Contrary to what advertisers will have us believe, not everyone likes making a big deal about Christmas. Having lived abroad for nearly 15 years, I now look at the UK and think it really goes over-the-top with Christmas buildup. It’s hard to avoid the commercial frenzy and excess that surrounds it. Here in Belgium it’s a quiet affair. That means: no Christmas carols blaring out of the shops, and no pressure to buy presents, as most of that has been done for St Nicholas, celebrated on 6 December, in which adults are thankfully spared having to think about what to get other adults who don’t really need anything – it’s all about the kids. There’s usually a quiet family meal on Christmas eve, and Christmas day itself is low-key, maybe another family gathering and that’s it.
But before you accuse me of being too bah-humbug about it, I do like some of the rituals around Christmas, not for religious reasons, but to mark the seasons, and to bring some winter solstice cheer to cold, short and dark days. And it doesn’t have to involve going to the shops and buying a ton of stuff! Christmas can be about creativity instead of commercialism.
This year’s wreath, made of finds from the garden (except for the pears!). I like using a contrasting colour to green, which the dried Hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ flowerheads provide. I added crab apples from Malus ‘Evereste’, ivy berries, fern leaves, trimmings from the cypress hedge, and also sage, euonymus, and a few others. My golden rule is always to place things so they follow the same direction (clockwise or anticlockwise), I think it’s more pleasing for the eye!
I also brought some Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ (red dogwood) stems in from a shrub I have growing in the garden, and took this photo about halfway through making a little display. I used crunched up newspaper to hold the stems in place in the jar, and have now added some pine cones to the base to cover it up (I was too lazy to take another photo). I love red and gold at Christmas.
Now to show you a decoration that needed no work at all, the Christmas cactus flowering right on time:
The question came up of whether we really needed a tree this year. My son convinced me that we did. I hate to waste things, so when its time is up, I will shred the needles to make a mulch for plants that like acidic conditions (Rhododendrons, Camellias, Sarcococca etc.), and I’ll cut up the trunk to make edging for a path.
Not all the presents go under the tree. These two are waiting for me outside, am very excited about the prospect of planting them both and enjoying the berries! The stems on the Japanese wineberries are wonderfully bristly and bright red, maybe they will make Christmas decorations in years to come? Prickly ones? Ouch.
Now, to end with an exciting new writing project for 2023! I’m going to start a green gardening newsletter, full of tips and inspiration for planet-friendly gardening. It will be open to everyone who reads this blog, and I hope it will be genuinely practical, useful, interesting and upbeat on the positive things we can do in our growing spaces to nurture the environment. I’ll be announcing more on that in January, so watch this space!
It remains for me to wish a Merry Christmas to all those celebrating, and a peaceful, fulfilling and cozy winter solstice season to everyone!
Six on Saturday is hosted by Jim at Garden Ruminations. Many thanks Jim!