Categories: things to do

Claire Wood, Garden Manager, and Lorna Brownlee, Gardener and Resident Florist, from Hillsborough Castle and Gardens detail below full instructions on making beautiful Christmas floral arrangements from the garden.

Arrangement 1- Table centre 

Equipment

Suitable water retaining dish or bowl (if you want to use an ornamental container that is not watertight place your floral foam in a smaller plastic dish inside, a takeaway container holds a half block of floral foam neatly).
Secateurs or garden scissors 
Florists tape to secure the floral foam

Plant material

Any fully ripened evergreen foliage can be used, select a range of colours, textures and forms, cut foliage in the morning (as long as it is not frosty)  
We used:
Hedera helix -Ivy 
Ilex aquifolium – Holly 
The following are all conifers 
Abies grandis – giant fir 
Picea abies – Norway spruce
Tsuga heterophylla- Western Hemlock 
Cryptomeria japonica- 
Chamaecyparis leylandii – Leyland cypress 
Thujopsis dolobrata 
Evergreen shrubs 
Pittosporum tenuifolium
Pieris japonica 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpurea’
Shimmia ‘Kew green’
Phlomis fructicosa
Viburnum tinus
Buxus sempervirens -Box
Hard ferns 
Male ferns 

Flowers 

Hydrangea macrophylla
Helleborus hybrids  
Viburnum bodnatense ‘Dawn’  
Miscellaneous items 
Dried pinecones 
Small apples 
Beech twigs 
Birch twigs 
Pussywillow 
Once all the foliage is collected condition it by making a slanted cut at the end of the stem and placing in a bucket of water ready to use. Helleborus need to be conditioned in hot water. 

Method 

1. Soak the floral foam by filling a basin of water and setting it on top and let the water soak in naturally – do not be tempted to speed up the process by holding the foam down, when it is full of water it will sink . 
2. Tape the foam onto a tray or into a dish
3. Green up the arrangement using a variety of different foliages, the tall stems in the centre should be about 1.5 x the height of your container. Recut all the stems on a slant before inserting securely into the foam. Keep turning the arrangement around to ensure the foam is covered.
4. Add the flowers evenly throughout the arrangement, insert cones. Cones should be wired on a stiff wire with the end curled into a hook, so it fixes firmly into the foam. 
5. Finish the arrangement by adding twiggy material.
6. Check the foam is wet and the container is not leaking and place in position.    

Arrangement 2- Table centres Small Hand Tied Arrangements

Equipment

Suitable water retaining dish or bowl
Secateurs or garden scissors 
String or binding tape 

Plant material

Any fully ripened evergreen foliage can be used, select a range of colours, textures and forms, cut foliage in the morning (as long as it is not frosty) and flowers .  
We used:
The following are all conifers 
Cryptomeria japonica
Thujopsis dolobrata 
Evergreen shrubs 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpurea’
Shimmia ‘Kew green’
Leycestra Formosa – Pheasant berry 
Anemone huphensis 

Flowers 

Hydrangea macrophylla
Helleborus hybrids  
Miscellaneous items 
Birch twigs 
Small Thuja cones 
Once all the foliage is collected condition it by making a slanted cut at the end of the stem and placing in a bucket of water ready to use. Helleborus need to be conditioned in hot water.

Method 

1. Starting with a large hydrangea held in your left hand (if you are left handed hold it in your right hand) add stems one at a time laying one over another in a spiral arrangement, keep turning the flowers. Look at the arrangement from the top if there are any gaps stems can be inserted into them by loosening your hold very slightly to allow the stem to be pushed in. 
2. Once you have reached the desired size use binding material to tie the stems securely. 
3. Cut the end of the stems to the same size. Place in a decorative bowl. 
4. Keep water topped up every day. 
Place in position, your arrangement will last longer is a cool room. 

Three Christmas flower arrangements on a table at Hillsborough Castle

Arrangement 3- Mantlepiece or Fireplace Arrangement 

Equipment

Suitable water retaining dish or tray
Secateurs or garden scissors 
Florists tape to secure the floral foam

Plant material

Any fully ripened evergreen foliage can be used, select a range of colours, textures and forms, cut foliage in the morning (as long as it is not frosty)  
We used:  
Hedera helix -Ivy 
Ilex aquifolium – Holly 

The following are all conifers: 

Abies grandis – giant fir 
Picea abies – Norway spruce
Tsuga heterophylla- Western Hemlock 
Cryptomeria japonica
Chamaecyparis leylandii – Leyland cypress 
Thujopsis dolobrata 
Evergreen shrubs 
Rhododendron ponticum – with last years seed heads 
Pieris japonica 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpurea’
Viburnum tinus
Rosmarinus officinale – Rosemary 
Laurus nobilis – Bay laurel 
Buxus sempervirens -Box
Hard ferns 
Male ferns 

Flowers 

Hydrangea macrophylla, mop head and lacecap varieties 
Miscellaneous items 
Dried pinecones 
Small apples – Malus ‘Red Senteniel’
Beech twigs 
Birch twigs 
Dried Agapanthus heads 
Dried Libertia seed heads 
Once all the foliage is collected condition it by making a slanted cut at the end of the stem and placing in a bucket of water ready to use. 

