I spent a really lovely morning in Dunmurry during the week learning about Christmas flavoured floral art and also marking the end of tree week by planting a native Birch tree in a small atmospheric wood at Seymour Hill.

The floral artistry took up the first part of the morning as we joined celebrated floral artist, Reverend Bill McMillan in the church halls at Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. Our mission, to borrow some great ideas for decorating, festooning and garlanding the house for Christmas. Luckily for us Rev Mac was getting ready to give just such a demonstration later this week so the hall already felt like Santa’s Grotto in the making.

Finished creations were already gracing table tops and elsewhere foliage, branches, berries and all manner of pretty trinkets were waiting to be assembled and transformed.

And among the plant material gathered from trees and shrubs was a living garden planted with succulents suggesting a little hill side dressed with moss and pebbles and contained on a neat low wooden tray. And when Christmas is over the succulents will be easy to replant into troughs or out into the garden proper.

As Rev Mac was saying there is always more in the garden than you may think and with a little thought and ingenuity you can easily and cost effectively make your own Christmas decorations.

Among the prunings from the garden which the Rev Mac was using were the the lower branches of the Christmas tree used to enhance good quality artificial wreaths. Skimmia bushes had been gently raided for berries, leaves and flowers. Osmanthus with its holly-like variegated foliage made a lovely substitute for hard to handle holly and the delicate petals from the last of the hydrangea flowers was used to bring subtle colour to the blues and greens of the conifers.

Mirrored platters, round or hexagonal were used to make wonderful decorative bases to reflect the light and we left the church full of ideas and with that lovely, slightly heady feeling which comes with the anticipation of Christmas.

Then it was off up the road, with the winter sun glinting and gleaming, to meet Patrick Cregg from The Woodland Trust. Our mission this time, to mark the end of tree week by planting a small native Birch tree in a little wood at Seymour Hill.

We arrived to find Patrick booted and spurred, shovel at the ready, a fledgling tree lying on the grass ready to join the others. It struck me as Patrick was digging and placing and levelling and steading and talking, just how simple it is to actually plant a tree and how hugely worthwhile. It reminded me of a slim but weighty little book which I was given for Christmas a few years ago called “ The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono.

So if you know someone who like me, loves trees, seek it out. It makes a perfect Christmas present.