Gordon Baillie is head gardener at Arley Hall and Gardens which is hosting its Christmas Floral Extravaganza until Thursday.

AT this time of year your attention is no doubt turning to Christmas, but for Arley’s gardeners it has been part of the day job for weeks.

For this Saturday sees the start of our Christmas Floral Extravaganza and we’ve been busy preparing foliage for the displays we hope will wow several thousand visitors over the next week.

The public will be able to see the hall decked out with fresh flowers in a traditional style, with many of the florists and floristry students who create the displays using fresh foliage from Arley’s gardens.

No doubt visitors will collect many tips from the beautiful creations, but here’s how I create a beautiful table display using what can be found in many people’s gardens.

  1. Create your table centrepiece using garrya elliptica and maybe some viburnum. They will both give you a true festive feel.
  2. Collect some ivy and use it to divide your place settings by having it snake out.
  3. Decorate the ivy with cotoneaster or holly to spruce up your display with some red berries. You might also use some pine cones to add interest.

Top tip – other foliage that can be made to work in Christmas displays around the home include dogwoods, salix and lime. Stand them up tall somewhere prominent and decorate with silver and gold beads for a beautiful feature.

This kind of practice has gone on at Arley Hall for generations and this year is no exception.

In the past the holly wreaths made by the gardeners would only be seen by those who lived on the estate, but now thousands get to appreciate our handiwork at the Christmas Floral Extravaganza.

Northwich Guardian:

We make two huge wreaths, one for the Cruck Barn and one for the chapel. Each of these has enough holly to make 40 small versions and we also prepare 150 of them each year.

So, as you can imagine, we have become dab hands at producing the festive decorations so I thought I would share a few tips with you about how we do it.

  1. First, we build the structure we want to use whether that be a circle or a cross or something more elaborate.
  2. Then, fasten staples into the frame roughly five inches apart.
  3. Next we collect the holly and cut the branches into smaller pieces, about five or six inches long, and finally we thread them through the staples.

It’s a prickly business, but well worth it because the final result is always something visitors appreciate. It is also nice to be carrying on the tradition.

But for me the most special part of making the wreaths is using the raw materials the garden produces. Returning to the same plant year after year for this purpose is very special.

I hope you, too, can keep this tradition alive by relying on the resources your garden provides this Christmas.

Arley’s Christmas Floral Extravaganza opens this Saturday and runs until Thursday, December 5.

Meanwhile, there will be Candlelight and Carols Evenings on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 3 and 4. Visit arleyhallandgardens.com