Christmas is a time for appreciating and celebrating what we have. We festoon our homes with plastic wreaths, tinsel and other shop-bought decorations. But we rarely look to the natural world for inspiration. It may seem grey and lifeless outside during winter. But there is a wealth of natural beauty you can find and use in your home if you know what you’re looking for.
During the colder months, deciduous trees lose their leaves, but evergreen plants stay green and fragrant. There are many myths and traditions linked to the magical quality: they last all year round no matter the weather. Why not embody this beautiful metaphor of life blossoming in the darkest places by using natural Christmas decorations this year; many of us have a real tree for a Christmas, but why stop there?
Here are some of our favourite natural decorations that you can find outside this Christmas. You don’t necessarily need a garden to find them! Look in any hedgerow, or take a brisk winter walk in the park or woodland to look for inspiring foliage.
Holly is one of the most iconic plants for Christmas time. With its royal glossy green spikes and vivid red berries, there are few plants associated with the festive period more. The name “holly” originates from the same root as “holy”. Its traditional use at Christmas comes from the story of Jesus who wore a crown of thorns, with the berries representing the red of his blood.
Holly is easily found in English gardens, hedgerows and woodland. It can make a beautiful addition to wreaths and garlands. To avoid getting scratched, wear protective gloves and use garden shears when cutting the sprigs you want. If you have small children, be careful to make sure they don’t eat the berries as they are not edible for humans.
Holly sprigs look lovely adorning fireplaces, above mirrors and paintings, or simply placed on a window sill. Position your holly around candle displays to take full advantage of the reflective glossy leaves.
Using natural holly to adorn your home at Christmas is a sustainable option; rather than plastic holly which has a larger environmental footprint. Natural holly can be composted or recycled so you can enjoy it for Christmas guilt-free.
The traditional partner for holly- ivy is a strong but delicate plant that grows in most woodland areas across Europe and many gardens.
To gather ivy, use protective gloves and cut or pull out the long creepers. Trim for use in wreaths or around candle displays, or drape entire tendrils along your bannister for an elegantly festive look. Add mini baubles, lametta or ribbons to your ivy stream for added sparkle. Ivy can cause skin irritations for some people, so if you don’t wear protective gloves it’s advisable to wash your hands thoroughly after foraging and arranging.
Pine cones are a beautiful natural decoration for your home at Christmas. There are lots of things you can do with pine cones. Use gold, silver or faux-snow spray to transform into gorgeous decorations for a natural take on baubles this Christmas
They can be put on threads and hung on the tree, arranged across mantelpiece displays, among candles or pile them into a glass bowl with glitter and battery-powered fairy lights for a gorgeous centrepiece. Pine cones are free and sustainable, and decorating them can be a fun Christmas activity for children.
A lovely way to bring the beautiful colours of nature into your Christmas decorations is with flowering bulbs. This requires a bit of planning, as the bulbs must be planted with enough time to flower by Christmas, but the results can be stunning.
Hyacinth is a beautifully fragrant bulb that blooms in soft pinks and purples and brings an added freshness to your home at Christmas. Plant hyacinth bulbs around late September for them to flower at Christmas. Plant Daffodils in September too, and for the delicate amaryllis plant in October.
Even though it’s cold outside- planning ahead and planting some beautiful flowers will let you spend some time relaxing in your garden. Wrap up warm, grab a flask and enjoy.
As well as all the natural plants to be found in your garden, you can easily find small tree boughs that can be used in wreaths and turned into mantelpiece displays. Pine, conifer, spruce and yew are some of the best kinds of evergreen for Christmas decorations. You can also save any branches you might cut off the bottom of your Christmas tree.
Combine with holly and ivy around a display of candles, or tie bunches together with a ribbon and hang around the house. You could even stick small branches into a cone and use as a mini Christmas tree table decoration.
Mistletoe is a lovely addition to any taste of Christmas decor. Its delicate leaves and pearl-like berries make it one of the most stunning natural decorations, and full of tradition. Many people may buy mistletoe in the shops – either real or plastic. But it grows freely in many of our gardens and woodlands. You can see it clustered in the branches of trees more visibly during the winter months.
Using a hooked cane or walking stick and a ladder, strip off small pieces of mistletoe. Tie a ribbon around a bunch and hang from doorways for a fun and flirty Christmas.
Move away from the commercialism of Christmas towards celebrating what we do have. The natural world is full of beauty that man-made products cannot replicate.
Using natural things to produces effortlessly stunning beautiful and authentic Christmas decorations, on top of which it reduces your carbon footprint and saves you time and money, so you can enjoy a more relaxed, stress-free festive period. Whatever you choose to do for decoration this Christmas, sometimes going back to what is traditional is a good place to start.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.