Want to make a fresh Christmas centerpiece? Follow my instructions and you’ll have a your own homemade Christmas floral table arrangement in no time.
It had to be that one
And only that one
I called dibs on it, each and every year
It was wonderful, like it came straight out of a fairy tale
It was wooden, painted, very old and every year a bit more fragile
The little white sleigh made my little heart sing.
My earliest Christmas memories are of me and my mom in the kitchen. The kitchen table piled high with evergreens, pieces of floral foam soaking in the sink, various containers and plates on the kitchen counter, a cardboard box full of ornaments nearby and me with the little wooden sleigh that was my favorite container. I probably was about four or five years old when my mom starting teaching me how to make fresh Christmas floral arrangements. My first attempts must have been horrible, probably one big green branch stuffed into the foam and then I went straight for the decorations. Those old-fashioned mushrooms where my favorites. Do you remember those? They were red with white spots, made from this papery material and they had a little metal wire pushed in at the bottom so you could stick them in the foam. We used them year after year. Or should I say, I used them every year, because I probably confiscated most of them in my attempt of making my little sleigh the prettiest Christmas centerpiece.
Through the years I watched my mom make at least a dozen Christmas centerpieces with candles each year. Every surface in our home would get a custom made arrangement. And some of them would find their way to neighbors and acquaintances that needed a little Christmas cheer. Thinking about how she created each and every one, made me realize she was quite methodical in her approach. And now when I set out to make my own fresh Christmas floral arrangements I follow her lead to a T.
Steps to follow when making homemade fresh Christmas floral arrangements.
- Choose a container
- Prepare your floral foam
- Gather lots and lots of various evergreens
- Start with the outline
- Place your candle(s)
- Fill in your base layers
- Work from bottom to top and from out to inward
- Alternate your materials: vary in color, shape, form and character
- Work in all your evergreens and flowers first, add ornaments last
- Hide gaps with leaves and moss
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1 My mom used lots of containers. Some where real floral containers, usually saved from receiving a formal floral arrangement at some celebration. Others where plain dishes, large cups, or bowls with a crack or a missing piece. Anything that could be made waterproof and that would hold the foam could work. Looks weren’t important because most of the time the container would be completely hidden anyway. (unless of course it was my little wooden sleigh, that was the centerpiece in and of itself)
When my mom had chosen her container, she would usually stare at it for a bit. I now know what she was thinking “where am I going to put this?” “what style am I going for?”.
You have to consider how you are going to use this particular Christmas centerpiece. Is it going on a buffet? Then it will have a proper front and back, it won’t be moved much and it can really be show-stopping bold and big. Or is it going on a coffee table, where it has to look good on all angles, people will have to be able to see and reach over it and it shouldn’t take up too much space. Or will it go on that corner cabinet where a more vertical and triangle shaped floral arrangement would work best.
2 You can buy floral foam in various shapes and sizes. We usually used the good old blocks and cut them to size ourselves. It is important that your prepare your floral foam well in advance. It needs to soak for several hours before using it. You know when it is ready when it has sunk to the bottom of your sink or bucket. Do Not Dunk It! If you try to force the process and push it under water than air bubbles will form inside and your evergreens will lack water to stay fresh and luscious.
Cut the foam to size. Place it on or in your container. Make sure it is at least an inch higher than your container. Cut off the edges and corners to soften the shape.
3 All the evergreens on that overflowing kitchen table where usually gathered and clipped from our own garden, or from the gardens of neighbors and friends. We always had various variations of conifers like thuja, pine, fur, taxus, spruce and juniper. We would use leafy greens like holy, boxwood, ivy and laurel. And sometimes when being fancy, we would use some forced hyacinth flowers or mini poinsettia.
4 Before using them always cut your greens to size and make sure the stem is clear of leaves and needles and cut into a sharp point. Some of those evergreen branches are quite thick, so use quality garden clippers to make this job quick and easy. Your outline can be round, rectangular, C-shaped, triangular of following the irregular outline of an out-of-the-box container like my wood log. Start with the outline and determining what is front and back (if applicable).
5 Place your candles now. We used taper candles (usually just one per centerpiece) and those tall, skinny candles that you could only buy around Christmas time. You can use several of those in one floral arrangement. But make sure it is always an odd number. Three work good in small, round centerpieces for a coffee table. But I remember using at least 9 of them in a large rectangular centerpiece for our buffet one year.
6 Start filling in your arrangement with more evergreens. Work in circles. The base layers should be placed in an upward angle to cover the base. Leaves work also great as a base layer than can cover your container beautifully.
7 Slowly start going horizontal and then upward. Remember to use small branches. This will take some patience and time, but it’s worth it.
8 Alternate between your evergreens so you get a good mixture of different colors of greens and different shapes of needles, ferns and leaves. If the branches are not sturdy enough to be pushed into the foam you can reinforce them by winding them with some floral wire.
9 Start adding ornaments. We would use natural ornaments first like pinecones with a wire stem, pieces of bark, oddly shaped branches, branches with small pinecones etc. And I always use the shiny and glittery fake ornaments sparingly. You can still buy the red and white mushrooms but there are shiny christmas ornaments in every color possible too.
10 You can use fresh moss or curly Spanish moss. We would save the Spanish moss and use it year after year, until it had all crumbled and had to be replaced.
I started making fresh Christmas floral arrangements when I was four or five years old. When I was about seven my mom would set everything up, start one of her pieces and then always mysteriously had other things to do first, leaving me to make lots of homemade Christmas centerpieces while under her supervision and guidance. And by the time I was eleven, she didn’t even pretend to be involved anymore. Christmas decorating had truly become my responsibility. From setting up the tree, making all the Christmas floral centerpieces, hanging homemade wreaths and scattering candles on every possible surface. And I loved every minute of it! Still do.
My fresh Christmas floral arrangements form a nice collection on my garden table right now. I love looking out of my kitchen window and seeing them there looking all pretty and nice. I might bring them in when it is closer to Christmas. Or maybe not, we’ll see. If I will leave them outside they will stay fresh and green for a really long time. I just have to remember to keep the foam wet.
If you do use these fresh Christmas centerpieces inside it is even more important to keep the foam wet at all times and misting them with a little water from time to time will do wonders too in making them last.
You can use floral foam and the same techniques I used for my centerpieces when you make a Christmas wreath too. I made a very easy tobacco basket Christmas wreath that looks great and was super easy (no need for wet foam).
And of course always watch the candles if you burn them!
I love decorating my garden for Christmas. Do you remember the time when I used flowering mini cyclamen in a toolbox, or the one where a big urn took center stage, or that year when I went all fancy with a big Christmas swag. Those were the days!
Let the Christmas decorating continue! Bring it on!