Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Decorations with Help from Duke Gardens

With guidance in Duke Gardens' workshop,
you can make your own holiday swag, wreath or centerpiece

Photo and article by Lauren Sims

Winter evergreens and berries present countless opportunities for indoor decoration during the holidays. But how do you get from a collection of stems and leaves to a cohesive arrangement? Jan Little, director of education and public programs at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, gives us some tips.

First, arrange plant materials into distinct piles, Little says. This will give you a better idea of the sizes and shapes you're working with. Next, find a container that suits the location and purpose of the finished arrangement. Set a piece of pre-soaked florist’s foam snugly in that container. As you begin, place your tallest stems in the foam first as a way of visually delineating the height and breadth of the arrangement.

Continue, varying heights and textures of evergreens, until the foam base is disguised. Little recommends turning the container regularly as you go in order to get an equal distribution of plants all the way around. Also, use as much of your natural materials as possible—even those small or unimpressive stems can help to fill out the container.

Once the foam is fully disguised, spend a minute locating those areas that need some extra pizzazz. Fill them in with flowers, berries and interesting leaves.

If you’d like some guidance, consider taking Duke Gardens’ “Holiday Decorations” class on Dec. 4 from 2-4 p.m. The class will include demonstrations of six to eight different types of arrangements with varying styles and ingredients, followed by help in making your own. The fee is $60, or $40 for members, and it includes plant materials & other supplies (but students should bring pruners and any embellishments they'd like to add besides the bow provided). Please e-mail or call 668-5309 for information or to register.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.

Lauren Sims is a graduate student at Duke Divinity School and a work-study assistant at Duke Gardens. This article first appeared in the Herald-Sun's Homes & Garden section on Nov. 27.

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