CHRISTMAS FLOWER ARRANGING TECHNIQUES

It is important to remember, particularly when planning flowers which are to stand in the chancel of a church, that the colours of the altar hangings vary according to the different seasons and festivals. White is used at Trinity, Christmas and other feasts of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Corpus Christi and feasts of virgins and confessors-, red at Whitsuntide and for apostles and martyrs; green between Epiphany and Septuagesima and between Trinity Sunday and Advent; purple in Lent and Advent; and black on Good Friday and at masses and offices for the dead.

Most churches are without flowers during Advent, which therefore gives the flower guild plenty of time to prepare for Christmas, a festival to which everyone looks forward eagerly. This is a time, moreover, when it may well be possible to enlist help from outside the guild.

The style of decoration at Christmas should fit the character of the building. Old churches, particularly in the country, lend themselves to the traditional evergreens, including holly, and Christmas trees. Evergreens can be used in many ways. Garlands of holly, both plain and variegated, can be lightened by including in them bunches of honesty and loops of scarlet ribbon: see colour plate 4. These are charming in any kind of church. Holly balls can be made in the same way as flower balls and may also include red ribbon. They look enchanting hung in arches or from ceilings or lights.

Wall plaques are easily made, whether one uses evergreens alone or mixed with spray chrysanthemums or scarlet carnations. If the building is large enough, a pedestal group is a great addition at Christmas time. If the church is a simple one, use plain or variegated holly for the background with branches whitened to resemble snow (I simply paint on white plastic paint.) Include honesty — this is more effective if it is well lit by a spot light — fir cones attached to stub wires, and, if the church can afford them, a few sprays of white chrysanthemums.

If the church which you are decorating is more sophisticated in style and includes gold colouring, a group in keeping with the background is appropriate. Aerosols of gold paint — readily available at Christmas — colour material well. Put down a dust sheet and collect onto it branches, fir cones, and dried material including seed heads of poppy and delphinium and spray them with gold. Collect other material like honesty, variegated holly, ivies and some golden spray chrysanthemums and create a large golden group. I do not, however, feel that a group of this kind is right in a small village church.

Another way of making a Christmas pedestal arrangement is to use evergreens with scarlet carnations and red poinsettias taken out of their pots and tied into polythene bags and used as flowers. Three pots will be enough for most arrangements. If it is a huge arrangement, the poinsettias can be lashed onto strong sticks to give them height.

I am unashamedly sentimental and feel that Christmas trees are an essential part of Christmas decorations. A large one near the chancel is a lovely welcoming sight. If possible, try to keep the decorations to one colour scheme. If red and green are predominant, use them on the tree. The effect of the golden pedestal group described above would be enhanced by a tree decorated in gold and silver.

In a country church small Christmas trees on the window cills are simple and pretty. Some churches have a custom at Christmas (and also at Easter) of inviting members of the congregation to give a single lily in memory of some departed one. Longiflorutn lilies are available at Christmas and look beautiful in Christmas groups. If some of these can be acquired, a pedestal at the altar arranged with lilies, spray chrysanthemums, honesty and some green is a great joy. If the church is one which has flowers on the altar, lilies and carnations are suitable because they both look and last well.

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