‘As I bring this year’s freshly-cut Christmas tree into the house, it’s strange to think that back in 1850 Charles Dickens was writing of a tree brought indoors and towering above the children’s heads in his autobiographical story A Christmas Tree. As he so evocatively put it, ‘everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects’. And now, more than 160 years later, here I am, still following the same custom of bringing a tree inside to decorate. Going to choose the tree is a brilliant excuse to get out in the fresh air, however cold it is – and while you’re there, make the most of everything else the great outdoors has to offer in winter. From gathering armfuls of holly, ivy and yew for decorating tables and mantelpieces, to harvesting fresh produce from the veg patch for the Christmas lunch, the garden still has a lot to offer, even in mid-winter.’ Alan Titchmarsh
Step by step Christmas tree care
1. Bring your tree indoors as near to Christmas as you can. Until then, keep it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Once it’s indoors, position it away from radiators or fires, and away from sunlight coming in through windows.
2. With a potted tree, keep the compost moist but not wet. A cut tree is best displayed in a reservoir-type stand, such as the Quick Christmas Tree Stand, £15/each. First cut a 2cm-thick slice from the base, but don’t whittle the sides down as the outer layers are most efficient at taking up water.
You can put a potted tree in the garden, but place it in a greenhouse/shed first rather than moving outside straight from a warm house. It can grow very tall if removed from the pot.
Fabulous festive table arrangement
Make a striking centrepiece or wreath with seasonal bouquets
We’ve used two Waitrose Foliage Bouquets, available in store for £7 each, to create this lovely centrepiece for the festive table. Follow the easy step-by-step instructions on the right to make the basic wreath and, if you like, you can then either stand a tall pillar candle in the centre or add smaller candles around the ring. (Never leave candles unattended once they’re alight.)
It’s a good idea to soak the florist’s foam in water for 10 minutes before you start, then stand it on its side and allow it to drain of excess water (until it stops dripping completely). Stand the wreath on foil or clingfilm to protect the surface beneath. You can add extra decorations to the wreath too – use florist’s stub wire to attach baubles, ribbon bows or tinsel to the arrangement.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
Florist’s foam ring, with tray; scissors; 2 x Waitrose Seasonal Foliage Bouquets (with Noble Fir, Lodgepole, Blue Prince, Eryngium, Eucalyptus, Birch Twig and Pine Cones) £7/each
1. Lay each element of the bouquets on a table. Soak the foam in water for 10 mins, then stand on its side to drain.
2. Cut stems to a length about 10cm from the top, removing the leaves towards the bottom. Starting with the green foliage, pierce your first stem into the foam, leaving 6-8cm visible.
3. Push in the remaining stems in a clockwise direction to ensure a fluid line. Keep turning the foam as you go, to make sure the arrangement looks balanced from all angles. Add candles and decorations if you wish.
Christmassy garden craft
For some truly original decorations this year, raid the garden or the vegetable aisle and decorate your home in style
1. Use long red chillies (fresh for a vibrant colour or dried for a more muted effect) and a florist’s foam ring or one made from hessian or twigs.
2. Pin or wire the chillies to the ring, packing them close together with the stalks facing the centre. Overlap some if necessary.
3. Work your way around the ring until it’s entirely covered, ensuring the ring is hidden. Attach a length of wide ribbon to hang your wreath.
1. You’ll need a selection of twigs, short lengths of twine, string or ribbon, secateurs and a bradawl, plus decorations like mini bells.
2. Start by removing any leaves from the twigs then trim each one into a variety of lengths – short pieces working down to longer ones.
3. Pierce a hole through the centre of each twig and thread onto the twine. Add a bell to each tree and attach the mobiles to a hanging ribbon.
1. You’ll need a foam ring or twiggy wreath, plenty of sprouts, some wire and a bradawl. Make a hole in each sprout and string together as a garland.
2. Wind the sprout garland around the ring and secure it at intervals with wire. If using a foam ring, attach each sprout with florist’s stub wire.
3. Secure extra sprouts with stub wire wherever there are gaps, then add a length of ribbon to the back of the ring and it’s ready to hang.