Charlie Ryrie's Christmas Decorations

PUBLISHED: 15:59 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013

Napkin

Napkin

Why not celebrate the countryside around us - and save time and money - by making your own decorations this year from natural ingredients? Words and photographs by Charlie Ryrie.

Christmas decorations appear earlier and earlier each year in the shops and catalogues, in a bewildering range of styles and prices. Instead of feeling compelled to buy this year's popular items, celebrate the beautiful countryside around us and choose local and natural decorations as far as possible. Even if you've never gone down that route, why not make your own decorations this year?

Classic decorations are not difficult to make and suit every situation from country style to elegant entertaining. You may think you'll never have time to make your own decorations, but you can create something totally unique and beautiful surprisingly quickly - an elegant table centrepiece, for example, need only take 15 minutes and will give you many days of pleasure.

It's a bumper year for berries, which may mean we're in for a harsh winter and definitely means a beautiful Christmas. Go traditional and use berries with ivies and conifer in wreaths, garlands and table decorations, or ring the changes with other greenery, herbs and a few studded flowers. Keep your ingredients simple, perhaps adding glitz with a few silvered seed heads or bright flowers.

A walk round your garden or in nearby countryside can yield enough berries, pine cones and greenery for a houseful of decorations. Or you can buy a few sprays of berries and greenery from a florist. Lightly spray a few flower heads with silver paint for a touch of sophistication, string them on ribbon for tree decorations, arrange them on your dining table or pop them into foliage arrangements. Silver is almost always more effective than gold, which can tend to look a little dirty on less than bright days.

For a classic door wreath, bind together some lengths of trailing ivy to make a long garland, add branches of conifer for bulk and poke in smaller pieces of berried holly and mistletoe. Tie the garland together into as circular a shape as possible and hang on an outside door. It will keep fresh for a week or two out of doors.

If you don't have ivy to hand, use a pre-formed metal wreath frame, padded out with moss bound on with garden twine or florist's wire. Bind a layer of conifer lengths around the frame to give a generous base, then add short stems of holly and any other berries and foliage you want. The only rule is to bind all your foliage to fall in the same direction - lay conifer lengths, ivy or holly sprigs to overlap in the same direction, then poke in berries and tie in wired cones, chillies or fruit as you like.

Herbs, evergreen foliage and berries make an elegant table centrepiece, arranged in a plastic-backed oasis ring studded with candles or with a large church candle inside the arrangement. Red candles are traditional but plain beeswax candles can also look festive. Your greenery will keep fresh right through the Christmas period if you dampen the ring each night and leave it somewhere cool.

Keep the natural theme by wrapping some presents with flower petals or dried leaves. Wrap your parcel in tissue paper, then strew a piece of biodegradable cellophane with petals, lay the present on to the cellophane and overwrap the parcel. A wooden plant label or tree tag makes an unusual and effective label.

It does take a little thought to make your own decorations, but it takes less time than surfing the net for goods or going shopping. And you end up with something that reflects your style and the beautiful part of the world in which we live.

Hop and Hedgerow garlands and wreaths, beeswax flowerpot candles, wooden tags and natural decorations are available from The Real Cut Flower Garden - call 01497 831072 for outlets and orders or visit Clifford Christmas market Saturday 6th December, Clifford Community Hall, Hay on Wye.

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