass,, Robin Norris and his wife, Barbara Bockbrader, share a deep affection for just about anything that’s handmade. Their business, Campo de’ Fiori (Italian for “field of flowers”), specializes in handcrafted ornaments and furnishings that evoke “an irreplaceable sense of belonging,” as the couple puts it. From French wirework to Italianate stoneware and Mexican woodcarvings, the antique and newly crafted treasures on view “reflect our love of the simple elegance that is constantly mirrored in the natural world around us,” Robin says. Just outside the shop, Barbara’s Zone 5 gardens provide a ready source for holiday arrangements, including allium seedheads, poppy pods, and cardoons. Other decorations, such as tiny trees assembled entirely from twigs and eggs dyed with plant extracts, come from Barbara’s network of talented craftspeople. In Barbara’s designs as well as those of others, the rustic and the elegant meet head on: “We strive for just the right balance,” Barbara says.
A stroll through Robin and Barbara’s shop proves once again that the most successful holiday decorations often have their roots right outside the back door. From the Berkshire Hills, where she has lived for a quarter century, Barbara gathers pine and other cones and heaps them into birdbaths and antique mesquite troughs. Prunings from mature hollies make their way into classically shaped urns, while evergreen garlands drape windows and doors. Barbara favors balsam, as “It holds its needles and smells best”.
deck the halls
Festive candleholders: Insert pepperberries in a wire base sized to fit a stout pillar candle, or string together dried apple slices and form them into small wreaths to hold tapers.
Easy centerpiece: Fill a weathered wooden bowl with pinecones, dried citrus fruits, nuts, and dried flowers and seedheads from your garden. Before drying the fruit, score each clementine, lemon, or lime from the top down (see photo 3, this page). Hickory nuts, chestnuts, and pinecones can be sprayed lightly with gold paint to reflect the light. The dried heads of strawflowers (Helichrysum) and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) will further enliven your yuletide still-life.
Windowsill garden: In October, age four or five six-inch terra-cotta pots (and saucers) by filling them with soil, watering thoroughly, and placing them outside in the shade for one month. Then, in November, fill pots with fresh soil and one amaryllis bulb each; top with moss if you like. Line up the pots on a sunny windowsill, keep watered, and watch the holiday show.
Colored eggs in a nest of moss await display on a tabletop or mantelpiece. Sisters Kate Swift and Marilyn Cederoth, flower farmers and artisans in Chatham, N.Y., blew the bantam eggs, then tinted them with turmeric, frozen spinach, and coffee (for blue eggs, they use blueberries). A coat of Briwax (available at crafts shops and hardware stores) applied with a soft cloth lends a subtle sheen. A tabletop glows with help from simple arrangements of gilded eucalyptus leaves, allium seedheads, poppy pods, and a cardoon.
Make a citrus garland by stringing dehydrated lemon slices on copper wire. Dried apple slices can also be strung together to fill a room with fragrance. 2. Gilded pinecones and nuts embellish a twig tree crowned with a dried allium. 3. An antique tree of Mexican tin heralds the season, as do scored citrus and red cherry peppers in profusion. 4. Magnolia Leaves spray painted gold underscore a mantelpiece swag of balsam fir. 5. Potted amaryllis bulbs top-dressed with moss make welcome gifts. Twig trees decorated with paperwhite blossoms and rose hips can be grouped with gilded gourds.
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