Using festive evergreens from the garden

Geoff Stonebanks shares his love of festive evergreens

holly, ivy and conifer sprigs from Driftwood garden

What can be more rewarding than cutting foliage from your own garden to decorate the house in the run up to the big day? Choosing festive evergreens and natural decorations from the garden to create indoors and outdoor decorations is just one of the benefits of having a garden.  

Regular readers of my blog here at Richard Jackson Garden will be aware of my love of Christmas. I’ve had a love of the festive season since I was a child and after I’d fallen in love with gardening in later life, I’ve been able to combine the two loves at this time of year! 

Geoff Stonebanks with Simone Thorogood cutting tree for Christmas
Selecting a tree to decorate for Christmas with Simone Thorogood. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Even if you haven’t got a large garden, you can still go out and pick out and maybe help cut down your own Christmas Tree from a Christmas tree farm. A few years ago, I made a film for a local TV company in Brighton and one of the presenters (Simone Thorogood) and I visited a Christmas Tree Farm in Sussex and returned to Driftwood to make natural decorations for it. There is no doubt that it gives you the opportunity to be creative and more importantly enable you to put that very personal stamp on your Christmas decorations. 

Natural decorations

Have a look around your garden. It is surprising what a wide choice of evergreen shrubs, trees and conifers there are out there that can be used to make wreaths, swags for mantels and table decorations.

Some of the decorations we made for that film were simple pine cones. Just wire them, alternatively you can spray them, gold, silver or red and suspend from the tree. Fresh fruit, oranges and lemons are good choices, can be studded with cloves and secured with ribbon. Alternatively create garlands for indoor or outdoor trees using a selection of nuts and dried fruit strung together with needle and thread.

natural tree decorations
Create garlands for indoor or outdoor trees using nuts, dried fruit and fresh fruit studded with cloves. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Growing festive evergreens

If you are starting from scratch growing plants for festive decorations, remember that some plant will take a while to establish and so it could be several years before you are able to cut significant amounts of foliage from them. Others may yield good volumes of foliage earlier, but these will be more vigorous, needing greater space and more maintenance. Choose your plants wisely.

Look out for other winter wonders like Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ and gaultheria. These are a great winter plants for a shaded corner, adding plenty of winter interest.

Skimmia and Gaultheria at Driftwood
Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ and gaultheria are great winter plants. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Remember that regular cutting back of the current season’s foliage will impact on the decorative nature of the shrub or tree and its aesthetic look in your garden.  Hard pruning in the winter can impact on form, flowers and fruits. If, as most of us will do, you just want to make a few table decorations and maybe a wreath for your door, then you are unlikely to spoil your plants too much by cutting smaller amounts.

Holly and ivy

There can be no doubt that the two most popular evergreens, especially for wreath making, have to be holly and ivy. I have both growing in my garden and they are really perfect for adorning the house at Christmas. But there are lots of other types of plants you can use for your wreath, just take a look in your garden and try to gather reasonably long lengths that can be cut to size later.

Perfect starters will be holly leaves and berries are a bonus if you have them. Cut some ivy, either the long trailing shoots or stems with flowers or berries.  If you have any, then include mistletoe but handle very carefully as the berries burst easily. Conifer sprigs are a quick and easy way to start a wreath, either cut from trees in the garden or take some trimmings from the base of your Christmas tree. You’ll probably have many other evergreen garden shrubs, with or without berries that you can cut too. 

Geoff Stonebanks making a Christmas wreath
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

I’ve always found it useful to have a can of spray paint in gold and silver too. You can then colour sections or individual twigs before assembling the wreath.

You can finish your festive wreath by adding ribbons and decorations of your choice and then hanging up to enjoy.

Read more of Geoff’s Christmas at

Geoff Stonebanks on ITV This Morning with Holly & Phil in 2020
Guesting on ITV This Morning with Holly & Phil in 2020. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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