Make Your Own “Holly Days” Arrangements

Yesterday I attended a gala “Holly Days’ event hosted by our local garden club. The highlight was an auction of holiday centerpieces and decorations made by club members at a workshop earlier in the week. They sold for $100 to $300 each, raising thousands of dollars that will help support conservation and beautification projects.

The arrangements ranged in size from under a foot high to masterpieces that could make a big statement on a mantelpiece or dining table. Most were made from fresh evergreen boughs punctuated with decorative branches and leaves (holly, eucalyptus, magnolia) and flowers (fresh, dried or silk roses, paperwhites, amaryllis), decorated with whimsical elements like miniature birds, artificial fruit, pine cones, seed pods, clusters of berries, ribbon bows, candles, and holiday ornaments. The containers ranged from elegant silver urns and porcelain cachepots to weathered cement troughs, pottery casserole dishes, mossy terra-cotta pots, and baskets of all shapes and sizes.

The co-chairman of the workshop, Harriet Kelly, graciously agreed to share instructions and tips so you can make your own. Harriet says:

Holiday centerpieces are so easy. The greens form a perfect base and they can stand on their own if you don’t wish to add flowers. You’ll need a container, an assortment of greens, a sharp cutting tool like a Felco hand pruner, floral foam, a kitchen knife, and the flowers and/or decorations of your choice.

You can buy greens just about everywhere right now. Even the A&P sells a nice assortment. Or take a walk around your yard and see if some of your evergreens could use a trim. Long-needle pine, cedar and boxwood are all great. Eucalyptus is readily available at supermarkets, too. You can, of course, buy things from your local florist, who’ll have a good assortment this time of year. You can even use the bottom branches of your Christmas tree if you need to cut it down to fit into your tree stand.

Floral foam is available at any craft store (Michael’s, A. C. Moore). Soak the foam for an hour or so to drink up as much water as possible. I always put in some preservative, too. If you don’t have any, make your own by mixing l/4 tsp. liquid bleach, 1/4 tsp. sugar, and a crushed aspirin tablet into a quart of water. This solution should keep the greens fresh for weeks (just check the water level every day because greens drink a lot)…

Choose any container that you like: a vase, urn, bowl, cachepot, basket. If you use a basket, put in a liner to keep it from leaking. Cut your foam with a sharp kitchen knife to fit snugly inside your container. The foam should be at least 2″ taller than the rim of the container. Then just start putting in your greens. Give them a fresh cut—it helps them take in water—and insert them starting at the four sides of the foam at the container rim. Establish how wide you want the arrangement to be and keep building from there. The general rule is that the arrangement should be 2 l/2 times as high as your container, but do whatever you think looks right.

Once you’re pleased with your greens, you can add whatever you like: sparkly little ornaments, ribbon bows, willow branches. Look around the house to see what you can find to make it special. Red or white flowers are always a nice contrast to the greens. Even dried hydrangea flowers look great tucked in. You might have some lingering on the bush in your front yard!

For step-by-step instructions and close-up photos, go to

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
This entry was posted in Flower Arranging and Decor, Garden Design Projects, Holiday Celebrations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Make Your Own “Holly Days” Arrangements

  1. Very efficiently written information. It will be valuable to anybody who usess it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – for sure i will check out more posts.

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