I’ve always loved rustic Christmas decorations. For some reason, gathering up fresh tree boughs and crafting with burlap ribbon always sends me into this idyllic Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House in The Big Woods fantasy.
Of course, I have ergonomic clippers and floral oasis to help me execute this vision, but for a few fleeting moments around the holidays, I imagine that I’m bringing fresh foliage back to my log cabin, ready to fill it with scents of cedar and cinnamon.
Using a combination of both foraged and store-bought greenery, I created this simple, traditional Christmas centerpiece. The holly and evergreen are kept fresh by the floral oasis, and the faux accoutrements help to increase the lifespan of this arrangement. Unfortunately, I had to buy the pine cones. Trees around here can’t be bothered to make ones as impressive as these.
1 brick of wet foam
1 waterproof container to hold foam (I used a silver bowl from a thrift shop.)
2 candlestick holders and candles
1 sharp crafting knife
Boughs of fresh pine or cedar
Sprigs of fresh holly
Sprigs of faux holly/winterberries
Sprigs of faux cotton
Wire cutter pliers
Clippers for boughs/greenery
Pine cones (Either harvested from your backyard or purchased from a craft shop. I don’t judge if you have to buy them!)
Like most projects made using natural materials, this one involves making a bit of a mess. After you’ve foraged/sneakily clipped from the neighbor’s tree the fresh boughs you will need, spread everything out in front of you. I chose to do this in my kitchen, which made for easy clean-up of greenery bits.
The first step is to submerge your brick of floral foam in water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes, until it is saturated. Afterwards, use your crafting knife to shape it to the size of the dish you are using. This is also a good time to carve out little spaces for your candlestick holders to pop through, if you choose to use them.
The floral foam will be hidden from view, so you don’t have to be too particular with your carving skills. I found the candlesticks and silver dish at a thrift shop for an absolute steal. I’ve found so many amazing holiday decorations at yard sales and thrift stores – they should not be overlooked when shopping for Christmas décor!
Next comes the part where you have to trust me. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. When you first start to build your centerpiece, you will probably have doubts. You may feel as though you have signed up for a child’s nature craft that is going horribly wrong. It’s not! Instead, think of it as building a tree. Think of how a tree is structured: the larger, sturdier branches are near the bottom, and the spindlier and smaller branches are near the top. I built my centerpiece with this in mind. Also, I reminded myself (numerous times) that I had some clippers nearby, and this beast would be getting a haircut as soon as I was done fussing with it.
After you’ve filled the floral foam with branches, take your clippers to it. Again, consider how a tree grows – wide on the bottom and smaller on top. From there, it’s just a matter of throwing caution to the wind and arranging the fancy floral sprigs throughout the base of evergreen and securing them in the floral foam. Trust your eye; if the arrangement looks odd or unbalanced, move something. Don’t worry about symmetry or perfection – nature sure doesn’t! Instead, get a bit whimsical and start experimenting.
Tips for Working with Faux Florals:
I used a pair of wire cutter pliers to trim off little sprigs of berries from the larger bunch. This way, I had more control when placing each sprig.
The same went for the cotton. These fluffy white clouds are very popular in Christmas décor. I imagine we’ll be seeing them in Christmas trees and floral arrangements throughout the season. For that reason, they’re not the least expensive faux floral to be found, and so hacking them up into individual sprigs helps to spread them around and increase their impact.
Oh, pine cones. I know it seems sacrilegious to purchase them at a craft store, but, unfortunately, the pine cones that grow where I live are about 2″ long and are not all that impressive.
If you do have pine cones that are worthy of a floral arrangement, be sure to bake them prior to using them. Spread them on a baking sheet covered in tin foil and place them in a 225°F oven for 30 minutes, checking on them frequently. This will help to both kill any bugs that may have travelled indoors with the cones, as well as dry out and ‘puff up’ the pine cones.
Like I said before, I am drawn to burlap. Its natural texture allows it to blend in with the woodsy feel of the centerpiece. That being said, ribbon is a great way to get in a splash of color. Consider using a jewel-tone velvet ribbon or a striking red.
I love how faux berries can brighten up a bit of greenery. Our fresh holly didn’t have the spectacular clusters of berries that I wanted, but the craft store holly sure did!
This centerpiece is perfect for setting on a buffet, a table or even a fireplace mantel. Because it’s contained in a dish, it can be moved around the room, as needed. You may find yourself staring at the extra greenery boughs on the counter thinking, “Should I make another?”
If the little Laura Ingalls Wilder inside of me has her way, the answer is “Yes!”