Farm Chic Christmas
Garden Fresh Ideas for Decorating and Gifting This Holiday Season.
by P. Allen Smith
I don’t know about you, but I’m crazy about Christmastime. Cozying up to a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate and the smell of fresh greenery really kindles that holiday spirit.
If you’re like me, you love entertaining, especially around the holidays. To decorate your table, simply use a premade mantle piece of fresh greenery for a center piece, echoing the colors of your theme. You can use noble fir, western cedar or juniper and add pine cones, glass balls and wood berries to create a cheerful table.
Pull things together to create a festive table for an impromptu gathering of friends or family. Mix things up a bit by integrating the best of the old and the new. Set each place setting with simple, vintage white plates with gold or silver rims. Use modern larger green plates as chargers. Disperse taper or votive candles into the greenery centerpiece to add some sparkle and light.
I’m an advocate of using fresh cut greenery for decorating, but I can understand why folks sometimes baulk, because it does require some maintenance. However, the beauty and fragrance make it well worth the trouble. And really, you only need to take a few extra steps to make the greenery last as long as possible. When you’re collecting or buying your greenery, look for pieces that are pliable, have a strong aroma and vivid color. To extend its life by three to five days, give it a deep soak to hydrate all the foliage. To seal in the moisture, spray each piece with an antitranspirant. This compound is applied to leaves of plants, Christmas trees and cut flowers to keep them from drying out too quickly. Keep your greenery away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Remember, it will dry out much quicker indoors.
Another favorite aspect about the holidays is giving gifts. I like to create my own gift wrap, and taking the time to make special gift tags just lets the recipients know their special. It’s an easy and creative way to jazz up your gifts, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.
One of my favorite gift tag ideas is taking precut balsawood ornaments, applying two coats of chalkboard paint and writing the person’s name in chalk. These are great gift tags that can later be hung on the tree.
I love giving gifts that will reward the recipient well after the holidays have passed. Caring for orchids is so easy. They are wonderful holiday gifts, even for my nongardening friends.
To make them special, I like to wrap them, and you can wrap several orchids to hand out to your friends. Here’s what you’ll need: potted orchids, bare branches, ribbon, silver balls, wired floral sticks, cinnamon sticks and one of your homemade gift tags.
To gift wrap the orchids, remove the original stakes and replace them with winter twigs, which can be purchased at the craft store or gathered from your yard. Tie a bow with the silver balls and gift tag to a floral stick and insert it into the pot, careful not to poke the roots. Add the cinnamon stick to make it smell like Christmas. You’re done!
Giving the gift of something homemade is also a marvelous way to show someone how important they are. Cookies-in-a-jar is a sweet gift, and it’s really easy to assemble. We always have canning jars around the farm, so finding a 1-quart, wide-mouth Mason jar is simple. Below is the delicious recipe for the Mason Jar Cokie Mix.
Mason Jar Cookie Mix
1 ¾ C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
¼ C cocoa powder
½ C granulated sugar
¾ C raw sugar
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add it as the bottom layer in the jar. Smooth out each layer with a wooden spoon. Add layers in this order: cocoa, granulated sugar, raw sugar and chocolate chips. Add some nuts on top if you want.
Attach a tag to the jar with the following directions:
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Combine contents of jar with ¾ cups melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 3 eggs. Refrigerate dough for an hour.
Place tablespoon-sized balls of dough on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Let cookies cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.
I encourage you to fill your home with the festive scent of fresh greenery and to enjoy your family and friends this holiday season.