Nothing says the holidays like the smell of fresh pine. From door wreaths and fresh trees to table arrangements, boughs and ornaments, this is the season to bring outdoor greenery into the home.
For Nicole Church, owner of Oliver Meadows, a seasonal fresh-cut flower business in Tatamagouche, this is the time of year she changes her focus from flower arrangements to creating all-natural winter décor.
Church started Oliver Meadows in the spring of 2020 when everything was shut down due to COVID. She often found herself walking around her yard cutting flowers and putting them in little jars for her house.
“One day I was looking at my flowers and thinking about the joy they brought to me during the difficult time of isolation,” says Church. “I wanted to spread this joy to others, so I decided to sell jars of flowers as part of the online Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market, as it was closed for in-person shopping.”
Eventually, she started selling outside the market too. In summer, she sells wildflowers mixed with flowers she has around her property, including those grown in her newly built 20-by-40-foot greenhouse. In September, she makes wreaths from the flowers she grew, foraged and dried during the summer. When October rolls around, she still has enough fresh flowers to make pumpkin arrangements for Thanksgiving tables. Then, in November, she begins making evergreen containers and dried flower ornaments for the holidays.
“I shift what I’m making with what the season has to offer,” says Church. “I love feeling so in harmony with nature.”
When it comes to making arrangements with evergreens, she says the possibilities are endless.
“You can use something as small as a vintage teapot or as large as an outdoor urn or planter, or anything in between,” she adds.
Church prefers to use containers that offer a sentimental attachment and loves to spruce up things like decorative lanterns — the ones with glass windows and a door — with a few pieces of pine or cedar.
“It isn’t hard to find fresh greenery for making arrangements,” says Church, noting that most people have some fir and pine growing around their yards. “We have a large piece of property on the mountain so that is where we go to cut fir and pine. I also love using cedar. It’s not native to Nova Scotia so you won’t find it in the wild, but it’s common as a decorative bush in many yards.”
She suggests using a mix of different evergreens to create more texture and intrigue but warns against using red spruce for indoor arrangements, as it can have an unpleasant smell when cut and brought inside.
“It’s also important to be sustainable by not cutting entire limbs or more than you need at a time. Remember to always use sharp and clean pruners (a quick spray of rubbing alcohol will do the trick) to keep the tree healthy and avoid potential spreading of disease.”
Other natural elements that can help take your festive arrangement to the next level include pinecones, red dogwood, birch branches, holly and Ilex berries.
“You can get creative and use anything you see in nature,” says Church, who sometimes uses dried flowers to add some texture and interest. She suggests golden rod, grasses, cat tails and Queen Anne’s lace pods. “I’ve even used branches of pussy willows that I’d gathered during the previous spring.”
Making your own evergreen container is simple!
- Find a vessel you love. For a larger container or urn, you will need larger boughs and small boughs for smaller containers. You might find it helpful to use floral foam to hold the boughs in place (and hydrate) for smaller arrangements. Or, as a more sustainable alternative, you can use a small square of chicken wire balled up inside the container. This will help your boughs stay in place as you add them. Just make sure to add water if using this method.
- Keep adding boughs until you fill your container.
A balanced arrangement has some height in the middle and then smaller pieces around the outside. Take a step back when you think you are almost done and check for empty holes and to assess the overall shape. Don’t over think it. Beautiful arrangements don’t need to be symmetrical or perfectly balanced.
- Next, find some natural elements to add and give it some interest. It’s nice to cluster things like pinecones in threes. Keep stepping back and assessing what else it might need until you’re happy with the final look.
- Finally, if it is an outside container, you can add some warm white lights to bring it to life. If using it inside, battery string lights are great. Just tuck them in evenly throughout. It helps to add the lights at night so you can make sure they are evenly distributed.
Supplied by Nicole Church
Create a winter wonderland
Growing up, Nicole Church’s mother always made evergreen arrangements for both sides of their front doorway and decorated the deck posts with fresh wreaths and white lights.
“It felt like a big warm hug around our home and when it snowed those big, fat flakes, they would gently land on the boughs and light up beautifully,” says Church. “It was magical.”
She says her mother’s number one trick when arranging lights is to squint your eyes when assessing your lights. “Try it… it works!”
Tips for making evergreens last
• Cut fresh boughs (rather than ones that may have been on the ground
for a long time)
• When left outside, there’s no need to keep boughs or arrangements in water. The cold and snow are enough to make them last for weeks, even months
• Keep indoor arrangements and wreaths hydrated by watering and/or misting the boughs. Floral foam can be used
• The colder the boughs stay, the longer they last. Keep arrangements away from a heat source like a wood stove or heat pump. You can also move them to a cold area like a porch, basement, garage or even outside at night, and bring them back in during the day