A Good Home

Christmas Arrangements – Bad Ones

This piece from a few years ago made me grin, so as we head towards what may well be a strange Christmas season for many, I wanted to make you smile too. If you laugh at me, that’s even better!


Photos by Hamlin Grange

How hard could it be to make your own Christmas arrangement?  Looks easy enough in the magazines, and on the internet, right?

Christmas Arrangement - viaGoogle Images

It’s almost Christmas and my family is full of women who cook and bake AND do great home decor. My sister, daughters, mother-in-law,  sister-in-law, girlfriends: domestic goddesses, every one.  Some even sew and knit.

I,  meanwhile, am a failed domestic diva.  I baked a cake – once.  I failed knitting – twice.  I try – Lord knows I try – but I’m still an exceptionally underachieving cook.

But it’s Christmastime, after all. A time of great hope.

Angel and Ball

So I decided to make Christmas stuff. The kind of stuff that won’t give my family indigestion,  catch fire and burn (as the solitary cake did), or that anyone needs to wear. (That sock I tried to knit is indescribable AND a family joke.)

In the past, I used branches from the trees in my garden,  tied together with a big red ribbon – and called it a Christmas bough. Hanging on the front door, it was only seen from a distance,  or when we had visitors. Very polite visitors.

But this year, I decided to go big or  ….  no, I was already home, so let’s forget the rest of that saying.  I decided to be ambitious.  To arrange greenery in containers. One in the plant-stand outdoors, one in a container indoors. Artfully composed,  of course.

Did I mention that I failed BOTH art and photography in school?  Something to do with composition.

Christmas GreeneryChristmas Greenery – First Muddled Attempt

I collected branches of everything that grew right next to the verandah of our home. I’m under a kind of house arrest, you see  – mandated by my doctor because I overdid it with the book-related activities and also started a new medication with woozy side-effects.  I figured that as long as I went no farther than the verandah, it would still qualify as “resting at home”.

I put a double layer of plastic in the bottom of the containers, and placed the wet florist foam on it. (The foam was wet, not the florist.) Then I stuck branches of stuff into it. Spruce. Juniper. Euonymus.   Boxwood. And pine cones on sticks. I stepped back to admire my handiwork.

It needed something.  Aha! More red dogwood sticks.

Blog Photo - Chirstmas Arrangement Outdoor

It still needed something.  But I was worn out and achy and very woozy.  I wisely took to my bed.

Two days later, I felt brighter. Contrast, I thought! I need contrast!

So I fetched some “brownery” –brown-leaved branches from last Christmas, forgotten in a tall container in one corner of the verandah.  But when I cleverly tried to add them, the florist foam had frozen hard due to cold weather and the brownery crumbled, leaves falling from brittle stems.

I searched the house and found a little fake bird and some loose pine cones and judiciously placed them among the greenery.

Birdie Bird

But it still needed something. I just never  figured out what.

As for the inside container?  There was a coup de grace: garlic. Yes, garlic on stems.  Harvested from our garden this fall, it’s surprisingly decorative,  will deter vampires and spice up my cooking efforts after Christmas.

Garlic BulbGarlic Bulb

But that bit of creativity wore me out completely.  So I stuck some shiny red Christmas ornaments on branches in the container and called it a day.

Indoor Arrangement

Lord, give me strength. Clearly, you withheld the talent.


This post is dedicated to everyone who struggles with domestic arts. And to all domestic goddesses: you give me something to aspire to. Or maybe that’s ‘perspire’. This stuff is a lot of work!

