Home & Garden

Professional-looking holiday arrangements possible at home

It takes less than 30 minutes and less than $20 to make a professional-looking holiday arrangement to hang on a fireplace, door or wall at your home.

No glue or wire is needed. Materials are simple and affordable because many pieces are cut from evergreens in your yard.

The framework is a crescent-shaped grapevine form you purchase for less than $10, depending on its size, at floral supply places and arts and crafts stores. Botanical materials such as lotus pods, dried celosia and yarrow and wheat can also be purchased at stores or harvested from your yard.

"You stick the greenery and floral pieces between the grapevine weaves," Betsy Anderson says while she creates one. "That's the beauty of the grapevine."

Anderson, a past president of Green Spring Garden Club in Williamsburg, Va., makes the grapevine arrangement in preparation for the club's 52nd annual Christmas Homes Tour in Colonial Williamsburg.

"When planning the crescent arrangement, one of the most important things to do is to decide exactly where it will hang before starting to attach the dried materials," Anderson says.

"That way you can place hooks on the wall and try hanging the undecorated crescent, rather than risk damaging some of the dried materials after they are in place."

Command removable hooks by 3M, available in various sizes and styles, are an ideal way to hang a fairly lightweight holiday decoration, according to garden club members.

When choosing one, check the package for the maximum weight each hook will support. They are easily removed when you take down decorations, leaving no holes in the wall or damage in any paint. For the grapevine crescent, Anderson chooses hooks, each able to support up to 3 pounds, with thin metal hangers so they easily slip between the grapevines.

When the crescent is hung on the fireplace, it's adjacent to a broom that Annaiah Walker, 12, made from broom corn she grew and dried; a hickory stick is used for the handle. The broom, too, is embellished with dried floral material, fresh evergreens and colorful hand-woven fabric tape that Zipporah Walker, 14, weaves on a reproduction 18th century tableloom. In colonial times, these tapes were used by women as apron ties and by the men as garters to hold up their stockings. Zipporah makes these tapes for several historic area interpreters to use with their costumes. The tape adds a festive touch to the broom, although any type of upholstery tape or ribbon could be used when decorating a similar object, Anderson said.

Here is how to make the crescent wall hanging for your own holiday decorating needs:

Crescent wall hanging

Materials

* 1 crescent-shaped grapevine swag form, about 20 to 32 inches long

* Variety of dried floral and plant material such as cockscomb, yarrow, okra pods, artichokes, lotus pods, wheat, cotton pods and money plant

* Variety of evergreens such as juniper, holly, osmanthus, pine, spruce, balsam or boxwood; condition the greens before attaching to wreath (see directions below)

* 1 package Command removable hooks, preferably with wire hooks

* Electric glue gun, available at craft stores may be necessary for items without stems

* Twist ties, craft glue and wire may be helpful.

* Hand pruners

Directions

Pick a spot on the wall or fireplace where you want to hang the crescent, and attach two Command hooks. Try hanging the crescent to be sure you like the location. It is best to do this before you start attaching dried materials.

Gather dried plant material and decide on a design, choosing where you want to place the largest or most predominant items. To create a symmetrical design, be sure to have pairs of items about the same size plus one main item, something eye-catching to use in the center.

If you make the crescent with all dried materials (no evergreens), begin attaching the largest items first, tucking materials with stems into the grapevine weaves. Use hot glue to attach anything without stems. Fill in with smaller materials such as wheat or cotton bolls, tucking in the stems.

If you design the crescent using a combination of greens and dried materials, start with evergreen sprigs, lightly filling in the surface. Add the dried materials, tucking in the stems, or glue if necessary. Fill in empty spaces with more greenery.

How to condition greens

* Cut small branches or stems from your evergreen shrubs. Cut the end of the stem on a diagonal. Remove the bottom 2 to 3 inches and put immediately into a bucket of slightly warm water with a floral preservative added. If you are unable to put the stems in water immediately after cutting, recut them again just before placing in water. To make the greenery last longer, remove any needles or leaves that remain below the water level in the container while conditioning.

Note: Boxwood is an exception. It takes up water through its leaves.

To fully condition, submerge the entire branch including leaves and the stem. Place an object on top of the branches to keep them submerged.

* To keep the greenery fresh, leave the branches in water at least 24 hours before removing. Then cut greenery into small sprigs 5 to 6 inches long. Remove leaves or needles from the bottom 1 to 2 inches of the stem.

* Briefly let the sprigs dry on a towel so that the dried materials don't become wet when mixed with the wet greenery.

  Comments