How To Make Stunning Holiday Arrangements Using Magnolia, According To A Florist

Large floral arrangement over fireplace mantel
PHOTO: BRIAN WOODCOCK

Macon, Georgia, native Canaan Marshall transformed an Atlanta home with iconic Southern foliage: magnolia. “Arrangements and florals should create a story for your guests from the moment they arrive,” he says. Get some tips for how to make stunning magnolia holiday arrangements in your own home.

Canaan Marshall smiling at camera
BRIAN WOODCOCK

On the Porch

Front door decorated with greenery and magnolia for the holidays
BRIAN WOODCOCK

Floral designer Canaan Marshall went all out for the front door, and though it looks impressive, the garland and wreath are made from things most Southerners can find in their yards—or right next door. “Be kind to your neighbors,” Marshall advises. Long cedar branches serve as the foundation for the garland, which he crafted by tying stems of magnolia leaves and holly sprigs to the limbs with florist wire. For the wreath, the designer started with a form he found at a local crafts store and then wired on the same materials, plus spray-painted magnolia leaves, dried sago palms, and hydrangeas, until it felt full and complete. “Even when you think it’s enough, it’s not!” declares Marshall.

In the Kitchen

Large floral arrangement in kitchen
BRIAN WOODCOCK

“Everyone congregates in here, so you need to have something extra special,” says Marshall, who chose a wide footed bowl for his display. He anchored the arrangement in florist foam by inserting greenery (including magnolia and banana leaves, holly sprigs, pandanus palms, and cedar). From there, he mixed in blooms in deep reds and rich pinks, like ranunculus, dahlias, mums, roses, and dendrobium orchids, cutting them at varying heights for visibility. Referencing the flowers, Marshall says, “All those girls want to come to the party. Let them show off!”

Over the Mantel

Large floral arrangement over fireplace mantel
BRIAN WOODCOCK

For the grand garland above the fireplace, Marshall laid dozens of magnolia stems flat and in one direction and then wired them together, tucking in sprigs of gold tip cedar and pine throughout to add textural interest. “This will dry well and should last around four weeks,” notes the pro. He amped up the color by setting containers on either side of the mantel, filling them with red and pink blossoms and greenery (like in the kitchen) as well as long stems of dried, spray-painted hydrangeas, banana leaves, and sago palms for height and drama. “I wanted those to create the moment,” he says.

Beside the Bed

Vase with red and pink flowers on nightstand
BRIAN WOODCOCK

“You should always have a fresh arrangement on the nightstand,” says Marshall, who used a tall pedestal bowl and a piece of florist foam to secure a mix of flowers, cedar, and magnolia leaves. The carnations are elevated and feel right at home thanks to his careful handling. “Pull the middle out, and they look like ranunculus or roses,” he notes. Although Marshall is often in the “bigger is better” camp, he advises tempering the scale of bedside bouquets. “You don’t want guests to wake up scared,” he warns.