Nothing says Christmas quite like a mantelpiece laden with foliage. Also found wrapped around a banister or hung across a doorway, the Christmas garland has a long history with symbolic religious ties and it remains a cornerstone of our iconic festive decor.
‘Introducing a garland to your Christmas decor is a great way to bring even more festive foliage into the home and give your decorations a cohesive, well-thought-out look,’ says luxury florist, Ronny Colbie. Draped over your mantel they become the centerpiece of your living room to compliments your Christmas tree.
But while most Christmas decorating ideas are relatively simple to style, there’s a lot that can go wrong when it comes to decorating a fireplace mantel with luscious green foliage. Firstly, there’s practicality to consider; if you use your fire, you’ll want to make your garland is safe and secure. There are also tricky challenges when it comes to arranging your foliage if you want to achieve that full, striking appearance.
Whether you’re a traditional Christmas conformist or after a more subtly Scandi festive vibe, we’ve rustled up some words of advice from our favorite expert florists who are here to help you execute the look.
Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She’s committed to sharing articles that help readers embrace emerging trends and keep up-to-date with changing styles to keep in tune with the seasons. For this piece, she spoke with leading florists to learn how to make a beautiful Christmas garland that’s fit for your fireplace mantel.
How to make the perfect Christmas garland for your mantel
1. Choose seasonal foliage
For a truly authentic Christmas garland, the key is to stick to seasonal foliage. While blue spruce pine foliage usually accounts for most of the greenery, think outside the box and go foraging for flowers and plants that are seasonal to you climate.
‘When designing a Christmas garland I like to use long-lasting seasonal foliage such as scented pine, ivy and holly,’ says Lauren Eastwood, Head Florist at Wild at Heart (opens in new tab), Liberty. ‘Where possible I will add catkins and lichen-covered branches, and if I’m lucky and have a wide mantle to design, I’ll add bushy foliage and play with the height using anything from branches to feathers, dried flowers, and grasses.’
If you want to introduce bolder hues to your fireplace design, consider using flowers to add a pop of color. ‘If a traditional red and gold theme resonates, wintery red hydrangea adds both opulence and warmth, and pairs perfectly with burnt beech and fresh pine which can be sourced locally or foraged in the garden,’ explains Ronny Colbie (opens in new tab).
Don’t forget to include a range of textures, either. Ronny advises a range of everlasting fillers. ‘Use materials like pampas grass and pine cones amongst the fresh foliage that will dry gorgeously by the fire to be enjoyed throughout the Christmas season,’ he says.
2. Take inspiration from your room’s surrounding decor
‘Styling your home with gorgeous mantelpiece garlands should compliment your interiors yet remain in keeping with festive tradition,’ says Ronny. For a cohesive Christmas fireplace that fits naturally with your own interior design style, take inspiration from your room when styling your garland.
‘Once I’ve designed the base layer I look at the room and accessorize,’ says Lauren. ‘This might be with red ilex berries, holly berries, rose hips, green dried lime or orange slices and velvet ribbons.’ If you’re a sucker for a neutral color scheme, try strings of lights, soft cream bows and pine cones.
‘If you want to match your garland to your Christmas tree you can add Christmas decorations,’ Ronny suggests. Entwine bells, baubles and other ornaments into your foliage for a more playful look that mirrors your tree. ‘If using lights, I like to use copper wire lights that are battery powered and look softer than plastic lights,’ he adds. We think these LED copper wire lights from Amazon (opens in new tab) are a good choice.
3. Don’t forget fragrance
When it comes to mantel decor, one element we commonly overlook is fragrance. Pine greenery naturally has a beautiful earthy scent, but there’s no reason why you can’t introduce less traditional scented foliage either.
‘If fragrance is of the utmost importance to you, I’d select a combination of aromatic evergreens for your garland,’ suggests Ronny. ‘A mix of pine, cedar, eucalyptus, balsam, and juniper will result in a wintry scent.’
You could also add sprigs of dried lavender, as used in the example above, rosemary, or sticks of cinnamon. While wintery scents are customary, there are really no limitations when it comes to adding fragranced foliage. Generally dried flowers are your best bet if you want to keep the scent for longer.
4. Less is more with a narrow mantel
If you have an especially small or narrow mantelpiece, you might think festooning it with a garland is out of the question. However, there’s no reason why you can’t embrace this festive trend in your home, Ronny just emphasizes the mantra, ‘less is more’.
‘Don’t have too many mixes of florals as this will create an overly busy garland design and take up room on a mantel,’ he says. ‘It’s best to keep to a few different pines, berries and flowers, but plenty of them. Using locally sourced foliage and decoration will always create a refined look.’
While you might be more limited with your options, a simple Christmas mantelpiece idea can add a delicate look to your fireplace that might be more in keeping with your minimalist Christmas decor. ‘You can create a stunning garland on a narrow mantelpiece,’ says Lauren. ‘The design principles are the same, you just have to be more selective with what you choose to decorate it. Using dried grasses and ilex berries creates height and adds a statement without needing much width. ‘
5. Attaching the garland to your mantel
All those styling tips are all well and good, but how do you actually fix a garland to your mantel?
Since your garland is structured around wire or rope, it’s a good idea to tuck it into some circle hooks on your wall at the back of your mantelpiece. ‘To keep the garland in place I use a thick cord,’ says Lauren. ‘If you have existing hooks or nails already in place, you can use them to hold the garland in place but it’s not always essential.’
If your garland is long and weighty enough, and your mantel shelf wide enough, you can get away with simply draping the garland over it. ‘To create length it’s a good idea to allow half a meter of cord for each side of the mantlepiece to ensure the garland doesn’t fall off,’ adds Lauren.
6. Do I need to water a Christmas garland?
Since you’re dealing with natural materials, a watering regime might cross your mind. In most cases, this won’t be necessary because your garland is only up for such a short period, but if you’ve used lots of fresh flowers or foliage you might want to mist them to keep them looking fresh.
‘Spritz all over with water so the cut stems can have a drink,’ says Ronny. ‘This will retain fragrance and extend its life.’ You’ll want to do this more regularly if you light up your fireplace. ‘Once the garland is in situ you can weave fresh foliage throughout to refresh it,’ Lauren adds.
To cut out the need for watering completely, it’s best to use dried flowers. These are the best option if you use your fire.