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Posts Tagged ‘Holiday decorating’

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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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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