Holiday Decor with Rene van Rems

| November 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

A Christmas tree is designed with reference to scale, texture, color and form.

In December, a year ago, several members of the MHGC went to the San Diego Horticulture Society’s monthly meeting because it featured René van Rems. If you have seen René, you know he is not only a world acclaimed floral designer, but he makes a pretty good stand-up comedian as well.  This talk was a little unusual for René.  In this one he focused mainly on his students’ designs.  He said, “If you like it, I made it; if you don’t like it, they made it.”

René reminded us that for Europeans, the “outdoors comes in.”  This means bringing “stuff” in.  According to René; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  This is why one man’s “garden trash” is another’s “garden treasure.”  To illustrate his point, he held up a wreath he’d bought at Target.  It had no spirit; it was artificial and expressed the commercial aspect of moving the merchandise.

Even a fake wreath can be interesting in René’s hands.  You can spray it gold, get an amaryllis or two which you hang upside down inside the wreath, and fill the amaryllis stems with water. Suddenly you have an interesting and unusual display.

Because he is so creative using recycled greens, René receives a great deal of “dead stuff.”  Spraying it gold, silver, black, red or whatever strikes your fancy can extend the usefulness of the corpse.  A conical thread bobbin becomes a Christmas tree with the addition of tiny date cups carefully glued to every inch of its surface. As an aside, René mentioned that Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to England.  It had been a German tradition since the 15th century.

Holiday Wreath

Torrey Pines, Nobel Fir, and Sugar Pines produce cones but of different sizes and scale.  Keeping your ornamentation in proportion to the rest of the design is essential.  René always focuses on the importance of scale, texture, color, as well as form.  The variety of materials and the myriad ways they were used amazed his audience.  Whether designed by René or a student, each design became a sculpture making one see the materials that composed it in a different way.

After finishing his talk with a European hand-tied bouquet (which he makes so rapidly that one would need a high speed camera to capture it), many of the displays were auctioned off.  Watch for René’s classes, demonstrations and lectures.  It’s like going to the Comedy Store while you learn something new. His web site is There you will find upcoming classes, books he offers for sale, and examples of his work.

January 25, 2012 will feature John Beaudry, “Designing a Bungalow Garden.”   Meetings are at Mission Hills United Church of Christ, 4070 Jackdaw, between Fort Stockton and West Lewis. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the meeting beginning shortly thereafter.  Meetings end by 8:00 p.m.  Guests pay $10.00 which may be applied to their $35.00 membership fee.  Memberships are good through August, 2012.

A note of apology:  November’s meeting had not yet been scheduled when I wrote last month’s article (articles are written almost two months before publication), so my apologies for not giving you a “heads up!”

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.