Nowadays, our Christmas decorations don't seem complete without at least one big blooming poinsettia sitting atop a mantel, serving as a centrepiece or making a front hall festive.
This Central American native began its northward migration in the late 1820s, introduced to the United States by the then minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsettia. Left to its own devices, a poinsettia naturally "flowers" just around Christmas and the winter solstice -- when days are shortest -- which, aside from its range of rich colours, makes it the perfect seasonal plant.
But if you're becoming a little bored with this longtime favourite, don't despair - see what a delightful difference a little imagination can make. Here, four floral designers from across Canada show you how to take a simple poinsettia from supermarket to spectacular.
Della Robbia Delight
When he's assembling an arrangement, Neville MacKay of My Mother's Bloomers in Halifax is guided by the surroundings in which it will be set, the particular celebration or season and the nature of his chosen materials.
Designer's tip: This fun, dressed-up Della Robbia look (named after the 15th-century Florentine sculptors who developed a style of colourful, richly decorated ceramics) can be created quickly with things you'll have at home.
• Poinsettia in 6-in pot
• Oval woven willow, wicker or twig basket, approx 15 cm (6 in) deep and 15 to 18 cm (6 to 7 in) wide
• Approx 8 boughs of sturdy cedar, 35.5 to 53.5 cm (14 to 21 in) long
• 2 to 4 curly willow branches
• 2 or 3 stems of artificial berry branches, approx 40.5 cm (16 in) long
• Pinecones, unshelled nuts such as pecans, walnuts and almonds, and apples, pears and grapes, as desired
• Small bunch of raffia
• Green plastic garbage bag, florist's wire, wire cutters, glue gun, secateurs, scissors and wooden skewers
1. From wire, cut 25.5 cm (10-in) length for each pinecone. Twist wire around pinecone approx 2.5 cm (1 in) up from base, leaving two 10 cm (4-in) ends. With ends, wire cones as desired to basket side. Line basket with double thickness of bag, folding corners inside around rim. Set poinsettia in basket. Fill area around pot with nuts.
2. Cover soil with loose nuts. Poke ends of branches through nuts into soil around base of poinsettia, trimming length as necessary and arranging asymmetrically as desired.
3. Poke 1 end of each skewer into basket side; impale fruit on other end (to steady basket, use heaviest fruit around base). Between fruit, glue nuts.
4. Tie large raffia bow; glue to basket.
Page 1 of 4 -- Learn how to make a festive red, white and green poinsettia arrangement on page 2
Red, White and Green
Michael Renaud of Horticultural Design in Toronto combines several sorts of greenery into lavish arrangements designed to last all through December and serve as frames that display a changing selection of seasonal flowers.
Designer's tip: Keep foam moist; check it daily. Lilies last from one to two weeks; replace as needed or add pinecones or ornaments instead.
• Poinsettia in 6-in pot
• Oval woven willow, vine or wicker basket, approx 15 cm (6 in) deep and 46 cm (18 in) at greatest width
• Approx 6 boughs of cedar, 25.5 to 30.5 cm (10 to 12 in) long
• Approx 3 stems each of blue spruce, blue juniper, boxwood, white astilbe and southern magnolia, approx 61 cm (24 in) long
• Approx 5 stems of 'Casa Blanca' lilies, approx 61 cm long
• Green plastic garbage bag, floral foam, kitchen knife and secateurs
1. Line basket with double thickness of bag, folding corners inside around rim. Set poinsettia, off centre, inside. With knife, carve out blocks of foam, place in water until soaked, then wedge between pot and basket sides.
2. Poke ends of greenery and lilies into foam and soil around base of poinsettia, trimming length as necessary and arranging them to form hills and valleys (avoid creating a symmetrical mound), which spill over basket sides.
Page 2 of 4 -- Be inspired by poinsettia arrangements from 'the wild' on page 3
In a Natural Nest
Throughout the year, designer Kathryn Lamb of Rosey & Associates in Hudson, Que., carefully collects most of her materials from the "wild" -- industrial parks are favourite foraging spots.
Designer's tip: ln the new year, replace the poinsettia with a pot of primulas, tulips or daffodils, or a clutch of colourful eggs.
• Poinsettia in 6-in pot
• 10-in plastic saucer
• Grapevines (or omit Step 1, below, and substitute ready-made wreath, with 35.5 to 46 cm/14- to 18-in outside diameter and centre hole that accommodates pot and saucer)
• Approx 12 evergreen branches, 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long
• Approx 12 birch branches, approx 50 cm (19-3/4 in) long
• Pinecones, green sheet moss, Spanish moss or grey lichen, small curls of birchbark, 10 to 20 short stems of dried white flowers (such as statice) and ivy
• Approx 1.40 m ribbon, 16 mm wide, or small bunch of raffia (optional)
• Glue gun, florist's wire, wire cutters, secateurs and scissors
1. Loosely twist vines into wreath (make wreath a little uneven, rough and rustic) approx 12.5 cm (5 in) thick, with approx 35.5 to 46 cm (14- to 18-in) outside diameter and centre hole that accommodates pot and saucer.
2. Lay wreath flat; twist one end of wire around wreath to fasten, then crisscross several times to form loose mesh over centre hole and fasten off. Turn wreath over. Set saucer and pot on mesh.
3. From wire, cut 25.5 cm (10-in) length for each pinecone. Twist wire around pinecone approx 2.5 cm (1-in) up from base, leaving two 10 cm (4-in) ends.
4. With ends, wire pinecones as desired onto wreath top and side. Stuff moss and/or lichen into space around pot, then over rim and soil around base of poinsettia and onto wreath top between pinecones. Arrange bark curls and flowers as desired; glue. Poke ends of branches into soil.
5. If desired, cut ribbon into 3 equal lengths; with each, make 3-loop "bow," wire together at 1 end and wire onto wreath. Alternatively, tie bows of raffia onto wreath as desired.Page 3 of 4 -- Make a plaid poinsettia arrangement on page 4
Pretty with Plaid
Designer Donna Hutton of Donna Hutton Flowers in Vancouver aims for a fresh-picked-from-the-garden look that combines contrasting yet complementary colours and textures.
Designer's tip: Instead of wreaths, omit Step 1 and use 1.80 to 2.40 m (6 to 8-ft) length of ready-made real or artificial evergreen "rope." Wind rope around pot several times, wire together, then decorate as desired.
• Poinsettia in 6-in pot with plastic saucer to fit
• 2 evergreen wreaths, each approx 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) thick, with 35.5 to 46 cm (14- to 18-in) outside diameter and centre hole that accommodates pot and saucer
• Approx 12 branches of red huckleberry, 63.5 to 76 cm (25 to 30 in) long
• Approx 10 to 20 sprigs of holly, 63.5 to 76 cm long
• 1 m plaid wire-edged ribbon, 5 mm wide Florist's wire, wire cutters, secateurs and scissors
1. Lay wreaths flat, one on top of the other; wire together. Set saucer and pot inside centre hole.
2. From wire, cut 15 cm (6-in) length for each holly sprig. Twist each wire length around end of each sprig, then position sprigs at evenly spaced intervals around top and side of wreath and twist ends around wreath to secure. Poke huckleberry-branch ends into soil around base of poinsettia.
3. With ribbon, form big multilooped bow and wire together, then wire bow onto wreath top where desired. Wind ribbon ends in and out of greenery.
Find more quick and easy flower arrangements for special occasions here, and don't forget to sign up today for CanadianLiving.com's craft newsletter, Get Crafty!
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