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Holly berries covered with a light hoar frost

It’s holiday decorating time! Such a fun time of the year to get the house and porches all spruced up for the season! Holly, mistletoe, and …

Wait! Where are my holly berries? This is a question we often get in the fall and early winter. Many people plant holly trees and bushes so that they can cut berry laden boughs for beautiful holiday arrangements both indoors and out. But sometimes they are disappointed when the colorful berries fail to appear.

We are having a problem with having any berries on our holly shrub. What are we missing?”

Ilex opaca 'Merry Christmas' is aptly named with its reliable profusion of red berries in fall and winter.

Ilex opaca ‘Merry Christmas’

The trouble is, hollies are dioecious plants, meaning the male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. The male holly produces pollen bearing staminate flowers and the female plant produces pistillate flowers which, if pollinated, will normally develop berries.

If you only have a female holly and there is no male in the area, you will never* get berries because there is no pollen to pollinate the female flowers. If you only have a male holly, you won’t get berries either – for obvious reasons. This is true of both the evergreen hollies and the deciduous hollies.

*There are a few hollies (parthenocarpic species) that can produce berries without pollination but this is not the norm. Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ is one holly that does not require pollination for fruit set.

If your hollies aren’t producing berries, the first thing to do is to check to make sure that you have both a male and female holly plant. It is best if these hollies are of the same species so that they will flower at the same time. This helps ensure good pollination which should result in a reliable berry crop. If you have NEVER had berries on your hollies, this could be the reason.

Male flowers of Ilex verticillata showing bright yellow pollen

Male flowers of Ilex verticillata showing bright yellow pollen.

The plant label should identify whether the plant is a male or female. Male hollies often (but not always) have male-type names like ‘Southern Gentlemen’, ‘Jim Dandy’, ‘Jersey Knight’, ‘China Boy’ …

If you don’t have a label, examining the flowers is a good way to determine whether a holly is male or female. The small, inconspicuous holly flowers appear in the spring.

  • The flowers of male hollies have four (or more) stamens topped with bright yellow pollen. The male flowers are normally borne in clusters (cymes).
  • Female flowers of Ilex 'Blue Princess'.

    Female flowers of Ilex ‘Blue Princess’.

    Female hollies usually produce solitary flowers. These flowers have a green “berry-like” structure in the center. The stigma which receives the pollen is found at the top of this structure. Bees and other insect pollinators carry pollen from the male flowers to the stigma. If the flower is pollinated, a full-sized green berry quickly develops – if not, the flower dies and falls off without producing a berry.

One male holly can serve as a pollinator for multiple female plants. The male should be planted within a few hundred yards of the females. Bees are the main pollinators and will carry the pollen to the female flowers.

What if you have had holly berries in the past but not this year?

Since holly berries were produced in previous seasons, this would indicate that there are both male and female plants present in your landscape. The lack of berry production in one season could be the result of some environmental or weather related issue that affected the pollination of the flowers in the spring.

  • Late frosts or freezes can damage or kill the flowers and result in loss of the berry crop for that season.
  • Misty, rainy, or cold weather in the spring at the time of flowering can inhibit or limit pollination because bees are not as active in these conditions. If weather like this persists, it can affect pollination and result in a reduced berry crop.
  • Summer drought can cause berries to shrivel and drop off.
Bright red berries of Ilex verticillata in early fall before the leaves drop.

Bright red berries of Ilex verticillata in early fall before the leaves drop.

Healthy hollies will reward you with a beautiful crop of berries as long as the conditions above are met. Be sure to feed them with a quality organic fertilizer like Espoma Holly-tone in the spring and fall. Water them deeply during dry periods in the summer and even in winter if the ground isn’t frozen and it has been dry.

Until next time –

      Happy Gardening!

 

Ilex verticillata in the snow.  Beautiful!

Ilex verticillata ‘Sparkleberry’ in the snow. Beautiful!

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Delosperma cooperi

It’s Independence Day and the flowers are celebrating with us!

