Celebrate the Season with an

 Evergreen Centerpiece

By Neil Moran 

With the rutabagas and onions safely stored under my house and several jars of tomatoes in the pantry, my thoughts naturally turn to doing something related to plants. The best activity I can think of after the gardening season is to start working on holiday centerpieces. I work on them in my heated greenhouse, which keeps the mess contained, and I can still feel close to my gardening.

            Holiday centerpieces are easy to make and will provide the fresh aroma of cedar and pine around your holiday table.  They also make great gifts. Every centerpiece I’ve ever given away garnered some oohs and aahs and appreciation from the recipient. Here is what is required to make a beautiful table arrangement for the holidays:

  1. Fresh cedar, pine, spruce or balsam fir
  2. A florist bowl
  3. Floral foam oasis
  4. Sharp scissors
  5. Glue gun and glue sticks
  6. A candle of your choice, but a taper or candle no more than two inches in diameter works best
  7. 12 red pine cones, but white spruce also works
  8. Artificial red berries
  9. “Snow in a can” craft spray

Usually, I obtain the evergreen pieces by selectively pruning some of the cedar and pine around my yard. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes catch a neighbor doing some hedge work and get the greenery you need that way. For a big project, I see my brother-in-law, who owns several acres of cedar, pine and spruce.

Over the years I’ve found cedar to be the best choice for centerpieces, but it really is up to you. Cedar works well because there are no messy needles to contend with and they stay fresh longer in a home. Balsam would be the second choice as it tends to be easy to work with and will fill in a centerpiece rather quickly. A mix of green foliage — white pine, balsam and cedar — makes an attractive centerpiece and is probably best for a special occasion, one that won’t be staying in the home for an extended period of time.

Cones, of course, can be collected from the trees or purchased at a craft store. The same goes for the artificial berries, glue gun and sticks and artificial snow.

As for the other materials, the bowls and foam can also be purchased at a craft shop or craft section of a large department store. A florist shop is also a good source for bowls and foam.

Steps to making a centerpiece:

  1. Clip pieces of greenery to about a 6 to 7 inches in length.
  2. Take the foam oasis (dry at this point) and insert it into the bowl. You will probably have to cut the form oasis to fit into the bowl, giving you one extra piece of foam for your next centerpiece).
  3. Now, carefully work a taper or other thin candle into the center of the dry oasis. Shove it in about 2 and 1/2 inches. Option: Pull the candle back out and insert a little glob of the hot glue in the hole. Push the candle back into the hole and into the still-warm glue.
  4. Begin inserting the short branches of greenery into the oasis, starting from the bottom. Do this carefully as to not split the foam.
  5. Insert the branches all around the oasis until it looks almost full.
  6. Begin your next row of greenery, nearly covering the lower branches.
  7. Continue with No. 6 until you’ve got a full-looking centerpiece.
  8. Now take short pieces of greenery and insert into the top of the foam until the foam is completely covered.
  9. With the hot glue gun in one hand and a cone in the other, put a dab of glue on each cone, then simply press it into the foliage. Use as many cones as you want. I usually use four groups of three pine cones.
  10. Put a dab of glue on the tips of the stems of the berries and insert them in between the cones.
  11.  Use the craft snow any way you want to mimic snow on the cones or foliage.

Tips: The foliage will stay fresh indefinitely in a cold garage or outdoors. Be careful when using the hot glue gun not to let your skin come in contact with the hot tip. Decorative shrubs, such as arborvitae, don’t take too kindly to a late fall pruning, as I found out the hard way. You may wish to get your greenery from a cedar tree or other plant from the wild, if you have access to such trees. 

Neil, a horticulturist and author of recently released  From Store to Garden: 101 Ways to Make the Most of Garden Store Purchase, can be reached at [email protected]

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