It’s time to put the decorations up! Shops, markets and garden centres are now bursting with Christmas trees and other greenery for the festive period. Very convenient way to get your decorations. But you know what – we think there’s no nicer way to get some fresh greenery than to go for a winter walk in the countryside and gather your own selection for flower arrangements and door wreaths. Our little guidelines will help you gather safely, thoughtfully and legally! Always gather from a plentiful area, so you are not stripping a hedgerow bare. Forests and public walking areas are best – don’t gather from private land unless you have the owner’s permission. Plants and shrubs with berries look pretty in a vase or draped over a mantlepiece. But their real function is usually to feed the birds in winter months, so make sure you leave some behind for them! If you open gates to get to your gathering spot, make sure you close them behind you to protect any livestock in the area. Gather consciously, trimming branches thoughtfully so you don’t ruin the shape or appearance of the bush. Wear sturdy clothes and gloves to protect flesh and boots to keep feet dry and warm. Tips for what to gather include pine branches for aromatic Christmas fragrance in the house. Fallen pine cones for table and wreath decorations – and they make great fire lighters too! Long stems of ivy are brilliant for draping over the tops of windows, door frames and twirling around stairway spindles. Twigs with variegated leaves are great to mix with seasonal flowers for table arrangements. Remember to bring a box or bag to transport your clippings. And a flask of tea or hot chocolate to sip in the car so you can warm up afterwards! Happy Christmas gathering !