At this time of the year, many of us will be raiding our gardens for the finishing touches to our Christmas decorations.
With a can of spray paint, some flower arrangers foam or a readymade wreath base, even I with practically no artistic skills can make some original decorations using free material gathered from the garden.
Our Holly has always been useful to adorn picture frames with its beautiful green and white leaves but this year, for the first time it has produced quite a few red berries which will save the tiresome job of wrapping artificial ones around the sprigs of leaves. The Blackbirds are still busy stripping the berries from the Pyracantha in the front garden so I am hoping that we will beat them to the Holly berries! I am not a fan of netting the plant to preserve them – I would hate to trap a bird in the net and we do have artificial berries to fall back on if need be.
Although they are not evergreen, the coloured stemmed Dog Woods in the garden are looking great at the moment. I am especially impressed with Cornus alba ‘Siberica’. It’s easy to tell from many of the other red stemmed varieties with sealing wax red branches that are a much brighter colour than the others. Another favourite is the bushier variety ‘Midwinter Fire’ with orange stems that have red tips. These look great tied in small bunches and placed on a wreath or used to give height to an arrangement.
The wall at the back of our garden has a Privet hedge growing on it but under this we have left the Ivy and other wild plants to naturalise and hopefully stabilise the stones in the wall. Red Campions flower here through the summer and are loved by bees as well as harbouring aphids which in turn are food for birds and predatory insects such as Ladybirds and their larvae.
Ivy is a great plant to wind around the bases of tall candles, use as napkin rings with a place name attached or as a base for decadent arrangements to cascade down the side of a tall bookcase or from banisters. We have plenty of long trailing pieces growing under the Privet – I just need to go and gently pull it out.
The front garden is full of seed heads now that the summer plants have finished flowering and the Teasels are at a jaunty angle after being blown around by the latest winds. Their stiff, upright branches with prickly stems are a great feature in the autumn garden and the magnificent seed heads are a favourite with Gold Finches which have stripped out most of the fine seeds with their especially adapted triangular beaks. What they missed has already fallen to the ground and germinated to ensure future generations are safe – they can be a pest in the garden if I am not ruthless and leave only a selected few. Luckily they are very easy to spot with their bright green, prickly leaves which grow flat to the ground to begin with – no doubt hoping to keep a low profile until their strong tap root is well down into the soil! Sedums too are useful dried heads – especially when sprayed with paint and used in wreaths.
But my favourite Christmas decoration has yet to emerge – the nodding yellow flowers of the first Daffodils ‘Ryjnveld’s Early Sensation’ which are always in flower just before Christmas Day and shine in a vase with a few sprigs of Holly on top of my writing desk.