Haul Out the Holly

Haul Out the HollyOur Experts Share Tips on Making Your Holidays Jolly By Lis King

If green and red are the first colors you think of when you contemplate decorating the house this holiday season, you’re spot on. After years of oh-so-subdued monochromatic schemes, exuberant traditionalism is back, say floral designers.

“As early as September, we began getting holiday orders for fresh evergreen wreaths, garlands and trees,” says Raphael Segno, owner of Destin Floral Designs. “One homeowner requested us to install his 20-foot tree and decorate the top, but leave the rest of the tree for his children to trim. He said that’s what he did in his childhood, and he wanted this experience for his kids, too.”

Segno is seeing a lot of interest in old-fashioned Santa and snowman decorations. And colored lights are beginning to give the all-white lights serious competition. Segno calls it comfort decorating.

“It’s something we really need this season after an oil spill on top of a tough economy,” he says.

Is Segno a traditionalist himself?

“You bet,” he says. “My daughter and I decorate our tree together, and we tour Destin’s Candy Cane Lane, where every house is decorated to the hilt.”

Keepsakes Count

Rick Salvaggio, vice president of Teleflora, agrees that traditionalism will drive holiday trends.

“In uncertain times, we need the connections with the past and family more than ever,” he says. “So we return to red and green, along with memorabilia and favorite collectibles.

“So by all means, bring out your collection of vintage pottery, Fiesta, Majolica or whatever, and use them for Christmas floral arrangements, nuts, candy canes and such,” Salvaggio says. “And bring that Lenox bowl you inherited from your grandmother to your florist and he’ll create an arrangement that’ll make it look its best.”

The Michael’s crafts and decorating stores in Destin and Panama City are enthusiastic about keepsakes, too. They offer Christmas ornaments with heirloom looks, such as Victorian confections of lace and glitter, woodland designs with cones and pods, baroque interpretations of Old World decorations, and, of course, classics such as Santas, reindeer and sleighs. With a nod to coastal decorating, the stores also offer seashells.

“People add glitter to them and use them as holiday ornaments,” says Mary Beck, floral design director.

Tree ornaments are highly collectible, according to floral designer John Klingel, director of the South Florida Center for Floral Studies and author of “The Frugal Florist,” a book about inexpensive floral decors. He always brings interesting ones from his trips and thinks they make wonderful gifts.

“After Christmas dinner, it’s nice to give guests a beautiful ornament to take home,” he says.

New Reds and Greens

While all predictions have it that this will be a red and green season, florists are quick to point out that many of the current versions and combinations are a far cry from your childhood Christmas colors.

Mint is one of the new greens, and when home guru Martha Stewart paints her picket fence that color, you know this is an “in” hue. But it’s just one of a long line of new greens. They range from forest and grass to sage and chartreuse, and florists urge you to try out different colors and textures in your holiday arrangements.

For example, varying textures such as Ming fern, cedar, long-needled pine and arborvitae are beautiful with twigs, cones, pods and deep-red berries. This is a natural look, very comforting and welcoming for the holidays, says the Society of American Florists, a national association that keeps flower shops in tune with consumer trends. Some florists like greens so much that they create arrangements of all greenery and perhaps mix in some herbs, according to the society.

You’ll find different reds, too, at florist shops this season. They go way beyond the royal reds we associate with the potted poinsettias at Grandma’s house. And by the way, even the poinsettias have changed their colors, says Jennifer Nelis of the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association. These days, they come in pinks, white and cream, and even peppermint stripes. Popular red holiday flowers include amaryllis and Christmas cactus, but now that flowers are imported from around the world, don’t be surprised to see other red flowers, including gladiolus, roses and tulips, find their way into holiday arrangements.

The experts at the Society of American Florists think you ought to try red and burgundy flowers together. This creates a warm, sophisticated look, they say. They also like deep pink shades combined with orangey-red for Christmas bouquets, and Nelis says that hot pink flowers — reminiscent of the flamingo, don’t you know — are a great counterpoint to the new lime-green flowers.

“It’s an edgy look,” she says, “and very Florida.”

Lime-green flowers include hydrangeas, carnations and roses.

“I call them Deco greens,” says Vivian Sorrells, owner of Flowers by Vivian in Niceville. “They’re different, to be sure, but very glamorous-looking.”

Add Glitz

Glitter is especially important this season, says Russ Barley, executive secretary of the Emerald Coast Floral Association and owner of Emerald Coast Flowers & Gifts in Santa Rosa Beach.

“The trend is to recycle what we have in our families and refresh it with a touch of glitz, something glittery, like gold, silver or platinum to spruce up the old,” he explains. “We’ll be seeing many ribbons, for instance, with snowmen, dots and glitter, and red and green plaid reappears with some metallic woven in. You’ll also see arrangements given glamour with garlands or teardrops of crystals.”

