Magazine article Sunset

Snip-and-Stuff Topiaries

Magazine article Sunset

Snip-and-Stuff Topiaries

Article excerpt

Seattle floral designer Martha E. Harris adds a touch of warmth and freshness to the season with natural, elegant, and simple holiday topiaries. Whether displayed on a mantel with garlands and candles or on the dining room table as a long-lasting centerpiece, they'll span the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

"Topiaries aren't a new idea," says Harris. "It's the materials that give them a fresh look. Some plants can even be plucked right from the garden."

Her current favorite is 'Sunset' heather (Calluna vulgaris), at center in the large photo. "I love combining rich magenta flowers with greens and golds." For several years, Harris has decorated trees with small bouquets of heather. "One day when I needed an accessory to go with a garland, it occurred to me that heather would be lovely as a topiary."

Heather has another advantage: "It dries crisp without shattering for a few months," says Harris, "and you don't need to keep it moist." Other favorites include seeded eucalyptus (Eucalyptus nicholii), at left in photo, and California pepper berries. Although Harris buys both at the flower market (heather can also be purchased at many flower markets across the West), they can be harvested fresh in some gardens. You'll need one big bunch of fresh material (about six or seven branches) per 12-inch tree. Harris also suggests holly and Skimmia japonica because of their festive red berries, and boxwood, hydrangea, lavender, rosemary, and the leaves and berries of other kinds of eucalyptus. As with fresh flower arrangements, holly, skimmia, and boxwood need to be kept moist in the floral foam that's used as the base.

Harris creates different shapes to fit different home decor. Traditional tabletop topiaries are cone-shaped and round, but you can also have fun with architectural shapes, such as squares and rectangles. She recommends making different sizes if you plan to group them together on a mantel or end table.

Topiaries also make fine gifts. For a festive look, Harris ties a gold ribbon around the pot.

CONTAINERS AND OTHER MATERIALS

First, find an attractive container that will enhance the arrangement. "You can use almost anything--a small, low silver vase, a brass dish, a small tin, or a clay pot," says Harris. …

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