Have a colourful Christmas: festive flowers set the scene

Create beautiful flower arrangements for your family and guests to enjoy this festive season.
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Florist Vic Brotherson of London's Scarlet & Violet flower shop has a striking, one-step solution to creating Christmas at home: "Take the largest, simplest jug you can find and fill it with the biggest branches of holly and cotoneaster. Leave to stand against a plain wall. When you are satisfied it is as full as it can be, place a similarly simple bowl of clementines next to it and then get on with the rest of the day."
Picture: From Vintage Flowers book
Tree ivy, plain and simple, is the indispensable greenery for making quick festive effects. Cut long, leafy lengths and use them to trail down the centre of the Christmas table, to garland around the backs of chairs, or wired in short bunches onto one long length of garden twine to create a garland. As a final table touch, twist bare stems around napkins and slip in a single leaf to act as a place marker, using gold ink to write names. Before use, soak ivy in water for at least 30 minutes to clean it and make it last longer.
Picture: GAP
Decorate the tree with foraged finds from the garden, forest floor - or nearest florist. Fir cones make the prettiest baubles when hanging from loops of narrow organza ribbon; use florist's reel wire, cut into short lengths, to add beads to top and bottom of cone, for a bejewelled effect. Chestnuts, threaded into ropes and interspersed with bows of shiny red wrapping ribbon, make jolly tree trims that add a warm, cosy note.
Picture: GAP
Make the patio or terrace table as welcoming as the dining table indoors. Gather garden-centre pots of cyclamen, in different sizes and colours, together with silver-foliaged senecio, then group them in roomy, high-shine cake tins and patterned metal buckets, so they look like full, festive bouquets. Several colourful, gilded lanterns scattered around the containers add extra pzazz to the tableau.
Picture: Marianne Majerus
The perfect tabletop tree starts, says florist Vic Brotherson, with separate pieces of pine, which will give a bushier effect than a conventional tree. Cut a tower of wet floral foam, staked firmly at centre, to fit a bucket, and keep the back flat so it will sit easily in a small corner. Strip each piece of pine from its needles at the base, so it can access the water from the foam. Start wide around the bottom, pushing in one leading piece at the centre top, until the tree is full and bushy. Brotherson's one-minute tree dressing: ropes of shiny, scarlet beads garlanding the branches. Instead of bead ropes, you could use vintage pearl, diamante and bead necklaces.
Picture: From Vintage Flowers book
Sometimes the simplest ideas have the most impact. Vic Brotherson's take on giving a windowsill Christmas cheer is to gather together several stems of rose hips, and place randomly in a series of old milk bottles. Single-stem clear glass vases or even drinking tumblers would make good alternatives, and berrying ilex sprays could substitute for rose hips.
Picture: From Vintage Flowers book
"Dressed with a mixed bag of old and new ribbons, jam jars make a perfect run for a table centre," says florist Vic Brotherson. "These hand-tied bunches consist of only the most vibrant flowers, each one slightly different from its neighbour. The jars could easily be filled with all garden greens and berries, with just the ribbon to introduce a shot of colour, or a more subtle combination of whites, silver greys and parchments, tied with vintage gold and silver ribbon."
Picture: From Vintage Flowers book
Give a deep windowsill, fireplace or small corner a pair of twin tabletop conifers, and decorate them with the symbol of Christmas: a simple, perfect star. Use a template of star-shaped cookie cutter on pure white paper and hang the stars all over the trees, with hanging loops of invisible thread stitched through the top of each one. Silver glitter dust, optional.
Picture: GAP
Forgo the conventional front-door fir wreath for something more original, pulled together from berries, foliage and seedheads foraged from garden, forest floor or florist. Make life easy and buy a twiggy base, then prod in stems of evergreen foliage or wrap with ivy trails. Add short berry stems, wired together first in clusters, then push into base or wire on. Hedgerow clematis seedheads make fabulous silky baubles to finish. Alternatively, use nothing but translucent honesty seedheads for a beautiful pearlescent wreath.
Picture: Marianne Majerus
Add a festive air to parts of the garden that are visible from the house. Hang strings of brightly-coloured chilli peppers on nearby branches; decorate birdhouse and birdfeeder with garlands of ivy and berrying holly stems. Tie scarlet or checkered ribbons around any empty terracotta pots, and fill them with floral foam so you can make instant displays of festive foliage and berries. A compost sieve, hung vertically on patio or shed wall, makes a fine frame for your handiwork.
Picture: GAP
FESTIVE FORAGING
* Xmas trees, containers, foliage, flowers, berries: Nine Elms Flower Market, newcoventgardernmarket.com
* Florists' supplies, including floral foam, wire: flowerhour.co.uk
* Organza and fabric ribbons in wide colour range: ribbonoasis.co.uk
* Wide selection of beads for stringing: worldofbeads.co.uk

Get the look book: Vintage Flowers (Kyle Books) by Vic Brotherson costs £25 but Homes & Property readers can buy it for £20, including p & p, by calling 01903 828503 and quoting code KCVF/HP.
Picture: From Vintage Flowers book

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