Iridescent touches and copper accents are the way Sorrells adds glamour to floral arrangements.

The Society of American Florists, too, likes glitz for Christmas this year. Their experts like any shade of red — separate or together — accented with gold or bronze, and with ivory, mellow gold or cream, they recommend pearl garlands and jewels. This creates an utterly romantic look, they say.

Crafty Looks

Dried flowers connect well with the green movement, so they’re back in fashion, but now show up with pine cones, pods, mosses, lichens and crafts elements, such as craft paper, artistic wood pieces, beading and handcrafts from around the world.

Florists call this a trend that’s excellent for Florida’s climate, and you can up the “wow” factor by adding fresh flowers and greens like dahlia, iris, rose, parrot tulip and kangaroo paw. Remember that the stems of fresh flowers and greens should be inserted in floral picks. Exotic fruit are also good accents.

Not surprisingly, Michael’s stores are seeing considerable interest in this trend.

“We are, after all, a crafters’ place,” says floral design director Beck, “and this is a great look, especially for Thanksgiving.”

Sometimes dried flowers, cones and pods are spray-painted with gold, silver or copper and become lush additions to wreaths, Christmas trees and table arrangements. Dried hydrangeas, roses, yarrow and baby’s breath are among the great choices for spray-painting. Small bouquets of dried flowers also make lovely tree decorations.

Tree Trends

How about decorating a palm tree for Christmas? Nelis, of the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association, tells that she has actually attended parties with palms standing in for Christmas trees. Personally, she prefers a traditional tree, though, saying that while fresh pines and firs are imported from Northern states, the locally grown Norfolk Island pine is making inroads at Florida holiday celebrations.

For the Florida climate, “Frugal Florist” author Klingel feels a permanent tree is best.

“Then you can put it up earlier and there’s no urgency to take it down,” he explains. “A fresh tree just doesn’t last long enough.” He loves decorating trees with flowers, especially roses, which are kept fresh via water tubes.

The Society of American Florists says that 4-feet-tall Christmas trees are hot. Even hotter are three small trees grouped together, they advise. Decorate all three or just the tallest one.

Welcoming Wreaths

Nothing says “home for the holidays” like a Christmas wreath, agree florists, but this season, consider one of the newest versions. Some are square and oval, and the most fashion-forward are created with magnolia, ivy, lemon leaf and berries.

As pretty as that sounds, Barley, of Emerald Coast Flowers & Gifts, estimates that a good 90 percent of Floridians use permanent wreaths. The fresh ones don’t stand up well to the warmer temperatures, he contends. The permanent ones are usually used for four or five years before they’re replaced. Layering on the glitz, with something silvery or golden — Christmas balls, for example, or wire, ribbons or spray-painted leaves or berries — is one way to update these wreaths.

Teleflora’s Salvaggio reminds us that wreaths aren’t just for doors.

“Use them as centerpieces,” he suggests, “and fill the center with fruit, shiny Christmas balls or candles.”


There are distinct trends in the way we decorate the table when we entertain, and florists are happy to report that those tall urns with flowers and greenery cascading out from the tops are passé.

“You couldn’t see the person sitting across from you,” comments Klingel, “so it’s good thing that particular fashion is down the tube.”

His favorite tablescape consists of a row of small flower arrangements running down the center of the table, a concept that the Society of American Florists’ flower gurus like as well. They love the idea of a row of four-inch plants in matching pots with ribbons, ornaments and/or candles as accent pieces. Then when the guests leave, give each a plant as a memento, they suggest. Or you might float candles and flowers in crystal or silver bowls. Or, for the fun of it, ask your florist to create “snowballs” and “snowmen” using white carnations.

Avoid flowers with strong scents, though. You don’t want them to overpower the food. Strong-scented flowers include lily of the valley, hyacinth, freesia and lilac.

Say It with Flowers

Trend spotters say that no matter how much family budgets might squeal this season, flowers and greenery will keep homes bursting with beauty, from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

“Christmas is the one time of year we go overboard, even if money is tight,” Salvaggio says. “We want our homes to be beautiful and welcoming, and there’s no better way to achieve that than with flowers. The trend towards traveling less and make the holidays a time to be with family and friends seems to go stronger every year, and the funds we spend on infusing our homes with holiday spirit keep increasing.

“That said, you can stretch the investment in holiday arrangements very easily,” he says. “Let’s say that the decoration on your Thanksgiving table features a green base plus the orange and yellow flowers of autumn. Then, as you get into December, replace the flowers with deep red roses, white hydrangeas or tulips, red dogwood twigs, pomegranates and perhaps some shiny Christmas balls. Let your imagination fly.”