Gaura 'Siskiyou Pink'

Gaura ‘Siskiyou Pink’

Well – it might take a little imagination in some cases but there are lots of flowers that burst into bloom with an explosion of colorful petals reminiscent of our Fourth of July fireworks.

Take for instance the colorful Delosperma cooperi (Ice Plant) shown at the top of the post. The beautiful magenta petals radiating from the sparkling white central button remind me of a brilliant display of exploding fireworks.

Sassafras flowers against a gray sky

Sassafras flowers in spring

Even some of the tree flowers get into the spirit – although they are a little ahead of the 4th of July celebration! The interesting sassafras flowers produced in the spring are drooping racemes that resemble a beautiful aerial display. My little Japanese maple has pendulous flowers that remind me of falling missiles about to burst into a shower of sparks.

Composite flowers, like chrysanthemums and Echinacea, can often appear very much like fireworks exploding in the night sky.

Echinacea flowers

Echinacea flowers

In fact, a glossary of firework effects contains terms like chrysanthemum, bouquet, dahlia, palm, peony, pistil, and willow to describe the aerial displays of different types of fireworks. It’s quite interesting!

Even the “flower skeletons” of fall and winter can remind you of bursting firework explosions!

So many different flowers, flower clusters, and seed heads have interesting “explosive” shapes.

Below are a few photos that I have taken over the years. These pictures were taken in the Viette gardens, in my gardens, and in my sister’s gardens.

Like I said; you may have to use your imagination!

I hope you enjoy the floral fireworks!

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

 

Beautiful mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia 'Keepsake', at my sister's

Beautiful mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia ‘Keepsake’, at my sister’s

Supertunia 'Raspberry Blast'

Supertunia ‘Raspberry Blast’

Clusters of flowers beginning to open in a panicle of Phlox 'David'

Clusters of flowers begin to burst open on Phlox ‘David’

Colorful flowers of lacecap hydrangea

Colorful flowers of lacecap hydrangea

Eupatorium flowers

Eupatorium flower heads beginning to open look like
a blossoming aerial display on the 4th of July

Snow crusted dried umbel of fennel

Snow crusted dried umbel of bronze fennel

A bright red Monarda bursts into a shower of color!

A bright red Monarda bursts into a shower of color!

A sassafras flower against a gray spring sky

A sassafras flower against a gray spring sky

Cascading flowers of Japanese maple

Cascading flowers of Japanese maple

Flower of the powder puff tree ( Calliandra haematocephala). St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

Flower of the powder puff tree (Calliandra haematocephala).
From Andre’s slide collection; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

Dandelion seed heads remind me of a mass of exploding fireworks.

Dandelion seed heads remind me of a mass of exploding fireworks.

Flowers of witchhazel create a grand finale!

Flowers of witchhazel (Hamamelis) create a grand finale!

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Soft-needled fir tree

Andre searches for the perfect tree at a local tree farm.

Andre searches for the perfect tree at
a local tree farm, Fragrant Firs.

Christmas is such a special time of the year and for many families, the selection of a Christmas tree is a “deep-rooted” Christmas tradition that often marks the beginning of the holiday season. Searching for and finding the perfect tree is always a lot of fun for “kids” of all ages.

There are many different species of trees that are commonly used for Christmas trees.

Pines, especially the long-needled white pine and the shorter needled Scotch pine, are very popular for Christmas trees especially here in the Shenandoah Valley. These make long-lasting Christmas trees but are sometimes hard to decorate because they tend to be very full, especially if they’ve been sheared heavily.

White pine has a beautiful shape but not much room for ornaments

White pine

The branches of white pine are quite flexible so then tend to bend under the weight of heavier ornaments; those need to be hung closer to the trunk. Scotch pine and Austrian pine don’t have this problem as they have much stiffer branches.

Spruce trees make lovely Christmas trees, if you can get past their very prickly needles! They have a wonderful shape with good strong branches for holding lots of ornaments.

