16 Dec 2013

A Christmas Garden: perking up your plot and a competition

Rowan berries and ivy
Pink Sorbus berries where they'd fallen onto ivy - I'll use these plus more in a wreath.

Is it really only 10 days until Christmas? The veg patch garden is still being treated to resolutely mild weather so I'm able to potter around getting ready for next year but I can't ignore the festive lights in trees along local avenues or the buzz of people preparing for christmas.

Those lovely people over at Plant Me Now have provided the kickstart to think about extending seasonal decorations into the garden with their Christmas competition on Facebook. I'm giving the heads up on this one as the prize is £100 to spend in their online shop and let's face it, who wouldn't want to win that!  Their plug plants were well reviewed by Helen over at Patient Gardener this year and I'm always happier with a personal recommendation. Personally, I've fallen in love with a gorgeous dusky rose coloured delphinium that I'm coveting for my flower patch next year, middle bottom of this link.  (Oh, be still my beating heart!) You've only got one week to enter as the deadline is next Sunday, 22nd, (take a photo of your decorated garden, 'like' their FB page, upload your photo); it's worth a shot as, so far, there's only a few entries.

Although bright sparkly lights are good for jollying things up on a commercial level, I prefer something altogether more subtle in my own home - and that also extends to the garden. I love the simplicity of cinnamon sticks and dried orange peel tied onto a swag with a bit of ribbon. For  me, colours should harmonise with nature: think wood, robins, nuts and cones, stones, grey skies, white snow and icicles. Wonderful. Nature offers plenty of inspiration if you look around and that's what I went in search of.

Here's a robin I saw earlier.  I love that this photo has the feel of a Rob Ryan print (in my humble opinion!)

On Saturday I went for a little wander, bag over shoulder, secateurs in hand (just in case!). In the York Rise gardens I found rose hips, cornus stems, juniper branches, rosemary stems and ivy leaves. Walking in the Capel gardens, I'd already foraged fallen crab apples and - to my extreme delight - the fallen pink berries from the Sorbus hupehensis tree (Rowan). The purple berries from Callicarpa would also have been wonderful, as would the fluffy tips from a Miscanthus grass but I'm loathe to take something that nature isn't quite ready to part with.

Crab apple decorations
Fallen crab apples tied with florist's wire and hung on a christmas tree.

Walking through the woods, I spied a sheath of branch tips lying on the ground; they look like silver birch and I presume a child had gathered them up while walking and then been told to leave them behind. As I picked them up and rolled them into a circle to fit my bag, it occurred to me that they're so fine and pliable, they would be perfect as a base for a door or tree wreath. Bizarrely, I couldn't find any pine cones, despite large numbers of pine trees up at Capel but I did find plenty of acorns and their cups which were added to my goody bag (inspired by the acorn babies in the collage below).

So now I'll be crafting in the evenings in the week ahead, making decorations from my nature finds that will find their way into the garden. If you've thought, however briefly, about jollying up your garden for the forthcoming holidays, here's a few things to inspire or be aware of:

• Real christmas trees. I absolutely hate to see all those sad, brown, rootless trees dumped after christmas. If you must have a real tree, please buy one with roots, plant it properly in a deep pot of soil with good drainage, by all means decorate it but put it outside where you can see it. Your tree will thank you for  it and you'll be happy as you won't have to clear up thousands of pine needles. Leave it in the pot, well watered throughout the year, and you won't find yourself with a 40ft tree outside your back door in ten years time but will be ready when christmas comes round again.

• Let your garden have a holiday. Don't go mad sweeping up leaves and tidying the garden. If you've done a bit of pruning or have logs for the woodpile, great. Leave them in a heap for hibernating hedgehogs, if you're lucky enough to have them. Ladybirds and other beneficial insects like bees need somewhere sheltered and safe to over-winter and will still be in your garden in spring if they find a welcome there in winter and nectar when they wake up. Birds too need food and water. I like the look of these apple decorations but would hang them outside for the birds rather than indoors.  And put out home-made fat balls, recipe from Fiona at The Cottage Smallholder.

Image from my Pinterest page.
• Embrace the great outdoors. Wrap up and get outside to breathe fresh air! Look around and see the potential in found objects. Take a leaf out of my book (not literally, I need them for my collages!) and take a bag with you to collect interesting finds. (I have to warn you, this becomes a very addictive hobby!)

Acorn babies!  Decorated rakes! Loving Pinterest at the mo … 

• Take time out from festive fussing. Make decorations and cards from your found objects. Relaxing, therapeutic, calming - and, for kids, you could even work in a bit of anti-consumerism through baking and craft. (You see what an optimist I am?)

Images from my Pinterest 'Christmas Garden' page but … loving those candles tucked into hagstones! 

• Connect. Next Saturday is the Winter Solstice. (Interesting Yule facts and the story of mistletoe through the Solstice link.)  It's a day that I always observe with quiet contemplation as the world starts to turn towards spring and renewed life. The days will start, imperceptably, to get longer; we may not notice but the plants will.  It's a day to connect with nature, neighbours and family - perhaps over tea and cake.

• Dream.  Look over the bare bones of your garden and plan for next year.  I love this time of year for looking through catalogues, reading gardening books and visiting public gardens - the structure of the garden without its summer dressing is revealed and there's a lot to be learned from that.

• Decorate your garden!  Bare branches of trees are perfect for adding ribbons, nut or fruit garlands, stars cut from recycled milk containers or, if you have time, laminate little messages of hopes, wishes  and thanks for the year ahead and the year behind us and hang them up with pretty ribbons.

I hope that this post will inspire people; if I have time, I'll post about the crafts I make … and don't forget the competition!


There are fairies in the garden!
Seen at Capel: Mushrooms and fairies in the garden!

