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Home&Garden San Francisco Chronicle and | Sunday, November 20, 2011 | Section M


Photos by Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers / Special to The Chronicle

Festive foliage, California style

Branch out this holiday season with unusual arrangements that add local color By Chantal Lamers S P ECI AL TO THE CHRONICLE

Autumn’s bounty has more to offer than the usual fare of pine, berries and mistletoe. Just in time for entertaining, San Francisco garden and floral shop Flora Grubb Gardens shares three projects that part from the predictable woodsy arrangements and meld everyday favorites with late fall’s untapped spoils. The results: holiday decor that looks wild, graphic and sculptural. “I only use California-grown plants, and I’m especially drawn to plants that thrive in our climate and our environment,” says Susie Nadler, floral designer for the Cutting Garden at Flora Grubb Gardens. “So I

Designers Flora Grubb and Susie Nadler, right, demonstrate how to make three elegant decorations, including a holiday door bough, above.

Illuminated by a string of lights, tillandsias look like tiny fireworks. For project instructions, see page M8

end up using plants that I see in our Bay Area gardens and parks. The idea here was to take those plants and incorporate them into holiday projects. It’s a twist on the traditional evergreen, using plants that define what winter looks like in the Bay Area.” The festive-foliage projects range from quick and easy to advanced. All of the plants, blooms and materials can be purchased at Flora Grubb Gardens, at the San Francisco Flower Mart during public hours, or at craft and garden shops. Or forage in your own backyard for cut greenery, felled branches, twigs and tendrils to create your own twist on these do-it-yourself ideas. E-mail comments to

Free craft classes Throughout Thanksgiving weekend, experts at Flora Grubb Gardens will demonstrate how to make holiday arrangements with succulents, tillandsia and more. Classes are free. 1634 Jerrold Ave., San Francisco. (415) 648-2670. Fun With Tillandsia Air Plants: Zenaida Sengo, Flora Grubb Gardens’ tillandsia air plants expert, will demonstrate how to use these exotic beauties to create gifts for the holidays including living sculptures, vertical gardens and miniature living worlds at 11 a.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Nov. 26. Succulent Craft: Flora Grubb Gardens’ design specialist Patrick Lannan will demonstrate the many ways to use succulents in decoration, from gifts like dish gardens and everlasting bouquets to terrariums and centerpieces. 11 a.m. Nov. 27.

M8 | Sunday, November 20, 2011 | San Francisco Chronicle and

FROM THE COVER Tillandsia holiday light string Beginner The spiky green leaves of these tiny air plants are the perfect juxtaposition to the warm glow of twinkling holiday lights. When the season is over, remove the air plants (which make ideal houseplants) and soak in water to revive. Shopping list Green or white light string with white bulbs Wire cutters Bind wire (covered floral wire) or paddle wire About a dozen tillandsias (a type of air plant) in different varieties Instructions: Hold stem of plant against base of bulb. Thread wire through the lower leaves of the plant. Pinch wire and twist closed. Trim ends of wire. Unplug light string once a week, mist plants and let dry.

Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers / Special to The Chronicle

Local foliage can brighten season Holiday door bough Advanced This gathering of greenery is a festive update on the customary door wreath. The laciness of the fern, weight of the acacia and fullness of the berries creates winter beauty to greet guests. This bough is meant to last only about four days, but hung outdoors, the cool weather and an occasional mist will help keep it fresh for the soiree.

Shopping list Bind wire (covered floral wire) or paddle wire Rubber bands Gardening shears Gloves Three orchid tubes Plants used for base: Tillandsia xerographica (or any large tillandsia), California pepper and asparagus plumosa, also known as asparagus fern Plants used to fill in base: Eucalyptus and acacia. Plants used in tubes: Antique hydrangea, leucadendron and arbutus. Instructions: Gather about eight stems of plumosa and three branches of California pepper. Arrange and bind at top with rubber band. Hold the base of the xerographica against the gathered branches at the top and attach with floral wire, gently threading the wire through the lower leaves at both the top and bottom of the plant.

Everlasting succulent centerpiece Intermediate Craft the succulent base for this enduring arrangement at the start of the season and refresh with fresh-cut foliage and flowers. As the succulents start to wilt in January, replant them in the yard or in containers.

Cut antique hydrangea, leucadendron and arbutus to size. Pour water into orchid cylinders and place a branch of each variety into the tube. Start to fill in the base with various lengths of eucalyptus, arbutus, acacia and tall grass, affixing with rubber bands or wire as needed. Check for balance of color, and occasionally pick up the bough and look for holes. Lay the arrangement down and place orchid tubes, hiding the tubes among the foliage. Twist floral wire around the stems just above the cap of the tube and wrap around the nearest branch, twisting to tighten. Fill in remaining holes with plants and flowers. Hang and mist with water to keep fresh.

Shopping list Garden shears Gloves 16- to 18-gauge wire Floral tape Floral foam Vase Bucket with water Reindeer moss About a dozen 2- to 4-inch rosette-shaped echeveria succulents, depending on desired size of centerpiece. Variety of cut flowers and branches. Those seen here include California pepper, arbutus, acacia, eucalyptus, antique hydrangea, leucadendron and pomegranate.

Instructions: Drop floral foam in water (don’t submerge) and cut foam to fit vase. Place foam in vase. Remove the soil, blemished leaves and most of the roots from succulents, leaving the bare stems. Dip in water to remove dirt and let air-dry. Push wire into remaining stem. Starting from the stem, wind the florist tape from the top down the wire, turning the stem of the plant and moving the other hand downward,

pulling the tape taut as you go. Arrange the succulents around the floral foam. Fill in with cut branches and flowers, placing larger focal pieces first. Fill holes with little clumps of reindeer moss to disguise floral foam. Keep fresh by watering every other day. Avoid pouring water directly onto the foam. Succulents will keep throughout the season. Replace flowers and foliage as necessary.

Fall DIY with Flora Grubb  

Fall DIY with Flora Grubb in the San Francisco Chronicle's Home & Garden section.