Introduction: Tropical White Christmas

About: Is this a site where boys hang out? I’m one half of Island Cabana Craft From our island on the Great Barrier Reef, I see the guilty pleasure of boys, relaxed on holiday, who lo…

Bare trees and snow. Not the first thing you're thinking on a tropical island. BUT, by November it's raining down palm inflorescence here.

See those curly things under the palm leaves: that's the inflorescence of the Alexander Palm,Archontophoenix alexandrae. It's the entire flower head of the plant, including the stems. This palm is fast growing, and native to much of the Queensland east coast in Australia. It's a co-operatively self- cleaning palm, meaning however tall it grows, everything eventually falls to the ground. By the time the inflorescence hits my pay dirt it's been dried on the tree in the extreme UV light and it's all good to craft. In the small window of opportunity before the wet season begins in early December!

Step 1: Applying the Butterfly Effect

This year, Cyclone Owen has been loitering around the Pacific in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. In the southern hemisphere, if there's a cyclone to the north of you, you'll get wind and heavy rain. (To the south, you won't.) So on the northern coast of Queensland we've had windy, heavy falls, which means even more palm inflorescence hitting the ground. Which means we're indecently spoilt for choice.

Step 2: Choosing the Tree

You'll need a tree with a straight spine.The first one's from an Alexander palm, but it's just too bendy. The second one is way too big and bulky and confused. It's a Triangle palm, Dypsis decari. BUT, from this convoluted mass there were three straight contenders.

Step 3: Whiten and Decorate

Spray your tree with an oil-based white enamel. Then add some hanging shells and colored beads and you've got an heirloom quality keepsake. Simple.This year, I added a vintage peace dove cake-topper. Under the dove, I hung some "mistletoe". This is halimeda, a calcified algae from the Great Barrier Reef that gets washed up and bleached white on the beach.

Step 4: Make It Snow

My tropical "snow" also comes from an Australian native tree.

Thoughtfully, Nature provides this during exactly the same small dry window of opportunity as the Alexander inflorescence. Just in time for Christmas decorations...

The Australian Kapok is truly the tree that keeps on giving. Cochlospermum gillivraei flowers during our tropical "winter", with joyful bright yellow flowers that cover the island. Uplifting. BUT, totally eclipsed by the intricacy of the fruit. Just look at this dissection; it's all been dried on the tree, waiting.

The first time I opened a pod, I was blown away by the bounty. You can see how those cream yellow crescents became glass hammocks in another of my 'bles (

The White fibre of our native Kapok is the cotton that can't be spun. It's that impossibly soft, walk-on- a- cloud -and -dream sort of thing. Or, the snow that never melts.

Step 5: Be True to Yourself

Walking and dreaming in my tiny diorama is my avatar, Clare. On this occasion she has overdone the lipstick.

And the three doves? In a past life, in a more temperate climate, this sat on top of our regular Christmas tree each year. It's a vintage UNICEF collectible, made from brass and mother of pearl. My small son and I collected UNICEF's brass ornaments each year. In the city, the arrival of the UNICEF catalog signaled the beginning of the festive season for us. Now it's all Nature. Although I do recall one year spraying gold the shells of cicadas from the summer garden. What do you take from nature to decorate your festive home in your part of the world?

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