Getting back to nature with Yoko

I can’t remember ever being in the mood this early in the year before, but something has happened to get my decorating juices flowing: the “Homes for the Holidays” charity house tour. The tour supports Ottawa’s Hospice at May Court and it let me and my mom and sister — plus 2,497 other decor enthusiasts —  nose around six outstanding, seasonally decorated homes in the Nation’s Capital. I’m sure the others are just as anxious as we three are to deck our own halls at home.

The most striking residence in our view was that of the Irish Ambassador, which recently benefitted from a 7.5 million dollar (rather controversial) renovation. Among other features, the home boasts nine spectacular chandeliers dripping Waterford crystal!

Echo Drive, Fresh Flower and Gift Basket Company. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

What stood out most, though, in all six beautiful homes, were the magnificent floral arrangements, something I am now hoping to recreate.  Somehow the florists managed to artistically combine birch bark, pine cones, and twigs with beautiful flowers, including orchids, green spider mums and my new favourite — Yoko Ono mums.  The challenge now is to extend my flower arranging attempts to, well,  dead things. These will be true examples of “nature morte” — French for “still life”.

Dave and I are fortunate to have country property to provide us with materials for this year’s Holiday Decorating Project. On the weekend we loaded the backseat of the car with Birch branches and bark, boughs of Eastern Hemlock and cedar, bright red Winterberry (Ilex) and Sumac branches, and armfuls of gigantic, puffy, common reed (Phragmites australis). I’ve also incorporated Hydrangea and Iris pods from the garden into my amateur creations.

Photo by Leah Walker

With the table heaped with chunks of Birch bark, conifer branches and twigs, our dining room looks like Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit.

I have had good success with our bounty, with one notable exception. The common reed, propped up in the corner of the living room, looked like the sad mop in the Swiffer commercial  — not exactly the look we were after.  The reed tops are now carefully wrapped in a yard waste bag so no seeds terrorize the neighbourhood.

Thanks to inspiration from the house tour, I can guarantee there will be no inflated Santas, reindeer or plastic garland chez nous this year.  I can’t justify tossing out our fake tree, though. It will have to stay — at least until I haul home an impressive, nicely proportioned, branch.

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