Wild wrapping’ is what some of us end up doing in a panic on Christmas Eve, frantic with Sellotape and paper, but if you’re feeling creative and need an excuse to get outside somewhere that doesn’t involve shopping, why not make your own natural ribbons and bows and wrap your presents in beautiful things you’ve found in the hedgerows and the garden? Real ivy, berries and cones stay looking good for a long time once picked and are much more satisfying to use than imitations. There’s also the added benefit that once opened, the wrapping won’t clog the rubbish bin – it can go straight onto the compost heap…
What to use… Useful shop bought things to help you create:
Florist’s wire – great for winding around stems to give them extra pliability, or for fixing berries and cones into position
Glue gun – these are great for sticking fiddly seedheads and delicate stems into position. The glue is very hot, but sets quickly. Be careful when using, it’s easy to burn your fingers
Plain wrapping paper – will enhance the natural look – ordinary brown paper works well, or you could try plain tissue paper in neutral or white, or try hessian, un-dyed cotton or jute for a really rustic feel.
String – either packaging string or garden twine. Strands of raffia also make soft and wispy ribbons that complement the natural colours of foraged items.
Ribbon – a small amount of shop-bought ribbon can ‘lift’ a foraged arrangement and used carefully can make your gift wrap look as expensive as something from the florist.
Foliage… The young, flexible growth on Ivy is ideal to use instead of ribbon and the leaves last well without getting that dried look. This is the key really – finding foliage that doesn’t crisp up too quickly. Good, long lasting foliage can be found in the garden – try Pittosporum (a flower arrangers’ favourite), Bay, Viburnum tinus, young sprigs of Eucalyptus, Euonymus and Ruscus. Holly is very good for decorations, but be careful using it as part of your wrapping – it could be too prickly for unsuspecting fingers…
Seedheads and cones… It’s amazing how many dried seed pods can be made to look festive. Collect them once they’re dry, but before the weather gets to them – try Alder cones, Beech nuts, Teasel heads, Physalis, Poppy seedheads, Honesty, Echinops, Allium (schubertii and christophii are best).
Stems… the young growth on some willows and dogwoods is brightly coloured, often in festive shades of red. Small tied bundles look good and the stems are often flexible enough to bend into curving shapes and woven into wreaths
Berries… they don’t just come in red – I have a little Mountain Ash tree with pink berries, Sorbus huphensis ‘Pink Pagoda’, S. ‘Joseph Rock’ has yellow berries and S. cashmiriana has white. There’s the wonderful Spindle tree (Euonymous europaeus) that can be found in the hedgerow, which has orange berries in a pink casing. For a shocking purple berry that the birds don’t eat try Callicarpa bodinieri. Remember to compensate wildlife if you take berries and fruits to adorn your gifts.
Faded flowers and bracts… Hydrangea heads dry and last well, as do the skeletal forms of herbs like Fennel and Angelica, or hedgerow umbelifers like wild carrot and Joe-Pye weeds. The flowers of ornamental grasses can be used to good effect too.
It can be daunting at first, working out what to gather and use for your gifts, but a short walk along the hedgerow or through the woods (or just a stagger into the garden) will give you inspiration for some original wrapping ideas. Here’s to a wild Christmas!