You may remember back in July I was proclaiming my love for boxwood. Well, here’s another reason why you should be sure to have one or two of these wonderful shrubs around your yard. Boxwood is the perfect material to make tabletop Christmas trees like this one, just right for out of the way places and small spaces in need of a bit of holiday cheer.
Here’s how you get started. You’ll need:
• Five pieces of Oasis foam (available at most florist shops and garden centers)
•Several long thin bamboo stakes. (Chopsticks work just fine).
• Some sort of waterproof basin. (I use a deep pot saucer; the slight protrusions help hold the Oasis in place.)
• A pair of sharp shears or florist scissors
• A razor knife or cooking knife to shape the Oasis
• Several pounds of boxwood clippings. (While you can buy box at most florist suppliers, it’s very expensive. ($60 a carton is not uncommon.) For this reason, I deliberately leave several large box in the garden untrimmed until early December. If you don’t have any bushes of your own, see if you can offer some “free light winter pruning” to a friend – with the caveat that you’re sure to be careful not to remove too much from any one spot. Also: Northern and Southern gardeners take note: almost any small leaved or needled evergreen can be used in lieu of boxwood in areas where box doesn’t grow.)
Assembly couldn’t be simpler. Soak the Oasis for one hour in water, until it is thoroughly wet. (You generally need to weight it down in a bucket with something heavy as it is quite buoyant.) Once completely soaked, position the Oasis blocks as seen at the left, and secure with the bamboo stakes. Cut the corners off the top piece of Oasis to form a point. Then, starting from the bottom, begin positioning the longer pieces of boxwood around the base, being sure to turn the tree as you go to achieve a well rounded effect. Once the base is complete, start to work your way up the column, inserting progressively shorter pieces until you reach the top. (This is another reason to harvest your own box – the florist version is generally cut to a standard length, and the branches are often too short to provide a full appearance at the tree’s base.) The final product should stand about 3′ tall. When you’re finished, decorate to your heart’s content. For a truly spectacular effect, you can do what my dear friend Barbara Bergman Reese used to do for her annual Christmas party in Weston: in lieu of (or in addition to) regular Christmas ornaments, use long-stemmed roses.
Once completed (the whole process takes about an hour) your little boxwood tree will stay fresh and green for several weeks, as long as you remember to keep the Oasis column thoroughly wet. Be sure to water from the top down (taking the tree to the sink and using the spray hose works well). Add water until there is accumulation in the basin. That way the upper portions won’t dry prematurely.