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Frugal flowers: A crazy florist teaches us how to DIY for Christmas

The Flower Factory

This holiday season we are attending a couple of gatherings, and had talked about bringing something hostess-y to give. We watched a TV segment on poinsettias, and for the 29th Christmas in a row, I thought, yuk. I am not a fan of this traditional yuletide plant, and I know I’m not the only one. There are those of you reading this right now that feel the exact same way.

In an effort to find a more updated festive floral concept, I chatted with our friend Christina Oullet, owner of the Flower Factory in Renfrew. Christina was the award-winning florist for our wedding (formerly from a shop called Flower & Flour), and she opened her new shop this past year. We met up with Christina, talked with her about her flower power, and learned some tips for doing frugal and cool-looking holiday arrangements.

Christina had some great suggestions for the florist-wannabe who is looking for clever ways to keep costs down and DIY their own home arrangements:


See what’s growing near and around your house. A short walk can provide you with dogwood, evergreen branches, pinecones, and sumac. Those who live in the Pontiac region can also seek out ilex berries, which Christina swears would be a lovely addition.

These: cute. If covered in glitter: tacky.

Clever arrangements can be done in dollar store vases, or better yet, repurposed tin cans and mason jars. Buy or gather some river rocks and fill the container for support and pizazz.


Something larger, heavier, or with more substance can be used to ‘ground’ the piece, says Christina. Some Christmas balls, a snowman or plaster creature may sit comfortably in the basket or pot, and you can build your whacky sprays of branches, twigs, and asparagus off of that. (I’m absolutely certain that Christina has used asparagus many times.)


Choosing a colour palette can be tricky. Easy and sure-fire palettes for the yule season are all-white or all-red arrangements. So how do you make it interesting when it’s all one colour? Christina tells us that texture is key. A shiny leaf with a velvety moss and some spiky blossoms can say a lot without flashing different colours.


Christina recommends that ‘less is more’ when you’re arranging your flora. Step back once in a while, look at something else for a few moments, then look back. The great thing is, if you’ve gone too far, it’s not hard to pull stuff out. Also recommended: search the dollar store for your ‘staple’ items, like vases, cheap Christmas balls, and river rocks…but skip the dollar store when it comes to metallic-painted snowmen, glitter-coated reindeer, or Styrofoam menorahs. A suggestion from Jordan here: consider using an favourite treasure like a

Imagine tucking one of these into your flowers! Lovely!

snowglobe, or big antique brooch—something that is kitschy in an authentic way. Or pop into a florist’s like Christina’s shop; she has tons of tasteful Santas and snowmen that won’t diminish the beauty of your plants.


So you’ve gathered your cedar branches, pine cones, an antique angel tree topper, and…you’re stumped. Not a problem. This may be the time to head into the actual flower shop and pick out something special. Christina recommended cymbidium orchids as an example of a long-lasting bloom: these babies last for 3-4 weeks, and there’s lots of blooms on a stem, so if you want to you can buy an entire stem. It’ll set you back by $100-and-some dollars, but if you’re doing ten arrangements with them that were otherwise free from the forest, that’s a fabulous price. Or opt to just buy a couple blooms for that special centrepiece.


1. Keep things in water to avoid brittleness. This includes branches.

2. Flower food is important, and can’t really be replaced by any of the homemade potions you’ve heard of…but if you’re stuck, a few drops of bleach is probably the best.

3. Fill your vase with warm-almost-hot water. There’s less oxygen in hot water, and the plant will suck it up better.

Cymbidium Orchids.

My advice: surprise a friend with your arrangement and pass it off like it’s no big deal and you just whipped it up without breaking a sweat…it will be your shining Martha Stewart moment of the season, much better than the flan that the dog ate and the turkey that you accidentally seasoned with catnip instead of savory.

For the advanced florist-wannabe: check out the NEST blog for Christina’s 4-step tutorial.

Jordan Kent-Baas is co-author of the award-nominated blog Project: Priceless—The Free Wedding Experiment, and Project: Priceless—the NEST (the newlywed experience). The wedding experiment harnessed the power of social media to create a 140-person wedding for virtually no cost, while the NEST chronicles Jordan and Brian’s experience as frugal newlyweds. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, and aspires to one day be a full-time author. Jordan lives with her fat senior pug and her sweet handsome husband, Brian; she has a passion for crafting, and exploring new activities around the city. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blogs at, on Facebook at, or on twitter, under her handle @projectpricelss.

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