40 thoughts on “Christmas Arrangements – Bad Ones”

  1. Your arrangement is so pretty!
    The beauty is that you created this, and it can’t be brought on the shops.
    So it is unique

  2. Thank you for the chuckles, Cynthia! I was having that very sort of struggle this morning. My little artificial Christmas tree refused to be prettily decorated this year. I think she is old and needs to be replaced next year. But a Charlie Brown tree is perhaps a propos for 2020. Might as well laugh!
    May you and your family have a beautiful Christmas.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cynthia for sharing your decorating struggles. I am NOT a decorating diva and struggle like you. Though I have to say your persistence definitely paid off in a very nice arrangement. I have decorated the house this year like no other mostly because I think we all need the lift of colourful lights and pretty sparkly sprigs of glitter sprinkled twigs. I’ve decided I don’t care if it looks “bad” because honestly it feels good to be doing things with my hands and once the lights are out and the twinkle lights plugged in and you’ve had a glass or two of wine, who cares? Its the effort that matters.

    1. I love those last two lines – thanks for the smile! Glad to hear someone else struggles through this. I think I will get some more twinkly lights, and then remember the glass or two of wine.

    1. Thank you! I can’t be brave indoors, though, because I have a cellar full of Christmas stuff. I keep editing, but it just seems to multiple in the months between Christmas seasons.

  4. Happy Holidays, Cynthia, I love this! I agree we all need twinkly lights and wine this season!! and some garlic in our arrangements. It really is lovely and if I get in touch with my inner southern old lady I would spray paint it gold and have cascades of gold garlic around the house. I need your help in a domestic matter, I am baffled by what to do with the Roselles in the freezer!

  5. I think you are too modest Cynthia , your arrangement is lovely and very original. I like the garlic, it is decorative and keeps vampires away, a win/ win situation.

  6. I see myself in this post! I quake at the thought of those wine & painting sessions that have become so popular. Namely because my painting takes me back to my thumby coloring in kindergarten and beyond. But I actually love your finished product! It turned out nicely:).

  7. I think you’re being hard on yourself. To me they look grand. McOther says he’s tone deaf because he failed recorder at school, but really, it’s simply because his other two brothers and his father have perfect pitch and can pick up an instrument they have never seen before and play it like a pro. McOther thinks anyone who is musical is like them and that if you’re not like them, you are not a talented musician ergo, he isn’t even though, I suspect, he could be. He has no idea that there are concert pianists, opera singers and soloists across the world who go touring, are famous and have millions of fans who can’t play a tune two handed on the piano without looking at the music first. Indeed, there are full time musicians making a perfectly good living from their music who would murder to be able to do that … and can’t …

    So what I’m saying is that, just because the others in your family are prodigiously talented, it doesn’t mean you aren’t, just that you’re normal and they’re exceptions! 🙂

  8. I love the garlic, and I think it looks great! I lack decorating skills too. Fortunately, Marcus is good at it. He made all these lovely wreaths and garlands for the house, and I asked him to put together my wedding bouquet too, because all my attempts looked awful. Even shoving a handful of fake flowers together was beyond me.

  9. Well Cynthia, we all have our strong points. And it can be both challenging and entertaining to discover what our strong points are – and aren’t. And I do agree – you’re a great writer and gardener too!!

    1. Two of of (maybe) ten ain’t bad, right Sheila? Haha! I just don’t understand why I lack the talent in the domestic arts that my relatives and friends have. I try and try.

  10. This is NOT your fault. You just used stuff from the yard that already grew there and what you happened to have around the house, right? You need to back up a step and plant the perfect greenery in the spring for a Christmas arrangement you want in December, and then purchase the perfect inserts for color, composition and creative touches. That’s surely what Martha Stewart and all her wannabes do!! 😉

  11. I did laugh, but not at you. I did three hanging containers for outside this week. I used pine and winterberries from my yard and drove to a garden I maintain and snipped a few other branches that were sticking out but were perfect for what I needed. The smallest hanger I could put on a hook, see all sides, and it came out pretty well. The two larger ones I had to set on a counter and work on them, and they really got me laughing when I hung them up. They’re plain green and red, but boy are they unbalanced. Oh well, we tried. 🙂

  12. Cynthia, you are waaayyyy too hard on yourself! These look lovely! Really! You may have convinced me to be careful if I come visit and you bake a cake, but you won’t convince me that you can’t do a floral arrangement. Thanks for the great writing – had me laughing.

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