Arranging Christmas: Two live decor additions in less than an hour

So, I was all on track with my crazy Christmas schedule of traveling, hosting, shopping, wrapping, cleaning and cooking.  I was feeling pretty good about myself when I stopped at a local indoor farmer's market (Produce Junction) to pick up a poinsettia for a friend.  And that's where I got myself in trouble.

Were I smart, I would have picked up my potted flower, paid for it, and left.  Alas, my ADD kicked in, and, as per usual, I was distracted by all the sparkly, colorful and INEXPENSIVE wonders in the store.  Instead of walking out with 1 medium poinsettia, I walked out with 5 poinsettias (including a GIANT one!), a 24 inch live balsam wreath and a bundle of 24 beautiful carnations in burgundy, white and tipped varieties.  All for $19.  $19!!  Can you blame me?

The trouble is, while the potted plants don't need much work, the live stuff requires some attention.  Thus, I have added to the crazy that is my life.  Well done, Me.

BUT I decided to keep it simple for both the wreath and the flowers and managed to add some color and holiday ambiance to our dining room in less than 45 minutes.  (Granted, then I had to take pictures, edit them and write about the process, so perhaps I should reconsider my time estimate... Naaaah.)

The Wreath 

The 24 inch balsam wreath was gorgeous but in need of a bit of trimming (Turns out nature isn't completely symmetrical. Who knew?).  That said, I really liked the wild, almost rustic appearance that it lent, and only clipped a few of the crazy outliers off.  (You kind of have to be careful when you start trimming, and always remember Less Is More.  Much like plucking eyebrows, you can wind up being a little TOO zealous which leaves you staring horrified into the bathroom mirror, contemplating how long it will take for them to grow back and whether or not you can hibernate for that length of time.  Not pretty. Wait, what were we talking about again?).

Setting the wreath clippings aside for later, I moved on to the question of what to add to the evergreens.  As the rest of my dining room is set very formally, I decided it would be nice to keep this piece natural and unobtrusive.  I grabbed a supply of pine cones (I collect them for decorating in the fall), and some artificial berry stems and set to work with my florist wire and wire cutters.

Working on the kitchen floor (It makes clean up easier and keeps everything more accessible), I attached pine cones by wrapping the wire through the scales and twisting onto the branches of evergreen.  I love the look of grouping items, so I randomly grouped by twos and threes (grouping smaller items - whether Christmas balls, pine cones, flowers or berries - gives them more presence.)

Even though the one pine cone (2nd pic) looks smooshed, it looks fine when placed with that side down.  Use what you got!

Once the pine cones were attached I moved onto the berry stems.  Using both red and silver (Okay, the wreath doesn't have to be COMPLETELY natural looking), I moved around the wreath, wrapping the wire stems into the form and branches.  Super easy!

Once I was completely finished, I added a simple gold ribbon to the top and centered it in my  dining room window and moved on to the flowers.  Wreath complete in 20ish minutes.  Go me!

Two Quick Wreath Making Tips: 

1.  Make sure to add your decorations to the outside and inside of the ring as well as to the middle.  I see so many fake looking wreaths that just have a bunch of flowers tacked to the center mass of the greens and, frankly, they look ridiculous.
2. Don't aim everything in the same direction.  Flowers, stems, branches... NATURE: Turns out it's not only asymmetrical, it also doesn't just point in one flowing direction.  Even if you work evergreens into a ring, there will be a few little buggers that stick backward, upward, downward, etc.  Trust nature.  Mimic the  contained chaos with your trimmings and you'll get a much more beautiful effect.

The Flowers

Okay, although carnations are not among my favorite flowers, I do think they get a bad wrap.  They often get added to inexpensive (Read: Cheap) arrangements that are offered in crummy groccery store "florist" sections.  The combination of bad arranging and lack of attention to the type of flower winds up with a look that is incohesive and BLAH.  That said, if you actually look at the bloom of the carnation, it is quite pretty.  They're frilly, colorful and HAPPY looking flowers that also happen to be quite hardy (and their lower cost doesn't hurt either).  SO.  When I found my grouping of beautiful blooms 24 for $4, how could I say no?

I generally gravitate toward large mixed arrangements that have a somewhat Wild English Garden feel to them, but in this case, I wanted something that was more modern, sleek and uncomplicated.  So this arrangement took almost no time at all.

I selected a low gold mosaic candle holder (sometimes you gotta get creative) to add some sparkle and shine to the blossoms.  The globe shape also made it easier to arrange sans vase gems, or florist foam.

Starting at the rim, I snipped the stems of the carnations on an angle and began placing them, while rotating the vase (rotating while building makes it easier to maintain an even symmetrical shape.  This is true of almost any arrangement that is going to be viewed from all sides).  As I spiraled inward, I began making the stems slightly longer to create a nice rounded shape.  Once I made it to the center and had filled in all of the color gaps, I was almost done.

Although I did want a minimalistic, modern shape, I didn't want it to look like a giant pomander.  Remember those evergreen wreath clippings?  I went back to my pile, stripped off any lower needles and inserted them at various points to add shots of green and variety to the shape.  So easy!  Love!

The very last thing I did was to discover the vase, though beautiful, looked a little TOO insubstantial by itself on the table.  It needed some height.  I could have found a new vase and started over, but really, ain't nobody got time fo' dat.  Instead, I grabbed a gold pillar candle stand and set the globe on top, creating a quick and easy pedestal.  Woot!

Ultimately, while I definitely added to my work load, I'm actually pretty pleased with my impromptu additions.  For the two additions alone (not including poinsettias), I spent only $9 and 45 minutes  (20 minutes on the wreath, another 15 on the arrangement, and 10 to clean up!).  In addition, it forced me to actually slow down for a short period and do something I LIKE to do. (Not that scrubbing bathroom floors isn't extremely rewarding too...).

Not bad for a little extra holiday cheer! 

Happy Christmas, Friends! I can't wait to see your pics and hear your stories about how all of your plans came together! 

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