From My House to Yours

A Southern Living Homes Editor shows you how to put a new twist on a few tried-and-true ideas for easy decorating.
Julia Hamilton

Quite an interesting holiday invitation came my way last year. Some of our editors, who were outlining story ideas for this issue, asked me to write about how I decorate my home for the Christmas season. As you can imagine, I was delighted by their request but a little apprehensive. Would I be able to think of something that you'd want to try? Could I make my own place look as good as the beautiful homes we always feature? I wasn't at all sure, but a few garden items and fresh greenery helped me face the challenge.

Each December, I decorate my rooms a little differently, and this time I decided to rethink a few familiar ideas. I remembered seeing an unusual wreath that was not open in the center, but solid, like a medallion. It seemed a perfect concept to develop for these photographs. A pair of unique-looking Christmas trees would also be ideal, because they could be used to create symmetry in many ways. I searched for tall iron topiary forms to provide bases for evergreen foliage but could not find suitable shapes. Then I thought of tomato cages, those inexpensive wire contraptions that keep tomato plants from toppling over. A stack of them arranged in nice garden urns would give a cone-shaped form and the height needed.

Because the sunroom receives the best light in my house and consequently photographs well, I decided to place the decorations there. An Irish pine dresser is the largest piece in the room, and it holds many important keepsakes from family and longtime friends. I loved the idea of indirectly making all those sentimental favorites a part of both the decorations and this article.

So I bedecked the old piece with velvet ribbon and a thick garland of fresh greenery. In the center I hung my version of the medallion wreath, made simply by attaching circles of dried pomegranates, artichokes, and other natural materials to a large plastic disk with a glue gun (see instructions below).  An evergreen wreath gave it a background of lush greenery.

I spiraled garlands loosely around the tomato cage topiaries and then placed twinkling lights, wire-edged ribbon, and dried pomegranates and artichokes in the foliage. It took a while to get everything just right, but the final effect was quite dramatic. Senior Homes Photographer Jean Allsopp devoted a whole day to the fabulous images you see here. I love how she captured the warm, cozy glow that gives the room an old-fashioned look.

It was great fun to experiment with these ideas, and a few variations are already beginning to come to mind for next year. But this December, the decorations I'm planning in advance of a little party will be much easier, thanks to last year's dress rehearsal.

TOMATO CAGE TOPIARIES
These cages retain their original finish, but you can easily spray-paint yours a color such as black, silver, gold, copper, or dark green.

Step 1: Invert the tomato cages, and join the tips of the wire using a thin strip of duct tape. Stack cages in a garden urn, such as the verdigris-finish fiberglass one shown here.

Step 2: Cut a 10-foot-long piece of evergreen garland. Wire it to the top of the stack of tomato cages, and wrap it around the stacked cages several times. Use florist wire to hold garland in place.

Step 3: Wire different kinds of greenery into garland for added fullness. Cover top edge of urn with additional greenery. Starting at top of topiary, work a strand of tree lights into greenery all the way to bottom. Cut wide ribbon into 15-inch lengths, and insert it into greenery. Twist a 12-inch piece of florist wire around base of each pomegranate and artichoke, and wire them at intervals to greenery.

MATERIALS
 

  • 12 to 15 tomato cages for each topiary
     
  • duct tape
     
  • garden urns
     
  • evergreen garland
     
  • florist wire
     
  • cuttings of greenery (such as pine, fir, balsam, and cedar)
     
  • tree lights
     
  • wide ribbon
     
  • dried pomegranates and artichokes
     

 

MEDALLION WREATH
For the foundation of the wreath, you'll need a plastic spill guard made to fit on the bottom of a large paint bucket; these are available at paint or home-center stores. Look for dried artichokes and pomegranates at florist shops and home-decorating stores; choose dyed materials for added color. You can easily vary the ingredients to design your own version.

Step 1: Draw several concentric circles on plastic spill guard as guidelines, using a marking pen. Apply a light coat of green paint to spill guard.

Step 2: Attach a pomegranate in the center using a glue gun, and surround it with a ring composed of six pomegranates. Add a ring of 12 artichokes, alternating large and small ones. Glue a thick layer of pepperberries around the artichokes, and fill in all open spaces with small pieces of green sheet moss.

Step 3: Drill four evenly spaced holes in edge of plastic spill guard. Insert a piece of florist wire in each hole. Wire the medallion to an evergreen wreath. Hot glue a ring of alternating walnuts and small artichokes around the edge, and attach tiny pinecones as accents.

MATERIALS
  • plastic spill guard
     
  • marking pen
     
  • green spray paint
     
  • glue gun and glue sticks
     
  • dried pomegranates
     
  • dried artichokes (large and small)
     
  • pepperberries with stems
     
  • green sheet moss
     
  • drill and drill bits
     
  • florist wire
     
  • evergreen wreath
     
  • walnuts
     
  • small pinecones
     

"From My House to Yours" is from the December 2002 issue of Southern Living.