At Irving House in New Westminster the halls really are decked with boughs of holly — and lots of other traditional accents that transform the home into a celebration of a Victorian Christmas.
There are probably not many better places to evoke the spirit of the season than at this heritage home, where visitors are transported back to the 1860s and the ambiance of Victorian times. The house dates back to pioneer days when Captain William Irving lived there with his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children. Now the original wallpaper in the parlours, the authentic displays of clothing and personal items and the period appliances in the kitchen all recall the Victorian era. Indeed, Queen Victoria's rather stern portrait hangs on the wall of the study where this lovely oak mantel (pictured) makes a perfect backdrop for an unusual festive garland. Come late November, Irving House is dressed for the season with boughs and bows. The Victorian Christmas season at the house begins in November and continues until January. Irving House is open for booked tours from Monday to Friday and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. While the whole house is decorated, a highlight is the Christmas tree in the large parlour. Glass balls, typical of the Victorian period, decorate the tree along with candle holders, many different bird decorations, bows and small garlands. Enhancing the traditional tree and festive atmosphere is a lineup of topnotch musicians playing carols popularized during the 1800s, such as We Three Kings, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Silent Night. All that's missing is the figgy pudding. For information about the season's programs for children, call 604-527-4640. The Garland
Floral artist Maureen Sullivan, owner of Thomas Hobbs Florist, never settles for the expected and is a master at using easy-to-find plant material in unusual ways to create bold, stunning displays. True to form, she eschewed the typical components of a Christmas garland to create this apple accent. For the garland Maureen fashioned a needle from firm wire and used strong twine to thread the apples - from side-to-side, not through the core. For extra interest, she alternated the apples with salal leaves, cinnamon sticks, dried apple slices and rosehips secured in tiny terra cotta pots. To relax the look of the garland, Maureen folded the salal leaves, softening the edges of the greenery and enhancing the roundness of the apples. The Swag
If you have a sturdy front door, consider this new variation on an old theme - a swag with a difference. In keeping with her apple theme, Maureen threaded apples with strong twine (using the same method as for the garland, see above) and topped the decoration with green ivy leaves, rosehips and a soft red ribbon. The Apple Pots Along the top of the mantel, apple-filled terra cotta pots alternate with apple candle holders. To create the terra cotta pot displays, Maureen secured water-absorbing floral foam in the pots and built a collar of greenery using generous amounts of privet and ivy. The apples were anchored in the foam by pushing one end of a wooden skewer into the fruit and the other end into the foam. (Use two skewers for each apple to make the placement really firm.) Between the posts, large apples with scooped-out centres hold votive candles. A piece of ivy tucked in with the candle harmonizes the display and keeps the candle firmly in place. While the dancing light from the candles contributes a cozy glow to the display, remember to never leave a burning candle unattended. Refer to the sidebar for a step-by-step guide on creating the apple pots. Acknowledgments Jacqueline O'Donnell, manager of Irving House, 302 Royal Avenue, New Westminster (604-527-4640), generously allowed GardenWise to use the traditional backdrop of the heritage house for this Christmas special. Maureen Sullivan, owner of Thomas Hobbs Florist By Maureen Sullivan, 2127 W. 41st Ave., Vancouver (604-263-2601) created the unique seasonal displays.