23 comments:

  1. What a lovely post, can't wait to see what you come up with! I have a lot of chillies that are way too fiddly to bother cooking with but could look lovely as decorations. Plus I share your love of natural-looking decorations, though I lack skill and experience. Last year I made bay swags, but did it too early and they frazzled to bits. This year I have lots of ideas but no energy. Hoepfully I will be able to take a stroll around the little woodland near us, and the park, with a bag - and some secateurs. Who knows, I may even get around to doing something with what I find! Oh, and I was very impressed with the quality of the perennial starter plants I got from Plant Me Now, I will certainly use them again.

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    1. Thanks, Janet - I hope I've inspired you and will definitely try and limit my focus so that I actually finish something! I have a beautiful pink berried wreath in mind, something simple but elegant is the aim! Ha ha - we'll see! Thinking about your bay, it's maybe worth mentioning that I've been doing some collages with kids using collected and pressed leaves; one of the kids came up with the idea of glueing over the leaves as well as under on the paper (as you would with papier maché) and it worked well, keeping the leaves supple on the paper - I'm wondering whether being dipped in PVA glue (and left to dry!) might work for your bay garland! Good to know that you were pleased with your starter plants from Plant Me Now, they do look good and I'll be ordering that delphinium for sure!

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  2. Great post, Caro. So obviously heartfelt! Don't think I'll be able to enter the comp, but it's nice to dream anyway. :) My garden is presently not good on the aesthetic front, but I'm working on it...

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    1. Aww, thanks, Mark - your comment is most appreciated! I think you should find a corner of your garden (or perhaps a chilli plant?) to decorate - the trick, as we photographers know, is to concentrate on one gorgeous close up rather than pull back to reveal, as my tutor would say, a garden's "manky ankles" or "tatty clumps"! Think how handy the prize would be … ! :) Cx

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  3. What a lovely, upbeat post Caro! Your Christmas spirit is infectious and inspiring! Love the ideas you've shared and home made Christmas decorations you'll be making. Doing your own festive decor is something you don't hear too often nowadays so its great to hear you'll be going for such a personal touch.

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    1. Hi guys! I'd be sitting as one of Santa's elves making things from the summer onwards if I had the time! And why use fake ivy when there's an abundant (some would say too much) supply in the garden? (This is not to say there won't be the occasional bauble thrown in ;-) x

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  4. Such a lovely post Caro with lots of lovely winter suggestions. The robin photo is stunning. One to blow up and frame I think. Good luck with the decoration-making, no doubt it will all look wonderful. Nothing beats natural materials.

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    1. Aww, thanks,CJ! It's such a relief to get to a point where I can down tools, work and college wise, and give my time over to making a mess at home with decorating and baking! Really looking forward to having some time off - hope you have a wonderful Xmas too! xx

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  5. I was determined to have a rooted tree this year and hope I can keep it going in its pot. Material for decoration is thin on the ground though, not a single holly berry anywhere! But I have spotted some ivy flowers and they will have to do. Anything's better than tinsel.

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    1. It's been a few days since you wrote this, Rusty duck, so I hope you've found some alternatives to the holly berries! Looking around here, I see berries everywhere: pyracantha and cotoneaster berries are lush, rose hips abundant and evergreen leaves of ivy. bay or laurel (Aucuba japonica) would work well. Good luck with the foraging!

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  6. I agree with all the other comments about what a really inspiring seasonal post this is, with some terrific pictures as well.
    You show how we shouldn't stop gardening now but look to do different, and interesting, things. Flighty xx

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    1. Ah, thank you, Flighty! And you're quite right, I never stop gardening, always finding something to do outdoors or garden related indoors. This is where having a balcony comes in handy, as I'm able to potter around under shelter! Have a great Xmas! C xx

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  7. I hope you manage to win a prize.

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    1. Thanks, Sue - I hope I have the time to finish something before the deadline! I was actually hoping to inspire lots of people to enter as I'd love to see what others come up with to decorate their gardens - even if it's just a decorated bird feeder!

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  8. A lovely post with some great ideas. Believe it or not, I've resisted Facebook so far, along with Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and anything else which will take up more of my time on the computer, so I wouldn't be able to enter, but the prize sounds fab.

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    1. I think you've made a wise decision, Jo! Once onto Facebook or Twitter, it takes a real focus to tear myself away …. as with everything computer related! So easy to get sidetracked!

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  9. What a fantastic post, I really loved it and am most certainly inspired. What a host of fab idea, there's nothing I like and enjoy more than harvesting what winter has to offer and as you say there;s plenty about. I shall look forward to your decorations....how very talented you are! xxx

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Snowbird, and have been inspired. It's been such a good year for winter interest in the garden so there's plenty to choose from. Funnily enough, I keep seeing home made decorations around my neighbourhood now - dried fruits are particularly popular!

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  10. Beautiful ivy and its fruits. So wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Endah. I know you appreciate beautiful plants, their flowers and berries!

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  11. Sounds like you're having lots of fun with your natural decorations. I'm hoping I can squeeze in a bit more foraging in the next day or so. Those Sorbus berries are gorgeous.

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  12. Yes, It is a question of time allowing, isn't it? This is the time of year when I could really do with a few more hours in the day or days in the week! I hope you've managed some foraging although the weather now is forecast to be very wintry and wild! Welly boots on, eh! Have a super Christmas! C xx

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  13. Only just catching up with this post now Caro as I was away earlier in the week. I've really enjoyed your thoughts and ideas on the subject of Christmas decorations. It sounds as if you have a veritable treasure trove of green goodness at your disposal between York Rise Gardens and Capel. A girl could not want for more! In complete agreement with you as far as Christmas trees go. Love the acorn babies. I have a conker baby all dressed in bright red felt :)

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Caro x

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