And it’s not just for the benefit of visitors; a well-decorated entrance lifts your spirits. Whether you’re returning from shopping or delivering local Christmas cards, you’ll arrive home in party mood. For a doorstep with star quality, set up an outdoor Christmas tree.
You could use a traditional Norway spruce but better still is an ornamental garden conifer in a pot – you’ll find several good varieties on sale at the outdoor plant sales area of a garden centre. Blue spruce, ornamental dwarf pines or the purple-coned Korean fir (Abies koreana) are all ideal for the job.
They don’t come cheap but they can be planted out in the garden afterwards or else repotted and recycled every Christmas for years.
You can even use them instead of a conventional Christmas tree indoors. If there’s a power point you can light up your doorstep Christmas tree with fairy lights but be sure to use the outdoor grade since they’ll be out in all weathers.
Otherwise, add a few traditional tree baubles or “go green” and use natural-style tree ornaments such as raffia ribbons, mistletoe sprigs, acorns, pine cones and nuts and berries held in place with thin florists’ wire.
When you want something slightly different, try a holly tree that’s been trained into a standard lollipop shape, perhaps potted topiary plants or a mixed tub of evergreen shrubs.
To keep “in theme”, it’s worth using winter-flowering heathers with ivy or variegated euonymus and berried skimmia shrubs or a well-budded Viburnum tinus.
A Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) would be brilliant if you can find one that’s coming into flower. A lot of them don’t really “peak” until well into January.
For something more stylish and less traditional, choose a red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus alba Westonbirt) or the more orangey-tinted Midwinter Fire with tall upright stems and team it with winter-flowering heathers or the low-trailing wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which has big bright-red gobstopper-like berries offset nicely against near-rounded evergreen leaves.
If the colours of berries, stems and foliage need a boost, you can always add ribbons for a few extra festive decorative touches.
However, festive tubs aren’t just for the front door.
WHEN your living room looks out on to the patio, use a group of seasonal containers to create a festive view.
One spectacular star turn looks great surrounded by a supporting cast of troughs and perhaps a hanging basket, all displayed in a sheltered corner and framed by patio doors. For your large central tub use a taller mixture of winter evergreens, coloured stemmed dogwood and flowering shrubs and add smaller plants such as ivies or euonymus for evergreen pots.
For colour, use winter pansies, ornamental cabbages and kales and again wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens (which team well with heathers in hanging baskets).
Two tips help make a display “hang together”. One is to repeat the same plant throughout the display – make it a minor player, such as heather, ivy or euonymus.
The other is keep to a colour theme. Red, cream and green instantly say Christmas.