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For years friends have given me “gardening” Christmas ornaments. I have sprightly garden Santas, garden angels, miniature gardening tools, flower and butterfly ornaments, and all manner of garden knick-knacks made especially for hanging on a Christmas tree. For a long time I hung them on the tree with all my other ornaments. However, as collectibles so often do, my garden ornaments became more and more numerous.
I decided that I should have a second tree--one that celebrated the garden and was large enough to hold my garden ornaments. I visualized a simple tree made of grapevines. I had been making grapevine wreaths for years, so making a grapevine tree shouldn't be an insurmountable task.
At any rate, one of the most challenging activities that creative folks encounter is figuring out the ways and means to bring our ideas to fruition. My brain kicked into gear, and I began to ponder. What could I use to make a grapevine Christmas tree? Obviously a sturdy support was needed. After considerable thought, an old tomato cage sprang to mind.
I turned it upside down and wired the three prongs together to form a cone. It made a perfect support for the grape vines. Spray painting it with flat brown paint made the galvanized metal of the cage less obvious. After that, it was a matter of cutting many lengths of grapevine and winding them in, out, and around the supporting tomato cage.
Using lengths of thin, flexible wire, I attached the grapevine to the cage at convenient intervals. After a time, the cage was interwoven with circle after circle of grapevine. It was so secure that I could easily pick it up and move it.
Next came the task of adding twinkle lights. Multicolored lights added some needed brightness to the dark brown tree. I wound them in and out among the grapevines and pushed some up into the center of the cone and wired them in place as needed.
Decorations included a dozen or so ready-made red velvet bows. They were easily wired onto the tree. Next came all of my garden ornaments. A few red cardinals and other birds in nests were tucked among the vines. A garden angel added just the right touch to the top of the tree.
Special ornaments that I make each year are packets of seeds collected from my garden. I tuck a few seeds in 2 ½" x 3 ½" brown coin envelopes. Then I stick a decorative label with the name of the seeds and planting directions on the outside of each envelope. These homemade seed envelopes are then tied onto the tree with small red ribbons. Holiday visitors are invited to choose a pack of seeds to take home with them.
I have since seen similar trees for sale at garden centers and places where decorations are sold. They are ideal for an outdoor display when decorated with simple white twinkle lights and topped with a decorative bow. The rain and cold of winter does little harm to the tough grapevine construction.
Grape vines are easy to find because they grow wild throughout the countryside. Luckily, I have my own. Amiable Spouse planted it years ago, and it provides all of the vines that I can use when I prune it in the winter. Before I had my own grapevine, though, I found all I needed on vacant lots in my neighborhood or growing up trees or on fences in the country. Owners are usually glad to give permission for grapevines to be cut and collected.
I have used my grapevine Christmas tree for years. Sometimes I take it to special places, like to a garden club luncheon or some other place where its sentiment can be appreciated. Last year the garden club program for our Christmas luncheon consisted of a reading of Jan Karon's book, The Trellis and the Seed. After an oral reading of the book, each member of the club was invited to take a packet of moonflower seeds from the tree. They loved it!
Every year the tree finds a place of permanence in my home. After the holidays are over, I simply slip a large garbage bag over the tree to keep it from collecting dust. Then I put it in its place in the garage-high on a shelf and out of the way until next Christmas. Uncovering it is like seeing an old friend. And each year, new ornaments are added as gardening friends add to my collection. What a treasure it has become!
About Marie Harrison
Serving as a board member for Valparaiso Garden Club, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and the Deep South Region, and National Garden Clubs takes a chunk of my time and attention. Being a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener crowds a bit more into my busy days. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at www.mariesgardenanddesign.com.