Andre's snow tree glistens.

Andre’s snow tree sparkles in the light.

Because of their strong branches and open growth habit, André usually picks a beautiful spruce for his “snow tree” which he flocks and decorates with colorful balls and other ornaments – no lights go on this tree. Norway spruce, blue spruce, and white spruce are commonly cut for Christmas trees. The spruces don’t hold their needles quite as well as the pines and firs but if you keep water in the tree stand, they will last a good while.

Sometimes cedar trees are cut for Christmas trees but they can also be prickly and they dry out fairly quickly. My grampa had a little farm in northeastern Pennsylvania and he used to cut a small hemlock as a Christmas tree. These were pretty and the needles were very soft but they didn’t last long indoors and the branches were rather flimsy for holding heavier ornaments.

A beautifully decorated fir tree.

A beautifully decorated fir tree.

My personal favorite for a Christmas tree is one of the soft-needled fir trees. These trees are long-lasting with great needle retention and they add a wonderful fragrance to your home for the holidays! They have strong branches and, as long as they haven’t been over-sheared, are open enough to hang lots of ornaments. This is important because we have loads of ornaments.

Fir trees have long been a favorite for cut Christmas trees particularly in the northern parts of the country because they are a typically a northern species. Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) grows in the cold climate of New England and Canada and noble fir (Abies procera) is found in the Pacific Northwest. Both of these species are cut and shipped all over the country for the Christmas tree trade.

Rows of Canaan fir grow at Fragrant Firs in Fishersville, VA

Rows of Canaan fir grow at Fragrant Firs tree farm in Fishersville, VA

Two other firs, Fraser fir and Canaan fir, are popular Christmas trees in the Mid-Atlantic States. It’s really interesting how a northern tree species like fir came to grow as far south as North Carolina. Canaan fir and Fraser fir are believed to have evolved from relict populations of balsam fir that survived on the mountaintops after the last glacial period. During the Pleistocene glaciation, it is thought that many of the northern conifer species, including the balsam fir, migrated south along the Appalachian Mountain range until there was a continuous fir population from Canada south to North Carolina.

Red spruce and young Fraser firs grow among the dead Fraser firs near Clingman's Dome.

Red spruce and young Fraser firs
grow among dead Fraser firs in
North Carolina near Clingman’s Dome.

As the climate warmed, the balsam fir retreated back to the north and southern tree species replaced the fir trees at lower elevations in the south. However, isolated pockets of firs remained at higher elevations in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

These firs, which are now considered varieties of balsam fir, are Fraser fir (Abies balsamea var. fraseri) found only in the mountains of North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and Virginia above 3,800 feet, and Canaan Fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis) which is restricted to higher elevations in the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia.

Sadly, over the last 50 years about 95% of the mature Fraser firs in the southern spruce-fir forest have been killed by the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae). This pest initially decimated populations of balsam fir in the Northern Appalachians and has since moved south to the Smokies. Read more about this devastating pest.

Until next time – Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Enjoy the season!

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natural wreath made of grapevine, fresh greens, berries, and dried flowers

This year, we spent Thanksgiving in beautiful Vermont with friends and family – what could be better! We even had a little snow and nice crisp, cold weather. Perfect!

collection of dried flowers, seed pods, berries, and greensOn the Friday after Thanksgiving, the kids (well they aren’t kids anymore) went for a walk through the woods in search of interesting greens, seed pods, dried flowers, berries, and anything else that they could use to create some wreaths for holiday decorations.

I wish I had been around to go with them. They had a great time and came back with a really neat collection of plant material that they found throughout the fields and woods. When I got home, their gatherings were all spread out on the floor of the screened porch and they were in the midst of creating some beautiful wreaths.

Busy at work surrounded by their collection of cuttings.

Busy at work surrounded by their collection of cuttings.