Method 

1. Soak the floral foam by filling a basin of water and setting it on top and let the water soak in naturally – do not be tempted to speed up the process by holding the foam down, when it is full of water it will sink. 
2. Tape the foam onto a tray or into a dish, use one two or three blocks depending on the overall length you want we used 3 blocks to make and arrangement 1.2m long. 
3. Green up the arrangement using a variety of different foliages, the tall stems in the centre should be about half the length of your finished arrangement. Recut all the stems on a slant before inserting securely into the foam. Work from the top of the foam and the front, only at the end do you insert greenery into the back of the arrangement to cover the foam. 
4. Add the flowers in groups throughout the arrangement, insert cones, dried orange, wired apples. Cones and apples should be wired on a stiff wire with the end curled into a hook, so it fixes firmly into the foam. 
If the fire beneath is not going to be lit, you can add trailing pieces of ivy. 
5. Finish the arrangement by adding twiggy material, and dried seed heads, if you want to add more sparkle you can use artificial decorations or spray the dried material with gold or silver spray.  
6. Check the foam is wet and the container is not leaking and place in position. 
Remember to lift out of position every day and check the water and add water if needed. This is best done either outside where you can water generously from above and then let drain, or on the kitchen drainer.  

Large Christmas floral arrangement sitting on a fireplace

Arrangement 4- Door wreath / Table centre 

Equipment

A floral foam wreath ring (we used a 30cm one)  
Secateurs or garden scissors 
Coated wire to create hook
Florist’s wire to wire cones, etc 
Fine ribbon to finish- 1m 

Plant material

Any fully ripened evergreen foliage can be used, select a range of colours, textures and forms, cut foliage in the morning (as long as it is not frosty)  
We used: 
Hedera helix -Ivy 
Ilex aquifolium – Holly 

The following are all conifers:

Abies grandis – giant fir 
Picea abies – Norway spruce
Tsuga heterophylla- Western Hemlock 
Cryptomeria japonica
Chamaecyparis leylandii – Leyland cypress 
Thujopsis dolobrata 
Evergreen shrubs 
Pittosporum tenuifolium
Pieris japonica 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ 
Viburnum tinus
Buxus sempervirens -Box
Rosmarinus officinale – Rosemary 
Miscellaneous items 
Dried pinecones 
Small apples 
Beech twigs 
Birch twigs
Orange slices dried  
Cinamon sticks tied in bundles 
Once all the foliage is collected condition it by making a slanted cut at the end of the stem and placing in a bucket of water ready to use. 

Method 

1. Soak the floral foam by filling a basin of water and setting it on top and let the water soak in naturally – do not be tempted to speed up the process by holding the foam down, when it is full of water it will sink . 
2. Make a hanging hook using a double length of coated wire. Any strong string will do.  
3. Green up the ring working in concentric circles  starting with conifer then adding mature ivy flowed by more conifer once the sides are all greened, remember to green the centre of the ring as well ) the more decorative foliage can be used to fill in, arrange it in evenly spaced groups ensuring each piece is inserted securely. 
4. Add the cones, orange and cinnamon sticks evenly throughout the arrangement. Cones and oranges should be wired on a stiff wire with the end curled into a hook, so it fixes firmly into the foam. 
5. Finish the arrangement by adding twiggy material.
6. Check the foam is wet and the container is not leaking and place in position.    
To turn it into a table centre, add more height to the top of the ring using twiggy material birch and beech and Hazel and place a glass vase with a candle in it in the centre. 

Christmas flower arrangement with a candle

Arrangement 5- Cornus Hoop Door Wreath

Equipment

4-6 Stems of Corus alba twisted into a hop 30-40cm diameter 
Secateurs or garden scissors 
Florist’s wire to wire bunches and bind the hoop  
Fine ribbon to finish- 1m 

Plant material

Any fully ripened evergreen foliage can be used, select a range of colours, textures and forms, cut foliage in the morning (as long as it is not frosty)  
We used:  
Cornus alba stems about 1.5m long 
Hedera helix -Ivy – mature foliage with flower heads 
Ilex aquifolium – Holly 

The following are all conifers: 

Abies grandis – giant fir 
Picea abies – Norway spruce
Cryptomeria japonica
Thujopsis dolobrata 
Evergreen shrubs 
Pieris japonica 
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ 
Buxus sempervirens -Box
Rosmarinus officinale – Rosemary 
Miscellaneous items 
Dried pinecones 
Small apples 
Once all the foliage is collected condition it by making a slanted cut at the end of the stem and placing in a bucket of water ready to use. 

Method 

1. Gently flex the Cornus alba stems and bend into a hoop, (ours was about 35cm diameter) used stiff wire to bind and hold the hoop in place in 3-5 places. 
2. Make up 3-5 bunches of greenery each about 15-20cm in length, start with a piece of fairly stiff conifer and layer up until you have 6-7 different types of foliage and add a wired apple and bunch of wired spruce cones. 
3. Bind the bunches onto the bottom of the hoop. Add a fine ribbon to the top of the hoop and hang on your door. 

We hope you love making your own festive floral arrangements! Be sure to share your creations with us on social media using #EmbraceAGiantSpirit or #MyGiantAdventure.  Find out more about Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.