How to decorate your home with plants from the garden this Christmas
00:00 10 December 2015
A treasure trove of materials to make natural decorations for the festive season is to be found in your garden or in the hedgerows around you - whether it’s a wreath for the door, a table arrangement or a dramatic swag for the mantelpiece.
I decided to get some expert advice so I visited Jacqueline Iddon at her home in Bretherton to gather some inspiration. She is well known for her beautiful summer garden, which many will have visited over the years, as well as for her skilful flower arrangements.
I wasn’t disappointed - there on the door hung a beautiful wreath made with foliage from her one and half acre garden. Jacqueline was busy in her workshop putting the finishing touches to an arrangement in a jug using up some of the overflow of foliage she had gathered.
‘Evergreen plants, shrubs and trees are so important in any garden, especially as the garden shuts down for winter. But you will still have a lot of colour - there are just hundreds of different shades of green,’ she said.
Her childhood was spent on the nursery owned by her mother, Maureen, who was well known for her trophy-winning roses as well as her flower arranging skills. When Jacqueline’s father died at a young age her mother turned her love of more unusual plants into a thriving business.
But it was only when Jacqueline and her husband, the well-known sculptor Thompson Dagnall, moved to their current home that she became passionate about plants and propagating. She now opens her garden from May to the end of August for garden and flower clubs and W.I members. This year she has had 30 groups visiting. ‘One group has visited nine times in the 15 years they have been coming and have now become friends,’ she said.
We went outside to tour her garden so she could show me what she looks for when choosing evergreens for the home at Christmas.
The first shrub was an elaeagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ with its ovate green leaves, which are edged yellow with silvery backs, catching the sunlight. As we moved on, Jacqueline was keen to stress this is mainly a summer garden and some of the perennial borders had been cut back. However, she was doing it an injustice for it still looked beautiful with added interest from dramatic sculptures created by her husband.
The garden flows from one area to another, each with its own style. A smile came to my face when I spotted a sign ‘A Day at the Beach Restores the Soul’ by a piece of reclaimed wood - this was enough to cheer anyone even if it felt too cold to think about sitting on a beach. As we moved round there were two pittosporums each one with its own shades of green. The huge leaves of the fatsia give a grandeur to any arrangement but certainly come into their own during winter as does a cotinus. One sheltered corner had ivy, variegated holly and euphorbia which are all ideal for arrangements. ‘Don’t forget scent such as rosemary. It always stands proud,’ Jacqueline pointed out as she also picked some sage.
‘People mustn’t feel daunted by creating their own decorations. Using a wire ring or oasis ring, now readily available from florists or garden centres, you can soon make your own wreath by adding different textures and shades of foliage, generally found in your own garden. What could be more welcoming at Christmastime? You can still add baubles and ribbons if you like. An oasis is also invaluable when creating an arrangement in a container and look round for an unusual item that can be used. It needn’t always be a traditional vase.’
As we walked back to the house I stopped to look at a winter tub filled with euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ as the centrepiece with cyclamen and hellebores plus ivy trailing down. It was next to a studio for their daughter, Tilly, who was busy designing her Christmas cards.
Having taken a degree in fine arts at London Metropolitan, Tilly is following in her mother’s footsteps by gathering her inspiration from nature. Knowing I was coming she had created her own table decoration again using foliage from the garden placing a church candle in the centre.
‘Having learned my skills from my mother she now allows me to demonstrate and I have also given some talks now, although I did need a bit of encouragement at first,’ she said.
Her Christmas cards created from painting, potato prints or a carved woodcut print of a heron, these can now be found at The Royal Horticultural Society Garden Harlow Carr or ordered from her. She also has large paintings, slate carved cheese boards to name a few of her talents.
I certainly felt inspired and I’m determined to make at least some of my decorations for the festive season myself. w