Make a Last-Minute Christmas Boxwood Tree Gift

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I don’t know about you, but with all of the last-minute holiday shopping, cooking and cleaning going on during the countdown to Christmas, something always gets forgotten–it might be a centerpiece for a Christmas Eve dinner, a gift for as elderly relative who can’t make it over for the holidays, or something to bring besides a bottle of wine as a last-minute hostess gift.

I’ve found that the perfect thing can be something from the garden–a boxwood tree arrangement made with clippings from our boxwood hedges and decorated with spare ornaments that never made it onto the tree. No one needs to know that it was cobbled together at the very last minute. Here’s how to make your own.

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Boxwood hedges must be trimmed twice a year to keep them neat and tidy. Once in June, and again in late September when the new summer growth has hardened. Waiting until December does no harm at all, so I like to hand trim my hedges before wrapping them for the winter in burlap. It provides me with lots of material for wreaths, garlands and boxwood trees.

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It isn’t difficult to find spare containers around the house, be they old vases from the florist, an old clay pot, or a nice vintage flower pot, such as this antique yet low-cost McCoy pot that was just sitting in the attic. I like to keep floral foam on hand for such occasions, and our junk drawer is always stocked with clippers, wire and floral tape.

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Soak the floral foam well (I use hot water–it seems to work better). Soak it until the bubbles stop coming out of the block. If you are buying floral foam, be sure to buy blocks that are wrapped well and not full of finger holes, as once compressed, it can be difficult to work with. In a pinch, buy a fresh block from your local florist. It will be a little damp and will absorb water readily.

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Carefully cut the floral foam into a pointy wedge that is square at the bottom where it squeezes into the container, but smaller in size near the top. Four sharp confident cuts should be all that you need. Use the floral tape to attach it firmly to your container, and use a bamboo stake through the center, if you are using two blocks for a larger tree.

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Symmetry is everything when recreating nature, and since you want this to look like a perfect little Christmas tree, keeping things uniform from the start is key. I like to start with four points, up, down, left and right.

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Then, fill in the tree with four more sprigs of boxwood–sort of like a snowflake (if a snowflake had 8 points).

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Once the top sprig is added, you can begin to see the overall dimensions. It’s up to you at this point to decide if you want a tall, slender tree, or a low, bushy one. From here, all you need to do is to fill in the spaces with boxwood sprigs. Easy peasy! The entire process should only take a few minutes.

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Once your tree form is complete and you can’t see any more floral foam, it’s time to trim your tree a bit to make it even more uniform. Use sharp scissors or shears to finalize your shape.

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Just like a real boxwood hedge outside, the arrangement can handle a good, tight trimming. Now, it’s starting to look just like a little Christmas tree.

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Double check your hair-cutting skills by looking at the tree from the top. It should look like a perfect circle from above.

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At this point, it’s time to decorate your tree. Be creative, as many things will work well on a small tree–from tiny red ribbons wired-in for a classic look, or bits of moss and birch bark for a more woodsy decor.

I am using an anything-but-red motif, assembled from some extra Christmas ornaments that never made it onto the tree. I kind of like the monochromatic palette of greens and golds, for something fresh and out-of-the-ordinary.

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Balls are wired and added to the tree, editing as I go if the ornaments are too colorful or not in scale with what I am looking for.

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Water your finished tree and then deliver it to your neighbors across the street–they will never know that it was a last minute affair!

Photo credits: Matt Mattus

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