This handsome outdoor arrangement will bring enjoyment throughout the coldest months. Though it looks luxurious and richly textured, it's surprisingly easy to replicate. The main element is a 90-centimetre-tall, potted blue spruce, which has been placed in a large, frost-resistant, fibreglass container and decorated with boughs, branches, leaves and cones. (If you already have a potted dwarf conifer, simply decorate it as described. Alternatively, substitute a small, freshly cut, well-anchored Christmas tree for the spruce.)
- One potted blue spruce (such as Picea pungens ‘Compacta', ‘Corbet', ‘Bakeri', ‘Fat Albert' or ‘R.H. Montgomery'), about 90 centimetres tall
- Silver fir (Abies alba) boughs
- Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) stems with leaves
- Variegated Oregon boxwood (Paxistima myrtifolia) or Variegated boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata') branches
- Large, staked pine cones
- Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) boughs
You'll also need:
- Large, frost-resistant container
- Pruning shears or secateurs
- 22-gauge florist's wire and cutter
- Gardening gloves
- Anti-transpirant spray for cut branches (do not use on potted blue spruce)
Step one: Position potted spruce in a large, frost-resistant container with drainage holes. Insert a generous assortment of boughs and branches around the tree's base as shown, pushing them well into the soil (do not cut them too short or they will dry out). Cascade a few more over the rim of the container to hide its edges.
Step two: Using florist's wire, bind together two pieces of variegated boxwood, one staked pine cone and a large magnolia stem. Create as many of these clusters as you like, positioning them as desired among the upper boughs of the spruce. Affix clusters with additional wire.
Step three: Water pot well and keep soil moist until freeze-up; the spruce may overwinter in warmer arts of the country. For extra insurance, water during any late-winter thaws and, when possible, heap some snow around the spruce to keep it from drying out.
Quick tip: To prolong the freshness of boughs and branches, recut bottoms of all stems and let stand in water overnight. Spray with an anti-transpirant product before arranging.