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Seasonal Foliage - Christmas Greens

Choosing foliage for Christmas designs? Looking for something other than holly and spruce? Here are some alternative foliage suggestions to see you through the season.


Bay Laurus nobilis

Bay - Laurus nobilis

This aromatic foliage has a long shelf life, and will dry naturally if left out of water, so is ideal for fresh door wreaths. Release its distinctive, peppery scent by slightly crushing the leaves.

Bay Laurus nobilis

Rosemary- Salvia rosmarinus (formerly Rosmarinus officinalis)

An aromatic herb, rosemary’s upright growth is perfect for evergreen swags where it will also add some spiky texture, contrast with dried orange slices and red berries.

Rosemary Salvia rosmarinus

Good All-Rounder

Yew - Taxus baccata

Dense and dark green, yew is a flat foliage so can be used as backing in swags and garlands and can also be cut into smaller pieces for wreaths and foliage edging. The bright red berries are attractive, but poisonous, so should not be consumed. Wash hands after use.

Yew Taxus baccata



An ornamental evergreen that flowers in late winter/early spring, camellia has glossy, leathery leaves with slightly serrated edges. Use it to enhance focal areas, if using in floral foam, make sure containers are kept topped up.


Blue Grey


Also known as Baby Blue, the heart shaped leaves have a silvery white blush. Its aromatic and extremely popular at Christmas for its scent and versatility. If using out of water in fresh wreaths it will need misting occasionally to prevent from drying out.




Euonymus is a sturdy evergreen with either a green/white or a green/yellow variegation. It will lighten and enhance darker foliage and lasts well out of water.


How to care for woody stemmed foliage

- Re-cut stems at an angle of 45° with sharp knife or secateurs.

- Shake out branches to remove any debris, cut away any damaged or diseased stems.

- When first conditioning leave in deep water for 6-8 hours or overnight if possible.

- Remove as much foliage as possible in contact with water.

- Do not overcrowd buckets or containers.

- Ideal temperature range: 2-5°C.

- Change water every 2-3 days.

- Store away from direct heat and cold draughts which will prematurely dry out foliage.

Five Essentials

These five essentials will see you through the season.

1. Holly (Ilex verticillata)

Holly (Ilex verticillata)

The tall, straight stems of these impressive berries will give contemporary arrangements height, brilliance and structure.

Colour: Bright red, deep red, cherry orange, pale orange, gold.

Care: Woody stemmed, cut with secateurs, display in deep water.

Display: A cool, draught-free spot will help to prevent berry drop.

2. Noble Fir (Abies procera)

Noble Fir (Abies procera)

Often incorrectly referred to as Blue Spruce, this Christmas stalwart is sold in weighted bunches. Use it in door wreaths, swags, garlands and for adding spiky texture to arrangements.

Care: Can be left in bundles and stored outside until needed. Cold storage is essential to keep it fresh.

Design Tip: Shake out before use and cut with secateurs. To anchor it securely into floral foam, remove needles and cut the stem at an angle with a sharp knife.

3. Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Not just for hanging over doorways and for office parties, mistletoe will provide a lovely seasonal touch to Christmas arrangements.

Care: Can be stored dry in a cool spot, mist occasionally to prevent it from drying out.

Uses in design: Short stemmed, it can be wired into garlands and swags, and popped into pick up and go designs.

4. Pine (Pinus mugo/P. strobus)

Pine (Pinus mugo/P. strobus)

With that unmistakable smell of Christmas, whorls of green pine needles contrast beautifully with the blue/grey tones of Noble fir.

Care: Store in a cool spot, remove needles below the water line and change water frequently.

Uses in Designs: Perfect for showy Christmas arrangements in large venues and churches.

5. Skimmia (Skimmia rubella)

Skimmia (Skimmia rubella)

One of the prettiest seasonal foliage, Skimmia has dark green glossy leaves and highly scented tiny flowers that resemble berries.

Vase Life: 10-14 days.

Care: Re-cut stems and stand in fresh, shallow water that should be changed every 2-3 days.

Temperature: 2-10°C. Cold draughts will cause the leaves to blacken.

Uses in Designs: Petite hand tied bouquets, table arrangements and Christmas bridal work.

Images Envato Elements,

Su Whale

Su Whale is a florist and freelance writer with over twenty-five years' experience in the floristry industry. She is the author and publisher of three best-selling books: Cut Flowers, 4th edition (2020) Cut Foliage, 2nd Edition, (2021) and Houseplants (2019), all bookshelf essentials for the professional florist.




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