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How Lovely Are Thy Branches

by Miguel Mori
How Lovely Are Thy Branches

How Lovely Are Thy Branches

By Catharine Skinner

Christmas has always been my holiday. I still welcome the sleigh bells and snow drops with the giddy enthusiasm of a child, filling my home with gingerbread smells and boughs of pine. I get a charge from the bustle of shopping malls, and I never get sick of the endless loop of carols. This year, I’m leaning on that festive spirit harder than ever. I’m digging deep for that cheer and wonder. When I was invited to Mori Gardens to help make holiday planters, I enthusiastically agreed. It seemed like a good way to kick-start my holiday spirit.

I pictured myself slotted into a pine-festooned assembly line, mass producing whimsical creations while working fast enough to keep my fingers warm. A Santa’s elf in a tired mom disguise. I layered some casual clothes, packed a pair of gardening gloves and a thermos of tea, and appeared, ready to churn out whatever the designer had concocted.

            The Garden Centre was transformed into a forest-scented wonderland full of greenery and twinkling lights. Huge arrangements of evergreen dotted with glittering confections warmed every corner of the showroom. Charming twig reindeer bedecked with red velvet ribbon and garlands of cedar stood sentry. I couldn’t help but pat one on the head as I searched for the designer I’d be working with. Clearly, a highly trained pro, with plenty of experience.

Creating My Seasonal Planter

Tonie Mori greeted me with a hug.

            “So, you’ve come to unleash your creativity?” she said playfully. “I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”

            She led me by the hand through aisle upon aisle of glittering branches, pinecones of every variety, ‘snow’ covered boughs, darling little birds, cheerful berries, other-worldly seed pods. There were mountains of fir, pine, cedar, juniper and I was enveloped in the magic of the heady scent of evergreen and spicy sap.

            Tonie, who obviously expected great things of me, quickly demonstrated how to price each arrangement, paired me with a more seasoned staff member, and then like a benevolent fairy godmother with just the spell I needed to break my holiday blues she said, “Have fun.”

            My mentor, Vicky, slid a pot of dirt my way. With a grin, she shoved a thick log of birch into the centre of the dirt. “I’d start like this, and build around it,” she said.

            And that was the sum total of my lesson.

            But I was inspired by the season, and my inner elf was awakening. I took a quick pass around the showroom for closer inspiration. The secret seemed to be in creating a base of interesting texture, working with the fuller boughs (like pine with those long, feathery needles) to create a foundation, then filling in the gaps with graceful, slender cedar. Or the arresting geometry of holly. Or perhaps, adorable tufts of juniper with tiny, winking berries in blue.

The Creative Process

For the first time in months, I dialed the volume in my head down to zero and just cruised through the garden centre, filling my arms with a hefty pile of fragrant greens. I didn’t care about the sap on my parka. I didn’t feel the cold. My feet were guided by the crooning carols of Harry Connick Jr as I amassed the beginnings of my masterpiece.

            The natural curves of the branches told me where each bough wanted to go. I remembered Vicky’s advice and rooted the greens deep into the soil so the wind wouldn’t take them. Soon the birch bough she’d shoved into my pot rose like an ivory tower from a gently undulating sea of evergreen.

            It took thirty minutes to create the base. I got lost in the wonder of creation. The life-giving magic of my fingers in the dirt, listening to how this sculpture wanted to be born. Trance-like, I took to the aisles again in search of finishing touches; magnolia leaves, giant pine cones, willow branches and lotus pods gilded with a touch of copper. Each element told my hands where to place it, and soon my first planter was complete.

          My creation was handsome; decidedly understated and earthy. There was something calming and grounded in its design – a natural offering, resilient through the bitter frost of winter. The winds could blow, but even under a clump of snow the beauty of this collection of boughs and pods would endure.

          Holiday planters not only make a lasting decoration to add cheer to your entranceway, they also make wonderful gifts. Mori Gardens offers outdoor arrangements year round in a variety of sizes, in addition to wreaths, centerpieces, fresh evergreen boughs and other design elements so you can unleash your own creativity. The design space where I worked is available to the public for use for workshops and creative parties. Evergreen gifts make excellent party favors for your guests to take home after your annual shindig and will add warmth and cheer throughout the winter season.

Create Your Own Seasonal Planter 

Learn more about out our seasons planters, the Mori Gardens Creative Space, and how to get your custom planters this season visit us at

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