Here are a few of the things they collected:

  •  Grapevines to make the wreath forms
  •  Hemlock and spruce cuttings
  •  Christmas fern fronds
  •  Dried flowers and seedpods
  •  Bright red sumac fruit clusters
  •  Wild barberry branches with their oval red berries
  •  Crabapple branches with fruit
  •  Twigs from beech trees with leaves still attached
Winding the grapevine

Winding the grapevine

Mitchell made grapevine wreath forms while Melissa and Mitchell’s friend, Diantha, embellished them with the greens and other colorful things they had clipped on their walk.

They did it all without wire, glue, or any other “man-made” stuff; just shears and lots of imagination. These beautiful wreaths were truly “all natural”. They simply wove and tucked!

Mitchell wound the lengths of grapevine into various sized wreath forms; 2 large ones and 2 little ones. You can make the form any size you like and after you wind it to the thickness that you want, simply cut grapevine and tuck the end in. Once that’s accomplished, it’s just a matter of choosing what to decorate it with.

Diantha tucks hemlock clippings into the grapevine wreath

Diantha tucks hemlock clippings
into the grapevine wreath

Take a walk through your gardens, through the fields, and through the woods. You’ll be surprised at all the interesting things you can gather to decorate with. The dried flower heads of coneflowers, Rudbeckia and Monarda make great wreath decorations. Dried hydrangea flowers and wildflowers like goldenrod, milkweed, and teasel will add fullness to your grapevine wreath. For bright color, tuck in some clusters of winterberry twigs with their bright red berries or branches of purple Callicarpa (beautyberry) berries. There is no end to the interesting “ornaments” that Mother Nature provides.

Tucking in dried flowers and other embellishments

Tucking in dried flowers and other embellishments

Try making your own natural wreaths this holiday season. It’s a fun family craft project for a beautiful winter weekend!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

Diantha's completed wreath

Diantha’s completed wreath

Melissa's wreath of hemlock and dried flowers

Melissa’s wreath of hemlock and dried flowers

Small grapevine wreath

Small grapevine wreath with
barberry fruit and flower heads

Simple wreath with ferns and seed heads.

Simple wreath with Christmas
ferns and seed heads.

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A Christmas display at Viette's

Andre Viette loves Christmas!

He also loves to decorate! Walk into his home after Thanksgiving and you will be greeted with the sounds of Christmas music; Mitch Miller (one of my favorites), Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Burl Ives … all the old greats, plus many others. The carols just lift you up and get you into the Christmas spirit. They always remind me of our house when I was growing up; we listened to this very same music on records every Christmas season. Gosh – I’m dating myself!

The Christmas music plays non-stop while Andre is decorating the house – both indoors and outside. He loves it!

A beautiful outdoor Chirstmas display at Viette's

The outside decorations that Andre creates are my favorites. He decorates all the porches and the side of the house with a great variety of beautiful greens that he cuts from his own gardens and from a nearby tree farm. The different contrasts in color and texture of the various evergreen boughs make a really neat display. He mixes in more color by using the berried branches of hollies, Callicarpa (Beautyberry), and Juniper, and loads of different sizes and shapes of cones and seed pods …

Viette front porch at Christmas

Gold pumpkins and gourdsHe also paints a few seed pods, pumpkins, gourds, even oak and magnolia leaves with shiny gold paint to add some additional sparkle to both the indoor and outdoor arrangements. What a neat idea!

Andre incorporates some interesting antique farm tools and pieces of farm equipment into all of his outdoor displays. He also has two old sleighs which he decorates around on the front and back porches. They add a neat old-fashioned touch to the arrangements.

Whoa Dasher, I thought you were supposed to pull the sleigh!

Whoa Dasher, I thought you were
supposed to pull the sleigh!

Inside the displays are just as spectacular. Even here he combines greens, antiques, and colorful Christmas ornaments to create some very unique decorations for the house.

