Deck the halls with boughs of holly... You know the tune! I am one of life’s Christmas-lovers. From the first jingle of sleigh bells sometime in November, through to eating my body weight in chocolates by New Year, I will joyfully enthuse about every angel-wing-flutter and party hat.
I suspect it comes from my childhood; my Mum is a huge fan of novelty Christmas bling and over the years our house has been crammed full of everything from poundshop foil ceiling decs, to Douglas the talking fir and an entire light-up village complete with cottonwool snow and its own power supply.
While our approach may be different – I’m more of a one-large-tree-and-a-fireplace-swag kinda gal – the joy I experience when a poinsettia is sitting in my window, my decorations are up, and the cinnamon candles are burning, is exactly the same.
One of my all-time favourite decorations is a Christmas wreath, and with workshops my new hobby of choice – this year's have included wooden spoon carving at Violet Studios, a yoga retreat, clutch bag making with Isolated Heroes and a cook-school experience with Indian Cook School – it was only a matter of time before I was signed up and daydreaming about pinecone clusters and velvet bows.
Scone Palace’s Wreath Making Workshops are run in partnership with Fiona Wallace of Bramble and Thyme Flowers. Fiona spends the majority of her year creating beautiful, bespoke flowers for weddings and events but come November she is a one woman Wreath Making instructor – and oh my, is she fantastic at it!?
I was booked in for the afternoon slot, so took full advantage of the Palace’s winter opening hours and arrived early for lunch at their café. There is something really quite magical about Scone Palace at Christmas; it was an overcast day, but the domineering presence of the Palace surrounded by twinkling trees and willow-woven stags cast a warm, festive glow around the grounds.
There is something really quite magical about Scone Palace at Christmas.
The workshop was held in the copper-pot lined Servant’s Kitchen, and the scent of fresh pine, eucalyptus, and forest floors wound its way up the corridor to meet us.
Eight neatly presented stations awaited, each one boasting a bucket of greenery, small crate of moss and wire base-ring. Behind us, a large table stretched out with baskets of holly, large and small feathers, glass jars of dried fruits, pine cones, golden grasses, and rows of velvet ribbon in an assortment of colours.
“Come in, come in.” Fiona beckoned, her warm, friendly greeting ushering us towards endless hot drinks, homemade shortbread and mini mince pies. Interestingly, at least three of my fellow wreath-makers were back for their second and third year at this very workshop.
Fiona is relatively new to the world of professional flower arranging but it is clear from her enthusiasm and passion that this has been a calling rather than a job. She patiently explained each stage of the process, with all eight of us gathered round for the demonstrations and plenty of personal encouragement and assistance in-between to help us realise our own designs.
At least three of my fellow wreath-makers were back for the second or third year at this very workshop.
Fiona teaches the ‘moss & wire’ method, which offers a traditional alternative to the eco-polluting oasis that tend to be foam based and non-biodegradable. It means things are far more messy, but like gardening, there was something hugely satisfying about getting your hands properly dirty. And so it was that muck from the moss covered my pristine Christmas nails and earwigs scuttled across the tablecloth as progress was made.
I was slow to start, unsure how thick to make my mossy padding, but a nod from Fiona to keep going soon saw my base ring complete and ready for the sprigs. This is where individual choice and design began to shine through, with various lengths of fir, eucalyptus and leylandii being snipped and wired into bunches, ready to be placed around bases.
Slowly the wreaths took shape; some were big bold designs full of flowing leylandii a large sprigs of fir; others were tamer, tighter, with neat, clipped edges and the small berries of tree ivy adding a dash of pale colour. As we worked, that wonderful sense of camaraderie built, with strangers complimenting one another’s designs and the sharing of ideas for shrubs and sprigs being passed around the table.
Eight truly unique designs emerged, with brightly tied bows adding a pop of festive colour to the greenery.Back to the front for one more demo and a plethora of tricks and tips for decorating and adding colour. Soon enough the room was abuzz with slow murmurs and sideways glances as neighbouring wreaths built into stunning decorations. Feathery grasses and grassy feathers brought an extra layer of whimsy to green, while golden nigella seeds and silver-sprayed cones offered up a majestic tone that was perfectly suited to our noble surroundings.
Seeing how other people interpret a brief is one of my favourite parts of any craft workshop. Eight truly unique designs emerged, with brightly tied bows adding a pop of festive colour to the greenery.
Final flourishes ensued; “is it too much?” becoming the catchphrase of the hour!
My own wreath has a rustic vibe, with unsprayed pine cones and apple slices gathered into little clusters amid holly leaves and tree ivy - a simple hessian bow completed the earthy, natural tone.
And then right at the end, upon holding it up to admire my handiwork, I could hear my mum’s voice whispering sweet-Christmas-excess to me. Back to the table I went for a sprig or three of golden nigella, some glistening grass and a long length of red satin ribbon to sit atop my hessian.
As hanging attachments were added, Fiona ran round snapping pics and enthusing wildly at everyone’s efforts. Her sincerity and compliments were the perfect finish to the day, adding to the festive atmosphere and that glorious sense of achievement that builds when a group of strangers creates something rather wonderful.
And yes, my Mum was suitably impressed!
Scone Palace Wreath Making Workshops are over for 2019, however you can sign up to the Scone Palace newsletter to be kept in the loop for future events with Bramble and Thyme.
Scone Palace prepares to open its doors to the public to see its stunning stately rooms in all their festive splendour.
December 10th Tuesday 2019
Stagecoach has announced plans to offer free travel on Perth bus services until noon, every weekend in December until Christmas.
November 11th Monday 2019