Southern Roots

Christmas at Moss Farm

Story and photography by P. Allen Smith

    Take a look in your attic and in your garden to create eclectic and surprising holiday themes.

    Christmas at Moss Mountain Farm is a busy time of the year. We enjoy receiving guests throughout the season and sharing the beauty of this special time.

    Planning holiday themes and decorations begins in early fall, and we enjoy trying new approaches to decking the halls from one year to the next. No matter how early we start planning, it does seem it’s always a scramble to finish in time.

    I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian when it comes to seasonal decor of any kind. For me, it must flow with the design and colors of the rooms of the house… and for that matter, the exterior as well.

    So, what if the traditional colors of the season are red and green? If these “status quo” colors don’t harmonize with my home, I move past them unapologetically.

    The combination of artificial (yes, artificial) and fresh farm greenery is the basis of everything we create. Over the past 15 years we have used the same artificial garland and wreaths as ‘forms’ on which to apply the fresh greens and other elements of interest. Last year I shared our secret with a group where one guest responded with a look of horror. “Artificial!?” she screeched.

    “Have you ever made garlands and wreaths from scratch?” I asked her.  Of course, she had not.

    “It’s not a task for the faint of heart or for those who are time oppressed,” I explained.

    So much for the judgmental purists. I simply don’t have time.

The real creative fun for me begins when integrating ‘this and that.’ Anything goes – from persimmons to taxidermy – if colors, texture, and forms harmonize and create visual interest as well as an occasional ‘wow’ moment.

    My mantra has always been to use the ordinary to create the extraordinary. Having creative friends help and they add to the fun. Holly Heider Chapple, the floral virtuoso, is just one of those shining stars for me. Often dubbed the “Flower Mama” by her industry peers, she operates Hope Flower Farm, and inspires other designers across the country with her designs. Bodacious white Amaryllis blooms in the chandeliers? Why not? And, Holly and I share the same obsession for Russian Olive (Elaeagnus ebbing and E. angustifolia), that multipurpose grey leafed shrub. Our other obsessions include Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera) and magnolia, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ and even those glorious grey lichens… you get the idea.

    And then, there’s that use, reuse and recycle part of me that is a voice from my past. You probably have those same old tapes playing in your heads from your mothers and grandmothers: don’t throw anything away. You just might need that someday. Use it again and again.

    It’s an addiction, but I will say, coming from a long and distinguished line of pack rats, it does come in handy.  We have used the same silver bowls, cone wreaths and various bits and bobs of bling for years. But we’ve always used it a slightly different way each year.

    I love a well-set table, not only for special occasions, but any time. Although it seems to have gone the way of good manners and curiosity these days, I still like a beautiful table. It may seem to be passé with the younger set to drag out all that old dining accoutrement, but I say let them eat on white Chinet® disposable plates and drink from plastic cups. However, it does seem like an environmental double standard for those quick to chide you for your carbon footprint. Our old dishes are a mishmash of gathered and inherited pieces. Yes, it’s a place where Williams-Sonoma meets Old Paris cups and 19th century Coalport porcelain. Oh, what the heck… they all play well together.

    Don’t bow to convention. Take a look outside and in your attic, and then get creative and have some fun.

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