Half Term is over and the fruit for this year’s Christmas cake is doing the booze infusion thing in the kitchen before I make it this weekend, when we’ll all have a wish and a stir. This means that it’s time to think about preparing the flowery treats that will make the house beautiful and festive come December.
Bowls of white hyacinths are carefully planted up and stowed under our bed at the moment. There are pots of paperwhite daffs at various stages of growth in the greenhouse. Some of these are for us and some are presents. Incidentally any well-prepared school holding a Christmas Fair could use this as a fundraising idea. Buy a job lot of bulbs; look out for pretty pots (Freecycle, donations from parents, charity shop finds) and get the children to plant them up in the Autumn.
There’s a bucket of pine cones and a few other foraged goodies in the shed already. Now I’m looking for inspiration for home makes with the children and school makes with my gardening class.
Happily #britishflowers hour on Twitter this week (Mondays 8pm) was a positive cornucopia of hints, tips and all round good advice for garlanding a Christmas home.Thanks as ever to Sara Davison for absorbing it all and putting it into order. Here’s her summary with a few added comments of my own.
Door wreaths and what to use to make them Whilst we collect and prepare lots of ‘kit’ to make our door wreath now,I wouldn’t bother to make it up until the last minute. In our house it’s a weekend job towards the end of the Christmas term. If you make or buy your wreath too early you’ll be regarlanding it before Christmas.
So what is the ‘kit’ as recommended by the Twitter flower gang?
Lots of foraged things – rose hips, pine cones, bendy stems which can be wired to frames so as not to waste them, Alder and larch stems, with cones still attached can be woven together as a lovely base to start from – as can weeping birch, beech sticks and grape vines. Plait stems together to give body. Look for attractive coloured stems, Salix daphnoides got a special mention for its purple stems
Beautiful berries – Callicarpa (purple), Spindle, and of course let’s not forget how beautiful holly berries look in a festive wreath.
No-one appeared to be using Oasis/floral foam. Instead we are going for the biodegradable options such as woven willow and moss (ideally raked out of the lawn and stored in a cool damp spot to keep it fresh) attached to a wire frame.
Wire bases can be wrapped with Virginia creeper stems – but you can also use clematis stems, dogwood, willow. NB Clematis seedheads respond well to glycerine treatment. (See below)
Dried seed heads/pods and everlasting/dried flowers (yarrow, astrantia, corncockle, astilbe, honesty – and grasses) look lovely wired onto wreaths – but need to be protected by a porch for best effect otherwise dried items are likely to mildew.
We discussed the possibility of using chicken wire as a holder for moss – but this needs protective gloves, at least until all the spiky bits of the wire have been safely tucked away. Not a child-friendly option.
A recommended base for garlands is a length of thin rope that you can then wire foliage and flowers to.
Other things to add – pomegranates, chrysanths, fruit (and nuts) feathers (chat up your local game dealer) baubles, cinnamon sticks, ribbons.
Using glycerine to preserve stems The recipe is one part glycerine to two parts very hot water – stir well until thoroughly mixed. Fill a tall container with 5cm of the solution and stand your chosen stems in it. Place in a cool dark place, check regularly and do not allow the glycerine solution to dry out; top up as necessary. Leave for 1-10 weeks depending on the type of leaves selected (therefore it would make sense if preserving more than one variety to use separate container for each one). The process is complete when all the leaves have turned colour and before beads of glycerine have begun to appear on them. Remove from the solution, wash and rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a cloth or kitchen paper. (Taken from The Flower Arranger’s Garden by Rosemary Verey – one of the recommended books from #britishflowers hour last month!)
For inspiration there were some beautiful examples of wreaths from @TuckshopFlowers, @GGF @emywish @TheFlowerFarmer. I’ve added a couple of pics of wreaths I’ve made with children and one from Sara Willman aka @myflowerpatch
@KilcoanGardens supplied a YouTube link to wreath making:
And if you are in the process of compiling a Christmas (or in my case birthday and Christmas) wishlist here’s what’s hip in gardening circles at the moment.
- ‘flower farmer’ aprons are much in demand – a stockist mentioned was premierworkwear.com . Fortunately I have a secret supplier, which I may be persuaded to reveal in due course. In the meantime I’m sure those nice girls @GGFlowerCo know a thing or two about stylish aprons. Check out their blog. @TheFlowerFarmer mentioned plans to sell some too. The choice is yours.
- Carbon bladed florists scissors – remember to dry and oil with a veg oil after use to prevent from rusting
- Flower snips – @niwakijake (niwaki.com) was mentioned as a good supplier to check out
- Felco secateurs – a ‘must’ for any forager’s pocket – ideally with a holster to store them in for those ‘quick draw’ moments). Felco also make florists scissors – worth checking out
- Luxury mulches and composts – see @Strulchmulch (strulch.co.uk) and @ViridorUK (viridor.co.uk)
- @Higgledygarden seeds – excellent stocking fillers
- Scented peonies from Kelways
- Knee pads
- Stylish overtrousers (do such a thing exist?). http://www.genus.gs has been recommended, but I’ve not yet checked out the link
- Any book from the list created on #britishflowers hour a couple of weeks ago
- Places on the wide and wonderful variety of floral workshops available
Other ‘wishlist’ items that might require a lottery win, a very generous maiden aunt or the ability to time travel and will, in no way, fit in a stocking are
- Cart for holding buckets, blooms etc
- A ‘Sherpa’ garden trolley (mine came from Freecycle and has a slightly dodgy wheel; @myflowerpatch has a nifty little number)
- An extra day in the week just for you
- Luxury/Vintage cars to make deliveries that bit more special
- Elves – as in ‘and the Shoemaker’ or a Harry Potter type house-elf (preferably not of the destructive moody sort ;))
- Guttering and water butts
- Petrol strimmer
- A solar powered Wunda Weeder (see @fleurmania’s timeline for this).
That’s plenty of Christmas planning for now. This year’s cake recipe will follow in due course.