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MAKE ROOM ON YOUR HOLIDAY TABLE <br> BY ELEVATING YOUR CENTERPIECE

Few floral arrangements are as eye-catching as decorations made for the center of your table, but there is one that rivals the attention-getting nature of even the most gorgeous centerpiece: a creation made especially for your chandelier.

A chandelier is rarely decorated, but it is such a perfect place to add a beautiful decoration, especially around the holidays. The benefit of displaying a chandelier garland is that it dramatizes the shape and line of the chandelier. When the chandelier is lit, the glow from each bulb enhances the rich texture of the greens and creates a cozy holiday spirit.

But placing a pretty garland on a chandelier provides more than aesthetic appeal. It is also a practical approach at a time of year when the word "groaning board" seems apt. When the garland takes the place of a table centerpiece, it affords much-needed space on an already crowded table.

Making the featured garland is easy, and while you may not attempt it this holiday weekend, you might consider it in time for a New Year's Eve celebration. The technique is very straightforward. All you need are fresh greens and some flowers, and some rope and wire to bind the materials together. I chose a lush combination of boxwood and lemon leaves, together with pink roses, but you could easily substitute any greens you have as long as they are a hardy variety. (You might even harvest some boughs of evergreen from the back of your Christmas tree!)

Instead of the roses, you could add red bows (raided from opened gift boxes) or Christmas decorations for hints of bright color. For some added holiday spirit, you could tie small gift tags to the garland, writing sentimental greetings to each of your guests.

When you select your greens, think in terms of the color and size of the leaves. When a large, shiny leaf like the lemon leaf is placed next to a small leaf like boxwood, it creates strong contrast, which highlights the lushness of the garland. When you add sprigs of evergreen or balsam, you also add wonderful fragrance.

If you have a smaller chandelier in a more delicate style, or one on which you only want to lay a slender vine of greens, you might prefer to use only one kind of greenery when you make your garland. The look will be more subtle, but just as sophisticated. The gentle understatement of a garland made from white mallee eucalyptus, for example, is festive and elegant.

The greens must be fresh if they are to enjoy a long display life. To begin, buy just-cut greens from a nursery or garden center, or harvest your own the day before you make your garland.

To keep the greens fresh and long-lasting, condition them before binding them into a garland. All this means is that you need to make sure the stems and leaves of your selections are fully hydrated so that they have the maximum water content.

To condition the stems of your fresh greenery, cut the ends on a diagonal, using a sharp knife. The diagonal cut provides the maximum surface area from which the plant can draw water into its cells. After you have cut the stems, plunge them into a bucket of water into which you have added some plant food, like Floralife. Make sure the leaves are not submerged beneath the water, as this can accelerate the formation of mold and rot. Allow the greens to sit in a dimly lit, cool place (like a cellar) overnight, then use them as directed below.

After the garland is made and displayed, you can add floral accents, like roses. Because the stems of the roses are fragile and need a constant water supply, I recommend placing each stem in an orchid vial. The vial can be pushed between the bound greens, and the flowers can be replaced if they begin to wilt. Or you can substitute silk flowers of any kind. The interesting thing to note is that artificial flowers of good quality are often mistaken for real ones when they are nested within the boughs of fresh foliage.

Finally, to ensure the maximum display life for your garland, mist the greenery with water. Just safeguard the finish of the chandelier and any furniture below by immediately wiping away any mist that settles with a soft, dry cloth or paper towel.

Estimated working time: 45 minutes

Estimated cost: $24 -- laundry rope, $3.89; six branches boxwood, $4.79; six branches lemon leaves, $4; six roses, $8; orchid vials, $2.49; spool wire, 89 cents.

Materials

To make one 7-inch garland, you will need:

Laundry rope

6 branches boxwood

6 branches lemon leaves

6 roses, or as desired

6 orchid vials

Spool wire

Garden shears

Directions

1. Use rope to measure circumference of chandelier, positioning rope in gentle swag around inside curve of arms until rope has gone around full circle. Note: Swag measures approximately 18 inches between arms of featured chandelier.

2. When rope simulates desired look, add 12 inches for overlap, then cut rope, tying each end in tight knot.

3. To prepare bouquets, measure and cut 5-inch-long boxwood sprigs until all branches are used up; set sprigs aside.

4. Repeat Step 3 to cut sprigs of lemon leaves.

5. To make one bouquet, gather four to six sprigs, mixing kinds of foliage, as desired. Note: For fuller garland, add more sprigs.

6. Bind stems together, using spool wire; set bouquet aside.

7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 until all greens are used.

8. To bind bouquets onto rope, position one bouquet on one end, foliage over knot, binding in place using spool wire. Note: Do not cut wire.

9. Lay head of next bouquet over stems of previous bouquet, binding in place using spool wire.

10. Continue binding remaining bouquets until length of rope is concealed; cut wire.

11. Go back and add single bouquets to any bare spaces, binding in place using short lengths of wire.

12. To prepare roses, measure and cut stems on diagonal so that they measure 7 inches long.

13. Fill orchid vial with water, recap, then insert one rose stem in slit in cap.

14. Repeat Step 13 for remaining roses.

15. To display garland, lay over arms of chandelier, arranging in gentle swags, and overlapping ends.

16. Use length of wire to secure overlap, if necessary.

17. To accent garland with roses, push single orchid vials between sprigs, in positions as desired.

18. Have a joyous holiday!

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