Snow Tree at Viette's

The “snow tree”

The “snow tree” is beautiful with glistening snow coating each ornament covered bough. In the front hallway, the “crystal tree” is filled with handmade crocheted ornaments, beautiful pearl chains, and pearl and crystal ornaments. It is just breathtaking. The mantle in the den is swathed in lustrous gold lamé and decorated with stained glass ornaments and a beautiful stained glass fireplace screen. An antique butter churn is decorated with greens, pine cones, and little Christmas elves. Everywhere you look you see Christmas – a manger arrangement; antique ornaments; old Christmas cards; pine cones; sleigh bells …

Fireplace in the den

Santas on the roof!Santas can be found everywhere – hundreds of them peaking out here and there. Andre’s Santa collection continues to grow each year. One of the fun games for the kids that visit is to count the number of Santas that Andre has nestled in displays around the house! At this point it would take quite a while the count them all. I wonder if Andre even knows …

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season!

Until next time – Happy Holidays!

 

Christmas at Viette's

Back porch at Viette's

Porch Display  Santa Display

Santa on the stairs

Mantle arrangement

Antique Ornaments

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Christmas display

Crystal tree

The “crystal tree”

Seed pods painted gold

Livingroom fireplace screen

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Old fields are a great place to find teasel to harvest.

Old abandoned fields and roadsides are a great place to find teasel to harvest.

Teasel flower in mid-July. Photo by Eric Jones

Teasel flower in mid-July.
Photo by Eric Jones

Teasel (Dipsacus spp.) is a common biennial “weed” that has very distinctive spiny flower heads. These unique flower heads dry right on the tall prickly stems and are extremely long-lasting in dried arrangements or for craft projects. Teasel is commonly found in fields and meadows and along the roadside. They are rather inconspicuous when they are in flower during the summer but in the fall, after the flowers have dried and turned to a beautiful golden brown, they really stand out. The seeds provide food for many birds over the winter.

Teasel was introduced to the United States from Europe in the 1700’s for its use in the woolen trade where the dried head was used to “tease” the nap of woolen cloth. It has now spread throughout much of the U.S. and is considered invasive in some areas.

The stiff prickly stems and dried flowers are great additions to natural fall arrangements but a really fun project for fall or holiday time is creating neat “things” with the dried flower heads.

Making Cool Critters from Dried Teasel Flowers

Dried teasel flowers in the field.

Dried teasel flowers in the field.

My first introduction to teasel critters was at the retirement village of Foulkeways in Gwynedd, PA where my in-laws were living. For many years, Eric’s mom was in charge of the Nature Board in the central building and whenever we visited, we would always go down to see what she had put up on this big bulletin board. It usually included interesting natural history stories and articles, a list and photographs of the birds that had been spotted on the Foulkeways campus, and a listing of the plants that were in bloom in the wildflower meadow which Foulkeways had created and planted under her direction. The board was often decorated with fresh cut wildflowers she collected from this beautiful meadow.

On one fall visit, she took us down to the Nature Room where there was a display of various “teasel critters” that had been made by one of the residents. There were wonderful squirrels, bunnies, woodchucks, reindeer … You name it, she had created it! They were adorable! One of the first things I thought of was that this would make a great project for kids. It turns out they are pretty easy to make – all you need is a little imagination and a few supplies!

The following is an excerpt from the Brandywine River Museum website that describes how to create a cute teasel reindeer. You can substitute beads for the eyes and nose if you don’t have the appropriate berries at hand and the legs can be made of twigs instead of soybean pods. Just use your imagination and the materials you have at hand.

Making a Teasel Reindeer
Teasel reindeer from Brandywine River Museum

Teasel reindeer from Brandywine River Museum

MATERIALS:

  • 1 small teasel
  • 1 large teasel
  • 2 dried daylily stems
  • 2 golden chain tree seeds
  • 1 small dried red seed

EQUIPMENT:

  • clippers
  • pointed scissors
  • glue gun
  • wire cutters
  • clear acrylic spray
  • 2 white pine cone petals (scales)
  • 4 soybeans
  • 1 pussy willow bud
  • 8″ lightweight, green floral wire

DIRECTIONS:
Be sure to supervise children when using scissors, shears, and hot glue. Wearing gloves also makes working with these spiny flowers more comfortable!

Trim off the stem and the spiny bracts at the base of the flower.

Trim off the stem and the spiny bracts at the base of the flower.

  1. Using clippers, cut the stem and bracts from two teasels. The larger teasel will be used for the body, the smaller for the head.
  2. With scissors, trim the spines from the smaller and larger teasels where the head and body will join. The trimming will enable a stronger bond when glued.
  3. Using a hot glue gun, glue the trimmed areas of the teasel together. Hold until glue is set.
  4. For antlers, cut dried daylily stems to 1-1/2″. Use hot glue on ends of stems and insert into small teasel.
  5. With the point of your scissors, make small holes in front of antlers for the eyes, glue in golden chain tree seeds using hot glue. Make a third hole for the nose and glue in red seed.
  6. Trim white pine cone scales for ears and hot glue one behind each antler, slightly to the outside of each daylily stem.
  7. Using hot glue, glue in the four soybeans for legs. See picture for placement.
  8. Using hot glue, glue in a pussy willow bud for the tail.
  9. With wire cutters, cut an 8″ piece of lightweight, green floral wire. Wrap 2″ of wire once around body behind the neck and twist tightly. This is the hanger.
  10. Spray entire critter with clear acrylic spray.

From: Brandywine River Museum

Now that you know the technique, you can make up your own critters!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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A mix of evergreen boughs and 'Sparkleberry' holly makes a festive holiday display

Last Sunday I snuck into the back of André’s Christmas decorating workshop under the pretense of taking pictures but I mostly just wanted to learn some of the wonderful Christmas decorating techniques that he was teaching that day.

A mix of "greens" adds color and texture to a beautiful holiday display.

A mix of "greens" adds color and texture to a beautiful holiday display.

André is amazing (and quick) at making all kinds of festive decorations for the holiday season. In his workshop, André taught all about using different types of greens, both needled and broadleaf, to create beautiful outdoor displays, as well as centerpieces, wreaths, kissing balls, and roping. He made it look so easy and really it is if you know some of the tricks of the trade.

He started out describing the greens he had laid out in front of him – greens that he “harvested” from some of the many different species of evergreens growing around the nursery; firs, spruce, pine, cypress, juniper, boxwood, holly …

All the boughs were fresh cut for use in the various arrangements he would create for the holidays, while at the same time benefiting the trees and shrubs through some thinning (never taking more than 10% when cutting for greens). After they were cut, all the greens were sprayed with Bonide Wilt Stop to help keep them fresher and reduce needle drop even when they are kept indoors. He sprays his Christmas trees with Wilt Stop before he brings them inside, too. The “snow tree” is also sprayed before it is flocked.

There were so many different colors and textures – the word “greens” is really misleading! Beautiful blues, silvery blues, and golds joined the greens in André’s stock pile of plant material all waiting to be turned into beautiful holiday arrangements.

Ilex 'Sparkleberry' provides a brilliant splash of color in the winter garden.

Ilex 'Sparkleberry' provides a brilliant splash of color in the winter garden.

“Plan NOW to add a few of these beautiful evergreens to your landscape,” he suggested. “By the time spring rolls around, you will have forgotten all about the holidays and needing greens for decorating!” In some areas, it’s not too late to plant even now. “If you plant a new evergreen each year, in a few years, you will have all the fresh greens you need.” Some of André’s favorites for decorating are Concolor Fir, Nordmann Fir, George Peabody Arborvitae, Gold Mop Cypress, Scotch Pine, juniper, holly, and boxwood. For bright accents in his arrangements, he likes nothing better than the berry laden branches of Ilex ‘Sparkleberry’, a cultivar of the deciduous holly, Ilex verticillata. Another good variety according to André is Ilex ‘Maryland Beauty’. To me, these ‘Sparkleberry’ branches really make the display!

Before he began his demonstration, André gave us another tip; “I don’t wear gloves when I do my arrangements, so before I start, I always apply a good layer of hand lotion to my hands. This keeps the pitch from sticking to them. Everything washes right off!” Great advice!

Making a table centerpeice

Andre strips off the lower needles before sticking the greens in the oasis. A branch stub holds the place for the candle.

André first showed us how to create a beautiful centerpiece for a table. He warned us not to make it too large – “Always start out making it smaller than you want because in the end, it will invariably turn out much larger than you thought it would!” He began with a water-saturated block of oasis cut to fit into his container, then he snipped short pieces from his stock pile of cut boughs and set them aside. When he had a nice variety of greens ready, he began to create his arrangement. The lower needles were stripped off the branches and then poked into the oasis. He poked and turned, poked and turned, and before long he had a lovely centerpiece full of colorful greens and many different textures.

A handful of greens ready to wire to the wreath form.

A handful of mixed greens ready to wire to the wreath form.

For a finishing touch, he added some peony and Siberian iris seed pods, some dried Achillea flowers, a few pine cones, a red candle in the center, and just like that he was finished. The whole thing took him about 10 minutes even with explaining the process to us. Of course he’s been doing this for many years! This arrangement could even be flocked with snow after it is finished.

He went on to show us how to make wreaths and roping by taking handfuls of mixed greens and wiring them in overlapping layers onto either a wire ring (for a wreath) or some heavy twine (for roping).

Andre shows the wreath almost half finished. A beautiful mixture of greens adds color and contrasting textures to the wreath.

Andre shows the wreath almost half finished. A beautiful mixture of greens adds color and contrasting textures.

Each successive layer was laid down so that it overlapped and covered the cut ends of the previous layer. Florist wire from a spool was wrapped tightly around the ends and the wire ring securing it all together. The cut ends of the final layer were tucked under the first layer and carefully wired to the ring so no wire showed. I always wondered how that was done!

The pièce de résistance was when André demonstrated how to flock an evergreen bough. Every year André creates a beautiful “snow” tree for his home and every year when people see it they ask us how to do it. This year for the first time, he decided to add this demonstration to the decorating workshops. The hardest part is finding the flocking material, a mixture of cellulose fibers, mica (for sparkle), and glue.

Flocking should NEVER be done inside the house. Always wear a good quality dust mask while you work. Be sure to carefully cover the surface you are working on with newspaper to protect it – this flock will stick to anything!

Here are some photos showing the process:

The first step is to wet the boughs with water. A spray bottle filled with water is the easiest way to accomplish this. ALWAYS wear a mask when flocking to avoid breathing in the flocking material.

The first step is to wet the boughs with water. A spray bottle (with a mist setting) filled with water is the easiest way to accomplish this. ALWAYS wear a mask to avoid breathing in the flocking material.

Using a seive, sprinkle the flocking lightly over the evergreen boughs. It will stick to the moistened needles.

Using a sieve, sprinkle the flocking lightly over the evergreen boughs. It will stick to the moistened needles.

To add more layers of flocking to the bough, spray the flock with a mist of water as it falls from the sieve. This will activate the glue and allow the flock to stick when it lands.

To add more layers of flocking to the bough, spray the flock with a mist of water as it falls from the sieve. This will activate the glue and allow the flock to stick when it lands.

When you are satisfied with the amount of flocking on the branch, mist the whole branch with water to set the flock. Once the whole thing is completely dry, it can be brought inside.

When you are satisfied with the amount of flocking on the branch, mist the whole branch with water to set the flock. Once the whole thing is completely dry, it can be brought inside.

Andre's beautiful "snow tree". It takes a lot of flocking material and quite a few hours to create this beautiful effect but it is well worth the time!

André's beautiful "snow tree". It takes a lot of flocking and quite a few hours to create this beautiful effect but it is well worth the time!

It doesn’t seem too hard – at least André makes it look easy. I’ve never tried it but I’m sure with practice …

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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