Take your decorating up a notch this year by creating an evergreen yule ball with fresh greenery from your backyard.
By Maria Allen, Photography by Kate Rogan
Landscape designer and flower farmer Elise Freda is best known for cultivating spectacular dahlias and other summertime blooms in the fields at Crooked Barn Flower Farm. As the holiday season approaches, however, she shifts her focus to winter floral arrangements, creating elegant decorations for her home using fresh greenery foraged from around her Kingston property.
Armed with a pair of garden pruners, Freda collects pine, boxwood, holly and juniper branches and clips delicate sprigs of globe amaranth, which grows in the fields right up until the first frost.
“Globe amaranth dries very well and keeps its color for a long time,” says Freda, pointing to several bunches of the crimson flowers hanging upside down at the back of her barn workshop. Well stocked with decorative urns and vases, the historic barn serves as the headquarters for her burgeoning cut flower business and pumps out beautiful bouquets in spring, summer and fall for floral subscribers across the South Shore.
“I’ve always been into the environment and growing things,” says Freda, who attended an agricultural high school and studied landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She went on to work as a landscape designer before establishing her flower farm business five years ago.
Freda holds floral design workshops several times a year and often teams up with Kimberly Russo, proprietor, chef and floral designer at Just Right Farm in Plympton.
Together, the duo create unforgettable events. Most recently, they hosted an afternoon of holiday decorating and desserts where guests enjoyed delicious sweet and savory bites prepared by Russo and participated in a hands-on evergreen yule ball tutorial led by Freda.
“Everyone has their station and we usually have a flower bar set up with materials,” says Freda, who likes to use a combination of natural elements and decorative ornaments when making yule balls. “It’s a fun project and so gratifying once it’s done.”
Evergreen Yule Ball 101
- Small Wired Floral Picks
- Mossing pins
- Floral tape
- Copper ornaments (matt finish)
- Wire cutters
- Hot glue gun
- Spool of floral wire
- 2-Foot sheet of Moss
- 8-Inch grapevine orb
- Pine cones, foraged
- Globe amaranth sprigs
- Dried persimmon slices (sourced from Jacobson Floral Supply in Boston)
- Evergreen clippings (pine, juniper, boxwood, leyland cypress, and holly all work well)
- Gold or copper ribbon, or bow
- Birch bark strips
- Fresh or fake pears, on a small branch
Step 1 Foraging
Explore your backyard to find fresh evergreens and other natural accessories such as pine cones that you would like to include in your project.
Step 2 Picking
Attach wired floral picks to pine cones, dried persimmon slices, copper ornaments and globe amaranth sprigs, wrapping with wire to secure and covering the wire with floral tape. Note: You do not need to affix picks to the evergreen branches.
Step 3 Mossing
Take your fresh moss sheet and gently strip away some of the excess bulk in the root layer. Lay the moss over the grapevine orb and affix it with moss pins. You need to find a place where the pins can grip to the vine. Secure the moss to the vine with hot glue. *A grapevine orb is a little trickier than floral foam but it’s a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Step 4 Add Evergreens
Find the side of the orb that you would like to be front facing. Begin placing evergreens to the top of the orb, beginning with juniper or whichever evergreen has the most bulk. “I like to do an offset cluster,” says Freda.
Step 5 Attach your Bow
Make your own bow out of your favorite ribbon or use a ready-made bow and hot glue it to the top of the orb. An antique gold or copper ribbon offsets the color of the green moss particularly well and has an elegant look.
Step 6 Decorate
Nestle the dried persimmon slices beside your bow so that you can see the beautiful detail of the seed holes. (Other dehydrated items such as lemon slices could also be used.) Arrange pine cones, copper balls and other decorative elements around the top of the orb, poking the picks through the moss and securing them with a bit of hot glue. Fresh pears are a beautiful decorative touch and will last for three weeks. Add more dimension to the moss orb by incorporating a curl or two of birch bark. You can add as much or as little decoration as you like. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
Step 7 Display Your Creation
Evergreen yule balls can be hung up or set in a favorite urn to serve as a beautiful focal point in your home. The fresh moss used to make the yule balls dries green and will last throughout the holiday season.