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Yuletide Topiary

Using carnations to evoke a snow-covered tree, this centerpiece transforms the tabletop into a fanciful winter garden. Moistened floral foam supplies hidden support for fluffy white blossoms, their stems cut short so they form an uninterrupted mass of petals.

Photography: Gentl and Hyers

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2000


The white porcelain-urn "planter" and a scattering of miniature gold and green Christmas balls complete the picture. Just like the big evergreen in your living room, this mini Tannenbaum will stay fresh long enough to greet the New Year.

It is simplest to carve the entire tree form out of a single block of floral foam, commonly 4 by 9 inches. If you cannot find a large enough block, glue a smaller block and cylinder together with floral adhesive. Because our tree is 13 1/2 inches tall, including a 4 1/2-inch "trunk," we added a second block at the base.


  • One block of floral foam (or one block for the cone and another for the base)

  • Floral adhesive

  • Serrated knife

  • Cachepot or urn

  • Basin or tub

  • Florist's cutters

  • Carnations

  • Small Christmas balls with wire hangers


  1. With a serrated knife, carve a foam base that will fit snugly into the cachepot or urn. Set base into pot before shaping the rest of the foam.

  2. Carve from top to bottom in long strokes, sloping outward until you produce a symmetrical cone. This cone should be several inches thinner than you want finished tree to be, since carnations will thicken it considerably.


    Fill a large basin or tub with water, remove foam from pot, and float it on the water. Do not submerge foam; once it has absorbed enough liquid, it will sink by itself. Remove foam from water after 20 to 30 minutes (or when bubbles stop rising), and replace it in pot.

  3. Using florist's cutters, trim carnation stems so that they are just long enough (about 1 inch) to insert securely into the foam. The few stems that will be positioned atop the arrangement may need to be even shorter, so that they don't push one another out of the foam.

  4. Keep adding carnations until all of the foam is hidden. Intersperse flowers with Christmas balls by sticking their wire hangers into foam.

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