Outside-In for the Holidays

TUPELO – Tracy Proctor likes the reds and greens of the Christmas season as much as anybody. But the majority of his decorations don’t come from the holiday aisles at discount stores.
They come right out of his backyard.
“I start with fresh greenery, build layers and add the sparkle – I call it the sparkle detail – last,” said Proctor, a renowned floral designer and event consultant and owner of Design by Tracy Proctor.
He has clients in Northeast Mississippi as well as Washington, D.C., New York and Miami. A few years ago, he was on a team that did the floral designing for actor Kevin Costner’s wedding; he’s also worked on presidential inaugurations.
He was recently working at the home of Emily and John Hill in Tupelo, bringing the outdoors inside to add warmth.
“I do bring in some foliages from my yard, but I purposefully cut from the homeowners’ property so the greenery easy to replace and because their yard is part of their personality,” he said.
Proctor said most homeowners want to concentrate on just a few areas of their homes when decorating for the holidays: the entry of the home, the dining room table, the mantel and the tree.
On the Hills’ front porch, Proctor removed summer ferns from two large urns flanking the door. Then he began his layering.
“You want to have textural differences,” he said. “I start with Christmas tree greens. When you buy your fresh tree and they cut some branches from the bottom, take those home with you. Then I add a layer of something chunky, like magnolia leaves. The top is dressed with holly berries. You don’t want more than three ingredients.”
Proctor then tucked clusters of red and light green balls tied together with chenille wire into blank spots in the arrangement for his sparkle detail. A last touch was tiny white Christmas lights draped around the urn.
“You want the lights to cascade down from the bottom of the urn,” he said. “That way, the lights aren’t competing with the foliage. And at night, it actually looks like more lights than it actually is.”

A little artificial is OK
Inside the home, Proctor’s touch was evident everywhere. On the dining room table, crystal vases and silver julep cups brimmed with fresh foliage and brightly colored Christmas balls.
Three tall clear vases on the sideboard held mounds of Southern Smilax spilling out of them.
“The Smilax – it’s also called Christmas vine – is fine for everyday, but if you were having a dinner party, you might want to add some color to the arrangements,” he said.
With that, he produced a half-dozen peach-colored roses and arranged them into the middle of one cluster of Smilax for an eye-popping effect.
Above the table, an ornate chandelier was draped in magnolia leaves, loops of three colors of ribbon – red, gold and copper – and sprigs of artificial gold Leyland Cypress branches. Red and champagne-colored balls hung from the chandelier on long translucent ribbons of organdy.
“It’s OK to mix some artificial greenery with fresh greenery,” Proctor said. “But if it’s all artificial, it looks, well, artificial.”
Proctor carried his theme into the living room, where matching arrangements adorned either end of the mantel. He intermingled Leyland Cypress, artificial gold Leyland Cypress, Smilax and looped ribbons.
“Sometimes, when people get a handful of ingredients, they want to make an arrangement out of it,” he said. “Sometimes, you just need to let the plants dictate the arrangement.”
Proctor gets animated with talking about fresh greenery. He likes to hold up a piece, smell it, run his fingers over it, get the feel of how it will best be used in an urn, vase or bowl.
“You know, I cannot remember a single thing – a single gift – I got for Christmas growing up,” he said. “But I can remember going out in the yard and cutting holly. That I remember.”

Tracy’s Top 15 Greens
Carolina Sapphire
Leyland Cypress
English Ivy
Japanese Boxwood
English Boxwood
Eastern Red Cedar
Magnolia Grandiflora
Little Gem Magnolia
Southern Smilax
Nandina
American Holly
Luster Holly
Deciduous Holly
Cryptomeria
Ligustrum

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal