Monday 19 August 2019

Diarmuid Gavin: Christmas wreaths and other table centrepieces inspired by the great outdoors

Christmas wreaths and other table centrepieces inspired by the great outdoors

A Christmas wreath
A Christmas wreath
Gardener Diarmuid Gavin. Photo: Fran Veale

Diarmuid Gavin

As gardeners how do we prepare for Christmas? It's all about bringing the garden indoors, creating decorations for the house the traditional way by using the colour and beauty provided by nature - mixed with the glitz and glamour that Santa sprinkles.

Arts and crafts at home have seen a great resurgence. During the difficult years, from which we are hopefully slowly emerging, people liked to 'nest', appreciating their own homes and gardens and wanting to make them more beautiful in simple ways.

There's no better way to do that this Christmas than creating some set pieces. This week I got up at the crack of dawn (which these mornings isn't actually very early) and went into Dublin's flower market to buy armfuls of holly, trays of cyclamen, pots of poinsettias and batches of twine along with rolls of red ribbon, candles and Christmas baubles.

From the fruit and veg man, I got a dozen lemons and then in the hills behind my house, I collected moss and cones that had long since dropped from towering conifers and I set about creating a collection of jolly displays. It was great fun.

So, here's my step-by-step guide to centrepieces for the Christmas dinner table, wreaths for the front door and flowers that will push up through the compost in time to greet you with wonderful scents and displays of colour come Christmas morning.

1 Hyacinth and poinsettia arrangement

Add compost to a planter or large bowl. If it doesn't have drainage holes, add some pieces of charcoal which will absorb gases. My hyacinths have been forced and will be flowering on Christmas Day, filling the house with their delicious scent. Plant these and then some baby poinsettias for some instant colour. Place candles in the centre of the arrangement. I've used spruce cuttings to cover any compost that is still showing but you can use any other green filler such as ivy, pine, moss or cupressus. As my planter has no drainage holes, it needs to be watered sparingly - just enough to keep the compost moist, not sopping wet.

2 Centrepiece for Christmas table

Add compost to a bowl and some florists' oasis foam for holding candles. I bought a wreath which was made in Turkey. Insert three red candles in the foam and cover any gaps with spruce or other green foliage. Dress it up for Christmas with a few decorative Santas.

3 Glitzing up Cyclamen and Ivy for Christmas

Pink or red cyclamen make wonderful living centrepiece arrangements for your Christmas table. Plant three cyclamen in a bowl filled with compost and feed in ivy around the bowl, tucking it in so it makes a garland. Bury Christmas decorations deep into the foliage. Place a red candle in the centre and light it for a warm festive glow.

4 How to Make a Christmas Wreath

First you will need a circular florists' ring, or failing that you can twist a wire coat hanger into a circular shape. (If doing this, you can cut off the handle as you will be using ribbon to hang the wreath). Bulk up your circular shape with green foliage. I have used cupressus but it could just as easily be moss or ivy. Using florists' wire, wind tightly around and around the foliage to secure it to the wire base. Now you can start adding spruce, wiring each piece securely in. Make sure to overlap each piece, so you will have a continuous circle when you are finished. I have used spruce here but holly or pine would also be gorgeous. It's wonderfully therapeutic doing this as the Christmas scent of spruce fills the air - it really gets you into the holiday spirit.

Spray some pinecones gold and leave to dry. Now, add little red trinkets to the wreath which will really stand out. Loop them with florists' wire, making sure to put the end back into the wreath so it doesn't spike you. Choose ornaments according to your taste - decide yourself if you are more Downton Abbey or Dynasty! Keep an eye on the design all the time so it's not lopsided. Don't just add randomly, spread evenly so the emphasis is on the circular nature of the wreath.

The cones will be dry by now - you can wire these on to the wreath base. Finally tie some red ribbon to hang the wreath from your door, and some red ribbon trailing from the bottom looks lovely too.

5 Lemon Wreath

Here's a completely different look for your wreath. Make the wreath as described above or use a shop-bought structure. As it is artificial, it will last year after year and will just need to be dressed up each year much like the Christmas tree. Stick rigid florists' wire through the centre of some lemons and attach them to the wreath. It's cold outside, so lemons with their waxy peel should last for the festive season.

Three little robins making their nest in it to bring a sense of cheer, gathering together for their Christmas dinner.

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