In the Garden:
Upper South
December, 2005
Regional Report

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Combine an inexpensive bunch of flowers with pine, boxwood, or holly from your own yard to create a spectacular holiday arrangement.

A Fresh Tradition

The tradition of having fresh-cut flowers in our home during the Christmas holidays began when I was in college and working part-time at a florist. It seemed only logical to bring home a box of red carnations to arrange in mother's favorite crystal vase. Although the house was filled with fresh pine and poinsettias, the addition of the wonderfully clove-scented, long-lasting carnations was delightful. Ever since, the holidays don't seem complete without at least one fresh bouquet.

It should come as no surprise that university research has found that flowers make us happy, and that cut flowers have an immediate impact on our happiness, a long-term effect on our moods, and lead to more intimate contact with family and friends, gender notwithstanding. With today's fast-paced and stressful lifestyles, fresh-cut flowers offer a simple, easy way to calm, cheer, and energize. Added to traditional holiday greenery, they add an unexpected burst of color and liveliness to the home, and are the perfect antidote to all the manufactured decorations.

Of course, the easiest way to add flowers is to simply buy a pre-made arrangement from a florist, but it is much more satisfying, to say nothing of less expensive, to create your own arrangements. With the money saved from just one purchased arrangement, you can have flowers in several rooms. Even if you've never felt particularly skilled at flower arranging, it isn' t that hard to develop some striking arrangements. A couple of flower stems can transform a room. Following are some easy ways to make fresh-cut flowers look great.

Bringing the Outside In
According to Great Britain's Flowers & Plants Association (http://www.flowers.org.uk), the look for this season is all about exploring the wonders of the world around us. They encourage us to take a walk outside and collect some of the berries, fruits, grasses, ferns, and evergreens that catch our eye at this time of year to combine with purchased cut flowers.

The Association further suggests that if you haven't a single vase in the house, then look for interesting shapes and colors of wine, beer, or mineral water bottles, line them up on the mantel, and put a single stunning flower in each bottle. A variation on this theme is to combine flower-filled small vases or bottles on a mirror or serving tray for a spectacular coffee table arrangement. Even if you feel totally inept at arranging flowers, you can cut off individual flowerheads and float them in a low dish of water with small floating candles.

Look around your house for other items that can be used as containers, such as jugs, teapots, cookie jars, antique tin cups, even jam jars. Small containers look best with the stems cut short and the flowers massed tightly in the container. Mass in a single color for high style, or fill out with interesting foliage or berries for a rustic yet sophisticated effect. For ornate, highly colored vases, keep to one color; conversely, multi-colored arrangements are best in simple, one-color containers.

You can give a boring vase a new look by covering it with a scarf, piece of fabric, or gift wrap. Put the vase in the middle, pull up the fabric or paper, and tie with a ribbon or secure with a rubber band. Another idea is to cover the outside of the vase with double-stick tape, place large leaves vertically around the vase, then tie with raffia or ribbon.

In using flowers around the house, think about where they will be placed. For example, a bouquet for a hall or foyer can be tall and open. For a dining table centerpiece, make sure it is low enough for diners to easily see across the table. For an easy, elegant table decoration, set a series of alternating crystal vases and candlesticks with candles on a fabric runner. Place one, two, or three fresh flowers, surrounded by greenery, in each of the vases. An alternative is simply to place pine boughs along the center of the table and set small vases of flowers and candles among them, perhaps with the addition of some shiny ornaments strategically placed.

Whether you use a simple mixture of flowers from the grocery or some special stems of orchids, freesia, or another indulgence, the end result could be the start of your own treasured tradition.


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