Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Holly and the Ivy

It's a funny carol, isn't it:

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full-grown,
O-of all the trees that are in the wood
Oh the holly bears the crown...

What happened to poor Ivy?  Why even mention it if the only purpose of doing so is to rub in Holly's success by comparison?  I don't know, some people have no manners.

I took a cheeky trip up to the Common today to cut some Christmassy greenery.  Dad had expressed a desire for a windowsill to be 'festived-up a bit' as it was the sill behind our christmas tree.  So, I decided that a wreath-sort-of-thing with evergreens and a big candle in the middle would do.

Things to look out for in the wild:
Holly and Ivy obviously.
Small pine cuttings provide good fluffy-looking filler for an arrangement.
Pinecones to scatter about.
Heather, branches still looking green with plenty of berry-like dead flowerheads.
Gorse - prickly, but if in flower a spectacularly yellow addition (especially if you've been unlucky with holly berries.)
Long branches of birch or beech, to make a framework, especially with catkins attached.

With a bagful of each of these things stuffed to the brim, I headed home and put some newspaper on the floor to get wreathing.  You don't need any wire to hold it together if you get whippy enough silver birch branches and plenty of ivy.  Get your centrepiece or candle and fold a forking branch around it so that it makes the shape of the Pupil of Sauron.  Twiddle the whippy ends together to secure.  With the next long branch put the whippy ends on the other side and fold into the thicker end of the first branch.  Repeat until you've used all your branches.  Sorted.  Now wind ivy creepers around the centre candle and between the birch branches.  With your arrangement secured on all axes you can start stuffing the other bits in as you like, trying to keep it evenly balanced of course.  Peel bottom leaves and spikes off the gorse and holly twigs to allow yourself to handle them easily (wearing gardening gloves helps if you're a bit of a weed.)

Remove the candle to move the arrangement to the desired position, and replace the candle and light it when you're happy with your placing.  Rest pinecones on the leaves judiciously, or scatter them on the surface.  (That's garnish, that is.)

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