I am trying to recreate a golden woodland in my living room in the name of Christmas decorating. Top of my wish list were gilded pine cones but I can’t bring myself to part with money for something that really grows on trees. I spent a couple of hours on the internet hunting down pine trees in a London public space but was thwarted by the Royal Park policies which forbid the removal of flora. I eventually gave up on technology and decided to take a Saturday afternoon stroll around Hampstead Heath and try my luck.
I walked for 30 minutes weaving in an out of the undergrowth and scanning the floor with eager eyes before I found a single pine tree surrounded by a few partially rotten cones. I brushed the decay and insects off and bagged them in case I couldn’t find any more. I considered clambering up the tree to shake the branches but thought better of it when I noticed the nettles and thorns that would have broken my landing should I have fallen. Another 30 minutes passed and the sun started to set. I started to worry that I would get locked in as I had no idea where the nearest exit was. Feeling defeated, I stropped towards the sound of traffic past a clearing known as the Vale of Health which happens to be the home of a glorious procession of pines and a sea of pine cones! I hurriedly bagged as many as I could before the sunset (which probably isn’t very fair – I imagined that the following day a Sound of Music-style family with wicker baskets would spend Sunday morning digging about in the mud for my rejects).
When I got the cones home I washed them all in warm soapy water and then left them to dry in the kitchen for a week. The cones open up when they’re dry and look more like the traditional cones that you would see in the shops. Once they were completely open, I sprayed them with rose gold metallic paint, attached a length of ribbon and hung them in the tree – beautiful!