How to: Forage Christmas Decorations


Deck the halls with boughs of holly, and don't forget the mistletoe, seedheads and fir. Turn to your garden for inspiration this year. 

Christmas would not be the same without a bunch of mistletoe hanging in the porch or sprigs of holly on the mantelpiece. Natural decorations add a very personal touch to your home, perhaps because this reminds us of years past – heading out on a frosty morning to gather foliage for trimming the house is a family tradition for many.

Evergreens such as holly, ivy, eucalyptus, and conifers offer endless possibilities for the home, whether you are a seasoned crafter or a complete novice. Simply piling a selection of ivy, holly and a few sprigs of conifer together can create a surprisingly professional effect.

Twist and turn


Bundles of twigs, foliage, cones and berries can be twisted together to make wreaths and garlands without too much difficulty. Wreaths can work well inside the home as well as outdoors, while Dobbies Head of Visual Merchandising, Craig Roman, observes that garlands are very much in this year. “You can wind them along a table or twist them up a balustrade to great effect – just use twine or plastic-coated garden wire to attach the foliage securely in sections,” he advises.

Use large bundles of foliage to create structure and shape – Noble fir lasts well, and Fraser fir has a lovely citrus scent and then mix your collection of garden goodies in all their natural splendour. “I like to add eucalyptus with its penny gum leaf shape – the silvery glinting leaves add a lovely tint,” says Craig. “Trailing ivy in deep green shades adds movement, and myrtle foliage will give depth.”

Mix and match


You might still be able to find some seed heads in the garden – poppy, honesty and eryngium all look fantastic. And for bright colour, you can rely on the red twigs of the cornus and berries from hawthorn, holly and cotoneaster or plump rose hips.

Evergreen foliage provides a perfect backdrop for baubles, Christmas lights and decorations, so mixing shop-bought decorations with natural ones is a great way to create a display. Festive candles surrounded by greenery (real or artificial) can make a wonderful table centrepiece that will only take a few minutes to put together. Children can join in too, making simple Christmas tree decorations out of cones by spraying them their favourite colour and attaching bright ribbons.

When the decorating season begins, harvest your foliage and keep it in a cool room in a flower bucket until required. Invest in some blocks of florist foam, wire and florist tape and you will have the tools you need to be adventurous.

Those with a well-stocked garden might be able to bring garden-fresh flowers into the house this Christmas, too. A small vase of hellebores, early snowdrops, winter jasmine or viburnum used as a table centrepiece is sure to impress visitors. To keep them fresh as long as possible, move flowers to a cool place between mealtimes. But if your garden is not a gallery of evergreens and berry plants, do not despair. You can buy bunches of fresh foliage, ivy and holly instead, or opt for ready-made wreaths and garlands for ease.

Artificial foliage is often so convincing that you can mix it with real decorations, so when it comes to bringing the outside in, you can do it in whatever way suits you – the natural inspiration will be evident all the same.

Credit: Tamsin Westhorpe