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Creating decorative twigs for vase displays

Tiffany Daneff / 19 February 2015

Gardening editor Tiffany Daneff shares her tips for creating ornamental displays with distinctive twigs, catkins and early spring buds.

Hazel stems in a jug
Hazel stems in a jug

It may be mid February but already there are so many things to pick and bring indoors.

Often it’s the way the light falls on a particular branch that inspires me to bring something back home. I can’t resist the sulphurous yellow lichen on a crooked apple or oak and now that the first buds are showing I find that it’s impossible not to pick the bare stems and stand them in a vase.

Lime buds are a wonderful scarlet colour, fine and delicate. Those of ash are the deepest black. Their sooty matt tips defy the sun and yet they have a solemn beauty all their own. The sticky horse chestnut buds are fat and glowing and after a few days indoors they break into leaf most satisfyingly.

Hazel catkins are coming out and these next couple of weeks are the best time to bring them indoors. Leave it until they open and you end up sprinkling the house with yellow pollen dust. This is also the perfect time to cut the boughs to weave into plant supports.

The secret is matching vase to stems, though a craggy lichen covered twig can just be left on a table or windowsill. Large simple shapes work well, particularly jugs. Enamel is nice and light while Victorian water jugs – not for drinking but those that once formed part of a washing table set – are a good height for bigger boughs. I also love clear glass jam jars, older ones particularly and always keep my eye open for these at car boot sales and junk emporia. There is no need to spend money.

Charity shops are a great source of vases. Recently I’ve found quite a few of the Fulham pottery type vases that Constance Spry loved. These are no good for winter twigs – they just flop out – but with a wire stem holder or some oasis they make a perfect container for roses and pretty much all garden flowers.

When it comes to the snowdrops, which are out all over the bank, I like using groups of tiny vases. Match the colours or the shapes or just jumble them all together using the clean white snowdrops to unify everything.

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit for more info. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.