Deck the halls…and the porch, and the table

If you’re going to the effort, why not make it seasonal decorating for the winter months?

I like to think I’m a relatively pragmatic person. So I’ve long been exasperated by the amount of effort required to get ready for Christmas every year. I can’t NOT get a tree, decorate it and the house and the outdoors, buy or make a wreath, get some poinsettias…all for two or three weeks, tops, and then it’s over and done. We dismantle everything, compost the tree, put up with the fading poinsettias until about Easter, when we admit we can’t be bothered nurturing them until next Christmas.

This year, I’ve been doing it differently. A long chat with my favourite floral designing guru, Neville MacKay of My Mother’s Bloomers, has shifted the way I think about decorating, and inspired me to boot. MacKay prefers to decorate for the season rather than just the holiday, regardless of which season or holiday is the focus. “By having a seasonal ‘base’ from which to work, we can add embellishments like sparkly branches, bows, etc as the holiday approaches,” he says, “and can easily remove it afterward.”

Warming to his theme, MacKay says, “We are seeing a rebirth this year more than ever of a natural theme in winter décor, with a twist…big natural branches, lots of winter greenery, berries, cones, fruit, and potted bulbs such as amaryllis, paperwhites and tulips.” The twist is to add a splash of colour from an attractive ribbon or bow, a painted branch, ornament, or candle.

For attractive décor along walkways, on steps and door entrances fill winter proof, frost-resistant containers such as metal urns or wooden windowboxes with assorted branches of evergreens (firs, spruce, pine, hemlock) as well as attractive twigs from lilac shrubs, red-osier dogwood, willow and birch. If you have access to plenty of hardy ivy, weave a few tendrils of this broadleaf evergreen in amongst the branches, leaving some trailing outside the container for a cascading, natural look Add a frisson of contrasting colour using berries or other fruit by including a branch of native Canada holly (also known as winterberry), stems of wild roses with rose hips, evergreen ornamental holly, crabapple branches or bittersweet vine.

For the festive season, you can further enhance your container arrangements with seasonal ribbons and bows, glittery branches, one or two unique ornaments or even a spray of seasonal silk flowers and foliage. These can be easily removed once the holidays are over, while the rest of the components of your arrangement will continue to brighten entryways for weeks to come.

Wreathes are hugely popular, and not difficult to make if you have the supplies. Often at this time of year you can find wreath-making workshops that provide both the materials and instruction needed to create your own natural wreath. Embellished with a few accents such as evergreen cones, dried flowers, an attractive bow and ribbon, an evergreen wreath can last outdoors throughout the winter months.

If you’re in a hurry or don’t have room for containers, simply gathering a few branches together, wiring or otherwise fastening them at the base, inverting them and tying a ribbon and bow around the stems makes an almost-instant and handsome decoration for an exterior door.

For indoor décor, MacKay says, “Filling earthenware pots and planters with fresh florist’s foam and water makes easy and fast bases for foliages such as pine, cedar, fir…they will not only smell wonderful in your home, but will hang on like a bad relationship so long as you keep them well-watered!”

MacKay is an encouraging floral designer who urges homeowners to try their hand at decorating for the season and not just the holiday. “Many people are just afraid to try and create, or use their imaginations,” he says “I always say to think about how beautiful the materials are that you are working with.” Sometimes, he says, less can be more; because you can always add more if you think your design is wanting. “You can never go wrong with fresh greenery so load up.”