As a flower arranger for over 60 years I have been been through all the trends and fashions several times over and now I return again, with relief, to the natural and seasonal plant material....forget the glitter and bling! I love holly. In fact the very first Latin name I learnt was my favourite holly..... Ilex aquifolium ferox argentea! (Hedgehog holly) I think it all stems from a family tradition, but more of that later.
You will, I am sure, be trying to sneak a few berried branches away before the birds beat you to it. There seems to be plenty of berries about this year. Wrap the branches in a hessian bag and hang it from a hook/tree somewhere and give it the odd splash of water if there is no precipitation. Hanging it up defeats the mice! When you do bring it in to arrange it, avoid just popping it in water. Water combined with the modern central confuses the branches into thinking spring has come! Normally as the sap and the temperature rises holly sheds its leaves and the customery vase of water plus the cranked up heating simulates those conditions and you are, more often than not, left with bare twigs!! Try using damp sand or soil in your container to arrange the branches. I have had much better results with this medium. If you cannot find any berries, there is always plenty of commercially grown Ilex vercitillata around in the florist shops at this time of year - red, orange, yellow and white berries although you may have to order the colours other than red. It is not the cheapest material but has an amazing vase life. Hypericum berries are a less expensive option. i am sure as gardeners though there are other options..cotoneaster? ?
The family tradition........ welll.....my Granny always prided herself on her Christmas decorations of home grown materials and her piece de resisitance was always a huge arrangement of holly in her entrance hall. However there was an 'incident' when my mother was a child which was retold many times! In those days the family had a maid and Mary had been given a weekend off to go and see her parents. On her return she found the house newly decorated for Christmas. That year my Granny had decided to do something different and had made garlands from the holly and other greenery from the garden and apparently was very proud of her efforts. But Mary was horrified!........and made her feelings known! "Oh, Mrs Wilkinson, Madam, where is the jug of 'olly in the 'all?......you have to 'ave a jug of 'olly in the 'all! You always 'ave a jug of 'olly in the 'all!" My grandmother tried to explain that she wanted to do something different but gave in and Grandfather was dispatched to get more holly and the jug was fetched and holly arranged! My mother said it was ever thus long after the maid had left and the family had moved house and she continued with the tradition as have I.
I regret that I do not have a hall in my current home, so the arrangement is on my landing and, as I have promised not to climb ladders when on my own, the container is Granny's old copper tea urn. My special jug is on a very high shelf in my kitchen whereas the urn is already in a suitable place! I expect Granny will forgive me........
Anyway, " 'appy Christmas to you all!" also here's to a great gardening year 2017.