Jam jar Christmas – how to decorate with garden clippings

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: November 26th, 2017 In: Celebrations, Decorations/parties, Vintage & thrift

I love jam jar flower arrangements, so I’ve asked florist-tutor Julie Davies how to do jam jar Christmas decorations.

Christmas jam jar decorations

Jam jar Christmas decorations created with empty jars, twigs from the garden and foraged pine cones…

Julie and I did a ‘how to make a twig wreath‘ post and YouTube video last Christmas, which proved very popular, so we’re back for Twigs at Christmas 2. It’s the right time of year to be pruning trees, so it’s a great way of combining gardening and Christmas decorating.

First, the jars…

I have a shelf crammed with jam jars, many with several layers of label on them. And jam jar labels do not simply wash off!

Jam jars

My jam jar collection – not usable for decorating as they are…

Google came up with two methods for getting sticky label residue off jam jars. First, I soaked them all overnight in soapy water, and scraped off most of the label.

Then I mixed 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in the US) with 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil and worked it into a paste. I smeared this on the sticky residue and left it for 30 minutes, then scrubbed it all off with wire wool. You can use any cooking oil.

The second method uses cheap household vinegar. Spray the vinegar over the residue, and leave for 30 minutes, then scrub off with wire wool.

How to remove the sticky residue of labels

Jam jars – get rid of the sticky residue of labels before decorating

Whichever method you use, you’ll need to wash the jars again in hot, soapy water. Both methods were effective, but perhaps the soda + oil method was just slightly better.

You could buy empty jam jars online if you don’t collect jars. And you wouldn’t need to clean them.  Note: I’m an Amazon affiliate, so I may get a small fee if you buy through Amazon, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Everything we use in this post is also easy to buy at any supermarket or garden centre.

Julie says that straight-sided jars are easier to decorate than bulbous ones or the Bonne Maman ones with their octagonal sides.

The equipment you need…

You probably already have everything you need for Christmas jam jars somewhere around in the house. Apart from jars, you only need rubber bands, scissors, secateurs and garden twine. Julie picks her rubber bands up from the street, where they get dropped by the postman.

And you need some twigs or other garden clippings. Julie used birch twigs, which often get blown onto pavements in high winds. Generally, you shouldn’t take anything from parks, forests or verges without asking permission, but it’s very unlikely that anyone will worry about you picking up fallen twigs.

It takes around 10 minutes a jar…

Twist the rubber bands around the jar. If it’s a tall jar, you may need two rubber bands – one high up and the other low down.

Decorating Christmas jam jars

Step 1 – snap the rubber band round the jar

Then, taking small handfuls of twigs, poke them under the rubber band, to go around the jar.

Christmas jam jars

Poke the twigs under the rubber band, and spread evenly around the jar.

Finally, cut the the twigs sticking out at the bottom, so that the jam jar can sit flat on a surface.

You can also use…

As well as birch twigs, you could also use dried flower stalks and seedheads. Julie made another jam jar Christmas decoration with dried fennel stalks and heads. She also recommends something green and woody, like rosemary, which won’t dry out too quickly.

Jam jar Christmas decorations with dried fennel stalks

Dried fennel stalks and seedheads (right) with birch on the left.

We set three or four jam jar Christmas decorations along the mantelpiece. We interwove some ivy along it, and also some pine cones, which Julie foraged in the summer.

Is it legal to pick up pine cones and twigs from the ground?

The Magna Carta stated that every common man had the right to pick up deadwood, but this was rescinded in 2008. Now you cannot legally take fallen wood, seeds or leaves from, for example, Forestry Commission land. To take from private land, you need to ask the landowner.

The law on theft is not always considered applicable to wild plants, but it’s complex. The Woodland Trust has foraging guidelines, but the best thing you can do is to ask.

Anything else to worry about?

Fire! I love Pinterest. It has wonderful Christmas decorating inspiration. However, I’m deeply alarmed by the sight of jam jar Christmas decorations with foliage, pine cones, etc inside the jam jar, with a candle that will inevitably burn down to ignite it all. And as for pillar candles wedged straight into greenery – well, that’s a house fire waiting to happen. Dried twigs and some evergreen foliage burn very quickly.

Jam jar Christmas decorations

Tea lights inside jam jars are probably the safest form of open flame you can have. But be sensible – don’t leave them unattended, and use the glass to keep the flame away from the flammable materials. The jam jar Christmas decorations on our mantelpiece vary in how flammable they are. I’d suggest battery tea lights for the frondy fennel, for example, while the rosemary jar has shorter stems, so should be fine with a live flame.

Sensible fire precautions

The rosemary jar (far left) has stems no higher than the rim of the jar. It shouldn’t be a fire hazard with a live tea light. But the dried fennel (centre) should have a battery tea light or fairy lights wound round it.

I bought the mini baubles and wooden star silhouettes a few years ago from Cox & Cox. They still stock them, but you could use any mini baubles.  And the fairy lights are a short string of battery-operated lights like these.

Flowerstart, Julie Davies’ four week online flower arranging class comes via three emails a week.

She’ll talk you through finding the “happy” place for your flowers, whether flower food works, the visual value of your flowers and choosing flowers for different events. Each week will end with a practical task – using a mix of written instructions, photo tutorials and video. You’ll get to create a contemporary arrangement in a glass vase, an arrangement in a vintage tea cup and saucer, an informal arrangement in a jug and a tied posy.

You can take the lessons at a time to suit you – join in week by week, or stagger them out to suit you. Julie will be on-hand throughout to give you support and feedback through a dedicated private Facebook group. There’s also flower arranging advice on Julie’s YouTube channel

Try it with the video:

Have you heard of #vlogmas? It’s a challenge for YouTubers to do a short video every day in December. I’ve decided to do it (gulp!) – and I’ve added an extra dimension to the challenge. Each video has to be relevant to Christmas and gardens in some way, with decorating tips, mini interviews or ideas for things like winter pots. Do come along – subscribe to the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel, and let me know if there’s anything you’d particularly like me to cover.

Lots of people say they don’t want to do videos because they don’t like the sight or sound of themselves on screen. I am one of those, so I will report back as to whether going on screen every day makes it any easier!

However, here on the blog we’ll just be coming out once a week on Sunday morning as usual! Do join us.

Pin for reference:

DIY jam jar Christmas decorations


4 comments on "Jam jar Christmas – how to decorate with garden clippings"

  1. Libby says:

    Oh, I love love love this!!! REally nice. One other suggestion for taking sticky labels off jars:here in the U.S. they sell something called “Goo Gone”. Will remove anything sticky right away! Maybe you have it there? And I’m thinking kitchen tongs might be the way to remove the battery tea lights each day? This is lovely!

    1. Thank you! Yes we do have something like Goo Gone (not under the same name, I think) but it costs more than mixing together the baking soda and cooking oil, which is only pennies. I should think kitchen tongs a good idea.

  2. Lucie Neame says:

    Very pretty. I shall try it!

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