Foraging for foliage is a noble Christmas tradition, and one that London florists Worm (otherwise known as Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth) are perfectly suited to. “We are not very neat humans,” admits Katie. “There is no point in us even trying to be neat.” “Our approach is very playful,” agrees Terri. “We don’t create manicured posies – our aesthetic is much more natural and flowing.”
Words Nell Card | Photography Ola O Smit
Worm specialises in delivering flowers and hand-selected books based purely on a description of the lucky recipient. The books are sourced from second hand shops on the Kentish coast, as well as from small local publishing houses such as Hoxton Mini Press. “The idea was that customers would have something to keep once the flowers had died,” explains Katie.
We asked Worm to take us foraging before showing us how to create a trio of frugal yet inspirational Christmas decorations that can easily be recreated at home.
From early December through to February, there are no flowers to be found in the British countryside, so the Worm girls are looking for intriguing shapes and textures, and a range of tones. Holly is abundant. “You’re looking for sprigs with fresh berries and shiny leaves,” explains Terri. “Only a touch … we don’t want anything too overtly Christmassy,” adds Katie.
“You’ve hit the jackpot there!” exclaims Katie as Terri wades into a patch of ivy, plucking long trails of the evergreen from a dense patch on the ground. “We love this, and the berried ivy, which is great for spraying,” says Terri. “We do have a very natural aesthetic, but we also like a bit of Christmas bling,” admits Katie.
With so much greenery available, the pair focus on finding some dried fern and crisp leaves. “You need a variation of colour,” explains Terri, shaking a small sapling to see if the last russet-coloured leaves are about to fall. “There’s no point picking something if the leaves are literally about to drop off.”
Grasses also make an excellent addition to any foraged arrangement. Often found near water, these delicate stalks should be collected towards the end of your walk, so they don’t get crushed or lose their shape and fluff. “These are excellent for weaving into wreaths, although I’m a little afraid to go in here … I don’t know what lives in here,” says Katie stepping into a patch of pampas grass on the water’s edge. “This grass will give everything a softness,” explains Terri. “We might spray it, but the natural colour is gorgeous too.”
The girls are notorious in their area for urban foraging. They find all their thistles from a disused car park in Stoke Newington. “If we see a Hackney council van towing a wood chipper, we have been known to run after it down the street,” says Katie. “They cut down the most beautiful branches. If they’re not too big, we’ll drag them back to our studio.”
On the way back to Terri’s flat, we pass a jasmine bush. She nips off a small sprig. “Jasmine is my number one favourite plant for foraging,” she says. “It’s always beautiful, it is available all year round, and it comes in such beautiful colours.”
At the flat, Katie gets to work on a centrepiece, selecting a wide vessel for her foraged fronds. Instead of using traditional floral foam (or oasis) in the base of the vase, she bends some chicken wire (which is available from hardware and garden stores) roughly into shape. “Oasis is too rigid for our arrangements,” she explains. “The wire allows some movement, whilst helping to hold the structure.” She adds water, then decides on the basic shape of the arrangement. “I want to create a flow from one side of the vessel to the other. It can be quite tricky to start, but the more you fill the vase, the sturdier it becomes.”
“If you are arranging from foraged finds, make sure you get your favourite pieces in early,” says Katie. “You don’t want to accidentally leave them out!” She lays a unruly red bramble in one end, and a frond of curled jasmine the other, before building up the space in the middle with shorter green sprigs, followed by stripped pampas grasses.
“I always create a focal point that is off-centre,” says Katie, before disappearing off to Terri’s roof terrace with her spray cans. They use four main foliage sprays: gold, bronze, cranberry and cream – sometimes a combination of all four. (These are available from garden centres and art and craft shops.) The sprayed grasses and holly sprigs are slotted into place, before Katie adds the finishing touch: a slender, bare, upright twig, with just one solitary leaf clinging on at the tip. It sounds spartan, but the end result is playful and beautifully exuberant.
Top tips for creating a Christmas centrepiece
Meanwhile, Terri is tying branches together to form a simple hanging mobile. “I actually prefer these to Christmas trees,” she confesses. “And if you live in a small flat, like me, they are such a brilliant alternative to cramming in an expensive tree.”
“To create a festive mobile, you need to forage for straighter, sleeker branches that are in themselves beautiful,” says Terri. The branches are then be hung from a bare horizontal stick (also foraged), that is strung up with natural linen (Worm source theirs from a local haberdashery).
“If your branches are quite wild and organic, then stick to just four, but if they are straight and symmetrical, then hang five.” Terri uses natural garden twine to attach the twigs to the main branch. “I like to leave the twine hanging loose,” she explains. “That way, it looks intentionally homemade.”
Every so often, she steps back from the mobile and looks at where the leaves and branches overlap. “You want to prune the parts that look too complicated or messy, creating some space between the shapes,” she explains.
If you want to add more Christmas bling, you can dress the top branch with different textures, sprayed pine cones and conkers – even fairy lights.
Top tips for creating a hanging mobile
“Handmade wreaths are incredibly popular this year,” says Terri. “Unsurprisingly, our version is quite messy and wild!” She demonstrates their approach with a tree vine that has been curled in on itself and secured with a length of natural linen. (Tree vine is less easy to forage: Worm source theirs from New Covent Garden Market.) Keeping the top of the wreath bare, Terri picks a focal point, and “greens up” around that to give it a base. “Tree vines are really easy to work with because you can weave foraged foliage into them, and tie pieces of twine to it, giving you a structure to work with.”
Once the wreath is greened, “it’s all about breaking the circle,” says Terri. She tucks large, unwieldy fronds of dried grass leaves (the remnants of Katie’s table arrangement) in one side, and “giant, messy sticks” the other, creating an asymmetrical decoration that again is natural, playful and completely unique.
Top tips for making a Christmas wreath
Like our tips for how to make your own beautiful Christmas decorations? For more inspiration for creating winter flower arrangements in the home, check out our Winter Flowers board on Pinterest.