The Alternative Christmas Tree
Earlier this year I was asked if I would like to contribute to a local Christmas Tree Festival. I really wanted to do something a bit different that would also highlight the fact that with a little extra thought, we don't need to be using lots of plastic floral foam for larger floral designs.
I came up with the design after seeing a demonstration using a beautiful dried branch which had been secured to a base board with screws. The demonstrated design used a branch about 50cm tall with a floral foam paddle attached. The flowers were positioned in a traditional spray style. I wanted to do a similar thing... but with a twist, using dried flowers, and BIGGER and using less plastic... So, not that similar.
After mentioning my idea to my Granny, who lives on a farm on the Shropshire border, she collected an assortment of branches on her daily dog walks - all gorgeous in their own way! She has some beautiful spindly branches, all twists and turns, but it in the end I opted for a fairly simple, clean 6 foot long branch with a fork at on end.
We'd got the branch, but we couldn't decide how to secure it; a simple board wouldn't be heavy enough to weigh down the long branch. We thought of using a large flower pot filled with quick-set -concrete but decided that the stand would be better if it were possible to interchange the branches for different designs. Then came the idea for using the concrete base with a tube in which the different branches could fit.
My uncle, a Shropshire farmer, happens to be the perfect combination of very practical (farming!) and creative enough to not think my idea was crazy. I came back from my holiday in Vietnam to find my stand complete! Yay! He had taken an old parasol stand and welded a large cylinder in place of the usual holder with a handy screw for tightening it on my chosen branch.
Once the stand was complete I used cable ties to attach chicken wire around the branch. I scrunched the wire a bit to make sure it held the stems tightly. These cable ties, I think I used four, were the only plastic used in whole the design.
All of the materials used in the design were bits and pieces that I had collected and dried. I used dried Bracken as the backbones of the design, I like the curved shape that the stem makes. This is what inspired me to make a crescent shaped design. I used a few of my most perfect looking stems to create the outline of the shape and then filled in the centre, carefully - to avoid altering the form, to give an overall covering of Bracken. I later decided to spray the tips of the bracken with gold paint to add a bit of shimmer, shine and general Christmassy-ness. (Also because I was mildly concerned people would think I'd just shoved some dead things on a stick!).
Next I created some height using dried Fox Glove stems and branches of Pussy Willow. These also added some nice vertical contrast to the curvy crescent. The central focus was the Pampas Grass, which has been super popular for wedding designs in 2019. Pampas can be quite expensive to buy so if it's something you're interested in using and you're lucky enough to know someone with some in the garden consider asking them if you can get snip happy. This is what I did with my sister's Pampas which she inherited and routinely cuts her hands on (it's super sharp!) every year. Pampas is at it's best around September, so that is the perfect time to snip, leave it any later and it gets a bit ropey. Spritz the heads with a liberal covering of hairspray and leave to dry, ideally upside down.
I added some touches of pink to brighten the design. Pink worked fantastically due to the contrast created with the natural coppery-orange-brown colour of the Bracken. I used pink Gypsophilia (can't remember the exact variety) which I had used fresh during the summer and decided to dry a few pieces of the left overs. I'm not a big Gyp fan myself, but I LOVE it when dried. It looks so light and airy and was absolutely perfect for adding colour to my design without weighing it down. I added some pink twirly whirly floristry twigs (not sure what their real name is!) all radiating from the centre to enhance the shape and add some interest points, both in terms of colour and form.
When I was happy with the design I filled in the gaps using Cow Parsley which dries to form a beautiful structural umbrella shape, wild poppy seed heads and a dried nameless weed that I found in the hedgerows of the field next to my house and liked the shape of. The finishing Christmassy touch was to hang three wooden gold stars, an excellent charity shop find which cost about 10p, in the centre of the crescent to enhance the curve.
I originally planned to create a small wire egg attached to the base of the stand with a smaller dried arrangement but I decided this would take away from the crescent shape which I had spent ages forming. Instead I used some beautiful printed silk which draped beautiful around the stand and complemented the hints of pink throughout the design. I used gold lanterns to pick out the pop of the gold stars and draw it down into the display table. Presents were wrapped in natural brown craft paper and embellished with opulent velvet ribbon. I love the idea of mixing neutral packaging with a super luxe ribbon. Here's the overall effect:
Whilst I won't personally be swapping my traditional Christmas tree for a Bracken creation, I am absolutely in LOVE with it for use in floral designs. I'd love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment below or send me a quick message!