My first challenge with writing this post, and frankly, the most difficult, was figuring out what to call the festively coloured balls, pinecones, and other bits of interesting stuff that people use to decorate their outdoor Christmas urn arrangements? Accessories? Embellishments? Decorations? Well, whatever you call them, I first started to make my own when I couldn’t find any in the colour I was looking for at my local nursery or the big box stores. Then, once I discovered how easy, cost-effective, and how endless the options were of what I could create, well, I just couldn’t go back to the limited selection and high prices of the store bought versions. By the time I get to the end of this post I hope you’ll be encouraged to try this out for yourself.
Urn accessories are, essentially, any non-breakable (or break-resistant) decoration you can think to put on the end of a stick and then “plant” in an outdoor urn, usually as a final touch to adorn a selection of fresh greenery. I’ve discovered that inexpensive plastic Christmas ornaments are perfect for this job—some keep their colour better from year to year than others, but given the cost you can afford to splurge and make new ones the next year. I like ones that are a bit of an unusual shape—why make your own if they’re going to look exactly like what everyone else has bought?
You’ll need a bunch of long, thin sticks on which to place those ornaments. I’ve found that the marshmallow-roasting skewers available the dollar store are perfect, both in width and because they’re really long. But regular skewers (for shish-kababs, etc.) can also work. If you find the shish-kabab skewers too short when you go to place them in your arrangement you can bind two together (overlap two ends and then and use floral wire or some kind of super sticky tape to wrap them together).
Other supplies for this project inlcude some neutral-coloured paper (a paper bag works well but I’ve also used newsprint), a pair of pliers, secateurs (aka pruners), and some scissors.
Oh yes, and that one most essential tool for almost every craft project—a hot glue gun.
The first step is to remove the little end caps off of the ornaments. They often pop off easily just by using your fingers, but if they’re stubborn a pair of pliers will make the job easier.
Next, you need to check how the sticks fit into the ends of the ornaments. I usually find that the hole in the ornament is a bit bigger than my skewers. If the hole is smaller than the skewer you can make it bigger with a drill—it’s a little messy but not at all difficult. If you want to use pinecones or some other natural material that doesn’t have a hole in it, you’ll also need to get out your drill and make a hole. What you want is to create a snug fit for the skewer in the hole. To get that right, I cut a little piece of paper about 1.5″ wide and no more than 5″ long, wrap it around the end of the skewer, and secure the end of it with a dab of hot glue, making that part of the skewer fatter. There is always some trial and error in determining exactly what length of paper is required to get the desired thickness of skewer. If the skewer is still to thin you can just add more paper; if it’s too thick then peel off some of the paper and finish it with more hot glue on the new “end.”
Once the sticks are all prepped I twist them (going in the same direction as I’ve wrapped the paper on the end of the sticks) into the end of the ornaments, just so that the edge of the piece of paper is sticking out of the ornament. If the fit is snug enough that I have to work at it a little bit that’s what I consider a perfect fit.
The final step is to run a generous amount of hot glue around the point where the stick goes into the ornament—essentially locking it in place and sealing it off. If I’ve left some paper exposed I usually coat that in the hot glue too; my goal is to have a solid mass of glue from the top of the ornament to the wooden part of the skewer.
And there you go–custom urn ornaments! For an average sized planter you’ll probably need about 5 of them. For a large one like that pictured below, 9 might be more appropriate. I like to use odd numbers as it’s more visually interesting.
When you place these urn decorations into your planter you can use your secateurs to trim them to the appropriate length. I think they look best when they’re nestled within the arrangement, not sticking out randomly like candles on a birthday cake. You may want some of them to be a bit higher up, which could leave part of your skewer exposed, and that’s not a good look. This can be solved be either painting the skewer or attaching a stem of greenery (a skinny bit of cedar or pine bough) and bind it to the length of the skewer with green floral wire. Thread, fishing line, or even hot glue would also work. Once you place the disguised skewer in the arrangement that one piece of greenery and the skewer will visually disappear into the rest of the foliage, and all people will see are your lovely custom urn decorations.