Halls Of Festive Cheer
Country Life UK|November 27, 2019
Halls Of Festive Cheer
Royal florist Shane Connolly tells Jacky Hobbs how garden evergreens and hedgerow clippings can make beautiful Christmas decorations
SHANE CONNOLLY is best known for his miraculous transformation of Westminster Abbey for the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, for which he was awarded his second Royal Warrant. It was an extraordinary feat: he lined the aisle with 23ft-tall English field maples and hornbeams, some of which were replanted in the couple’s garden at Anmer Hall in Norfolk.

Anyone who knows the quietly spoken Mr Connolly will know he loves using seasonal British natives to create displays that combine an artless and natural simplicity with awe-inducing results. This year, at the request of COUNTRY LIFE, he put up the decorations at Wardington Manor in Oxfordshire, where The Land Gardeners, Bridget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld, are based. In the cutting gardens, the pair grow flowers, shrubby and woodland stems, as well as planting up containers of living bulbs for customers.

A regular visitor to the manor, Mr Connolly created decorations that enhance the ‘Jacobean meets Arts-and-Crafts’ architecture and the romantic atmosphere of the 16th-century, Grade II*-listed house. The Land Gardeners were up early, picking in the winter garden, before Mr Connolly arrived bearing gifts— a whole ball of mistletoe from his home.

Feast of flowers

Mr Connolly’s style is relaxed and versatile. To dress the manor’s dining room, he decorated tables with tarnished silverware vessels in assorted shapes and sizes, spilling with white hellebores and perfumed winter honeysuckle. Smaller containers hold individual flower stems and large ones were planted with living hellebores.

‘It’s the abundance of less, using the most beautiful seasonal flowers and making them shine,’ says Mr Connolly, who used only three bunches (20 stems each) of hellebores and snippets of honeysuckle from the garden of Wardington.

Keep flowers simple and seasonal and include fragrance where possible, with, for example, scented narcissi, winter-flowering viburnums, winter-sweet, Chimonanthus praecox or fragrant wands of witch hazel.

Set off blooms in assorted containers, unified by material and/or colour, such as old porcelain, pewter and clear, coloured or crystal glass.

Ingredients (alternatives in brackets)

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November 27, 2019