Jam jar Christmas – how to decorate with garden clippings

November 26th, 2017
Posted In: Decorations/parties

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.

Easy DIY christmas jam jar lanterns #christmasdecorations #christmastime

Dried fennel gives these jam jar lights an interesting twist, but use a battery tea light rather than an open flame as a fire precautions.

Jam jar Christmas decorations – 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.

Easy Christmas jam jar lanterns made from things you have in your cupboard or garden #christmasdecorations #christmasideas

Use gardening tools and string – you probably have what you need in your home or garden.

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.

Jam jar Christmas decorations are quick and easy…

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 as part of an EU Health & Safety directive 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 – although this post isn’t legal advice. It’s just warning you that there may be legal issues around foraging, and that it’s your responsibility to find out how they apply to you.

The law on theft is not always considered applicable to wild plants, but it’s complex. The Woodland Trust has foraging guidelines. If you’re going out foraging elsewhere, the easiest thing is probably to make sure that you ask whoever owns or manages the land.

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 a company called Cox & Cox. They probably still stock similar things, 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.There’s also flower arranging advice on Julie’s YouTube channel

You could also try decorating with twigs and spraying them white, silver or gold. For a ‘white Christmas’ inspiration, see this post on Christmas tablescapes. 

Try it with the video:

Do subscribe to the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel, and let me know if there’s anything you’d particularly like me to cover. Here on the blog we come out once a week on Sunday morning! Do join us.

Pin for reference:

DIY jam jar Christmas decorations


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

  1. Marianne says:

    thank you Alexandra. your saturday emails are always full of super useful information.
    Happy xmas and a healthy 2022

    1. Mark Jennings says:

      Thank you so much! Happy Christmas to you, too.

  2. 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.

  3. Lucie Neame says:

    Very pretty. I shall try it!

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