Floral Designs By Gisele Sterling

When we spotted the lush holiday arrangements in “Winter White,” a feature on Bryn Currie’s home in the November 2012 issue of H&H, we thought we’d ask floral designer Gisele Sterling for some tips on how use natural elements for holiday decorating at any budget.

Sterling has been working with florals for 28 years, and while her job often brings her to grand homes and event spaces, she insists that everyone can make their homes beautiful with a little creative reuse of things around around the house, plus inexpensive greenery and branches you find in your own backyard or that of a friendly neighbour.

Take this orchid, for instance. While the orchid itself may be a bit of a splurge item, here Sterling propped it up with a repurposed grapewood branch — painted white — inside a pot she already had at home. What makes this arrangement special, though, is its wee sweater. Sterling recycled an old sweater by cutting off a sleeve and slipping it over the pot. This personal touch makes it winter-appropriate, and an adorable hostess gift as well.

Speaking of found objects, in this photo Sterling has juxtaposed flowering dogwood branches with contemporary vases. “If you don’t have white vases, you can paint three vases with compatible shapes,” suggests Sterling. Any kind of branches will do and be right on trend with the natural, organic feel that’s popular in floral design these days, she says. To embellish the branches just a little, Sterling wired in clusters of miniature pine cones using silver spool wire.

Here you can appreciate the simple organic beauty of the cones closer up.

Another big trend in floral design right now is the terrarium, says Sterling, which is perfect for those of us without particularly green thumbs. “A terrarium keeps more moisture inside and needs very little watering and less care. It’s clean because it’s self-contained. And it’s not going to drop leaves everywhere.”

To start, choose an interesting shaped glass vessel with an opening large enough through which to work. Select materials of varying heights for maximum impact. (Watch a video on creating a terrarium window display.)

Here’s a peek inside the terrarium Sterling made to share with H&H readers. The live plant materials include miniature lime-coloured cypress trees, club moss and miniature phalaenopsis orchids. White-painted grapewood branches, sheet moss, pine cones and miniature pine cones — some with a dusting of canned snow spray — provide additional decorative detail.

Outside, Sterling has provided a great example of a winter-appropriate arrangement that isn’t overtly Christmas-y. Here she’s made great use of grapewood branches again, brush painting them with white latex paint for a more natural look than she would have been able to achieve by spray-painting. She’s wired large white-washed sugar cones to the base of the arrangement. The tall concrete and resin composite container is one-third filled with sand for stability.

At the front door, Sterling has set the tone for her natural, mostly white interior arrangements with this gorgeous snowberry wreath. Starting with an oasis wreath base, she covered the surface with fresh moss using pieces of wire bent like hair pins. Using wooden picks, she secured the fresh snowberry around the wreath, then wired in clusters of miniature pine cones to complete the look. Sterling warns that the snowberries won’t stand up to a hard frost, so consider making it just ahead of your dinner party or afternoon eggnog soirée. To help the snowberries last, spray the oasis intermittently to soak the foam, she says. Or for a look that will last the season, pick up faux berries.

What’s Sterling’s biggest pet peeve about some of the arrangements she sees on doorsteps each holiday season?

“If there’s anything that bothers me it’s people who put too many things in a planter — birch, greens, cones, shiny apples. Keep your theme pure; if you’re going Canadiana, go Canadiana, if you’re going to go glitzy, go glitzy. Crossing them over, you lose the impact.”

Find hundreds more decorating and entertaining ideas in our Christmas & Holiday Guide.

Photo credits:
1-7. Gisele Sterling

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