By Emily Malloy
There is a particular joy to be found in decorating our homes during December in preparation for Christmas and the Christmas Season. As I write in Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons,
"The Church has consistently celebrated Christ's birth since the fourth century. During those years, Christmas decorations have changed, but tiny threads of continuity have been maintained overtime.... Some of these ancient traditions exist in the modern home. One is decorating the house with freshly cut greens in the form of garlands, dried oranges, wreaths, swags, and Christmas trees. Memory and smell are firmly linked, and for many, the smell of freshly cut evergreen is synonymous with Christmas. The Christmas tree is the main feature of yuletide home decor, but the other festive touches of evergreens also communicate the season's celebration of enduring joy by way of their symbolic permanence of green."
I love the simplicity of greens tucked throughout the home as well as the fragrance they emit. There is a comfort found in the visuals of a fireplace mantle decked out in greenery; few things rival that sight and smell. A simple traipse outdoors will likely provide everything needed to decorate the home with evergreens.
The most common way to decorate the mantle with greens is by placing a garland. A more robust way of filling the mantle has grown in popularity, and it involves chicken wire and the simple tucking in of sprigs of greens. Arranging the mantle in this way facilitates a full, natural look.
During the period of Advent, I love to maximize the structural feel and take advantage of the unique branches found outside. As Christmas arrives, I swap out these more architectural pieces for red berried branches to make a festive design.
Creating this type of design is very straight-forward, fortunately the chicken wire does all of the work.
Below is a video showing the process decorating my own mantle. I used a mixture of white pine, juniper, crab apple, and crepe myrtle branches:
First, you compile clippings. After cutting your greens, give them a drink water by placing them in a filled sink or bucket for an hour or so.
While the branches hydrate, cut chicken wire (I recommend using wire cutters) to fit the length of the mantle. Make small snips along the long edge of the wire and use it to twist onto the other edge to create a log. Using floral tape, secure the chicken wire log onto the mantle (feel free to use a lot of tape throughout the length of the space).
If you have snipped a variety of clippings, begin by using 6" to 8" lengths (a lot of clippings can be separated into two or three bits to use) of the thickest evergreens to fill out the space. Layer and become creative: the chicken wire allows for beautiful vertical additions. I like saving architectural branches for last, as the weaving of clippings throughout the wire help to better hold them upright.
Feel free to finish the design with statutes, candles (I love using LED tapers), or any additions. The beauty of chicken wire is that it can also serve as a candlestick holder!
Tip: to increase the longevity of your mantle arrangement, spritz the greens daily with a spray bottle filled with water.