THE custom of partying in December can be traced back to Roman times, when Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and plenty, was celebrated with lavish amounts of food and drink.

Although December celebrations have evolved over the centuries, the fruits of nature have remained a fundamental staple throughout, providing nourishment and happiness in the darkest days of winter.

There remains something very special about bringing nature indoors at this time of year and this month we’re giving you some ideas about how you might use nature’s gifts to decorate your home.

Conifer cones

The cones produced by conifers have to be one of the loveliest and most versatile decorations that nature provides. We’re fortunate in East Lothian to have many wonderful walks where we can collect cones from the woodland floor – great exercise and free decorations, it has to be a win all round!

To bring the rich, natural tones of the cones to life, simply spray on a little clear varnish (or oil provided they’re not near a naked flame!). Or you could create a different look by spraying the cones with gold, silver or even snow. Then simply attach a ribbon or florist’s wire to the cones and hang them on your Christmas tree.

One of our favourite ideas for cones is to put some in a bowl with some battery-operated LED lights randomly placed through them (be sure to use LED lights as they don’t get hot). You can even add a few drops of a natural essence for seasonal fragrance and perhaps some colour with berries from the garden.

Boughs of holly (and other foliage)

Bringing greenery indoors in winter months has been a tradition throughout the centuries, using the foliage to decorate walls, pictures, the hearth or mantlepiece, in a vase or on the dining table.

Holly, with its glossy leaves, is always popular and looks even better when mixed with different types of conifer and eucalyptus, both of which add a lovely scent to the room.

Twigs and branches

If you don’t happen to have a lot of evergreen foliage, don’t worry – even branches without leaves can look attractive!

Use them in their natural state, paint them or even cover them with tinfoil for a silvery look. Decorate them using baubles, sweets wrapped in foil or pretty tissue or battery-operated lights – you could even ask the children to create their own decorations for this special tree.

Of course, time permitting, you could leave the branches on the trees and shrubs and simply decorate them in the garden – that’s sure to cheer up your neighbours and passers-by!

Festive wreaths and garlands

Christmas wreaths seem to become more attractive with every passing year as people experiment with different ideas.

Favourites for us amongst natural materials are sprigs of rosemary for fragrance, elegant ferns for texture and dried hydrangea heads for colour and interest.

Eucalyptus adds fragrance and a blue/grey colour, whilst ivy – particularly if it has flower/seed heads – can also be an interesting addition.

Perhaps you’ve not yet cut back your herbaceous plants and there’s interesting flower or seed heads that could be used?

One of the most unusual ideas we’ve seen this year was the use of Pampas grass and it produced a surprisingly stunning effect.

As we keep saying, there’s no right or wrong, when nature harmonises effortlessly for us and it’s simply a case of choosing what YOU want to include!

So have a go, experiment with what you have in the garden and/or can forage, and we’re sure you’ll create an attractive wreath or garland.

If it’s your first attempt at making your own wreath, we suggest you use an Oasis-type ring where you can add each piece individually. If you’re using a metal ring as the base, start by putting together bunches of mixed foliage and then bind the bunches onto the ring, making sure that each bunch overlaps the stems of the bunch underneath.

Hang your wreaths or garlands outdoors or indoors and keep them looking fresh by spritzing with water so they don’t dry out too quickly – after all, they have been used to an outdoor life so it might be a shock to encounter a sheltered porch or central heating.

And the beauty of all these ideas is that they are virtually free – the main cost is your imagination and time. For anyone who loves their garden, there’s just so much that you can do to bring nature indoors and enjoy on these grey, wintery days.

Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas for your Christmas decor that you can enjoy over the festive season, and don’t forget that our plant team are always happy to help if you have any questions.

We’d like wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful year in 2024, from us all at Team Merryhatton.