Naked baubles

pine cones

Posted on: 1st December, 2014

Category: Home & Garden

Contributor: West Cork People

‘Making’ Christmas is a big theme these last few years in the economic doldrums and there are lots of ways to create some Christmas cheer with the simplest of natural decorations, less tinsel, slightly more effort involved but certainly fun using available free resources.  I am of course thinking ‘tree’ products such as fallen twigs and amazing conifer cones.

The conifer cone is a wondrous object and never fails to entice us to pick it up and enjoy its beautiful rhythm and pattern that nature has bestowed upon it. It is armoured to protect the precious seed tucked in close to its centre core beneath each of its woody petals called scales. Held close in damp weather, the scales open when hot and dry (some only open when a forest fire occurs) and only then can the winged seed float on the wind to the forest floor. Usually the cone and its short stem will dry out and eventually snap off of the tree like an autumnal leaf and more seeds are released if its scales are open as it bounces. These are the female ‘pistallate’ cones; the male ‘staminate’ cones are usually much less conspicuous and diminutive in scale and some grow like catkins. Some cones have evolved differently and are more like singular seeds and rely on birds to disperse them such as those of the juniper (berry).

Cone producing trees include pines, spruces, cedars, fir, larch and cypress trees and more, known collectively as Confers from the Latin meaning ‘to bear cones’. Most conifers bear both the staminate pollen producing and pistallate seed bearing cones and are therefore described as monoecious. There are a few such as the junipers and yews, which grow the staminates on a separate tree to the pistallate tree — the terminology to describe these plants is dioecious. All conifers rely on the wind to pollinate by carrying the pollen from the staminate cones into the pistallate cones which is when fertilisation takes place, the seeds then can take a season to mature or several years.

Most plants produce seeds and are grouped into two parts — the angiosperms and the gymnosperms. Angiosperms are the largest group and incorporates those plants which bear ‘covered’ seeds such as apples, melons etc where the seeds are embedded in the fruit. The smaller group of less than 1000 species are the gymnosperms, which produce ‘naked’ seeds (‘gym’ from the Greek: the gym was once a place to use whilst naked), these gymnosperms evolved before flowering plants and conifers are in this group.

One of these historical offspring The Monterey pine, although a native of California, produces a stunning cone found here in West Cork. The Monterey cone is large, dense and variegated in tone, its lip like feature on the end of each scale is a darker hue on the inside of the scale accentuating the pattern and there are plenty of these heavy handfuls to be collected although this tree can hold on to its tough cones for 50 years being a species that requires extreme heat conditions to release its seeds. The equally mathematical construction of the papery smaller cones of the much maligned Sitka spruce are no less decorative, these are lightweight and delicate reminding me of tiny wasp nests. They have a more elongated growth pattern than the Monterey cone and perhaps being commonly grown will be easier to find. The distinguished Scots pine produces a medium size cone and has fewer scales, which create a very open shape when dry. Occasionally you may come across a Bhutan or Himalayan blue pine here and these have a large banana sized and elegantly shaped cones to add an exotic to the mix. Sometimes the cone is the only way to identify a conifer species, see how many you can find.

Treat yourself to a country walk under some conifer woodland, have a sortie with the kids for cones and twigs littering the pathways, bring them home and lay them in front of the fire for a few days to ensure they are dry and fully open, so they are looking their decorative best. Give them a shake and the remaining seeds will fall out – (perhaps you might plant them in Spring) and have fun gluing and wiring your arrangements together, daubing with paint to accent the edges if you want to; tie a little garden string or decorative ribbon to create a very ornamental delight and add to the festive spirit in the home. Your local garden centre will have string and a couple of options on different gauged wires really cheap (as in less than €2 for a spool yards long)!

A slightly more unusual decoration/toy is a ‘Cone Cow’ this is a popular children’s activity in Finland and Sweden whereby youngsters forage, usually on summer walks, for their cones and find four suitable sticks to push between the scales of a cone to support the cone as its legs and the animal is complete. They have little competitions for the best looking most stable one – a lovely simple game to be encouraged here. Perhaps your Cone Cows could extend your nativity scenes or simply made to march along window sills this Christmas; remember any damp air will alter these animals’ appearances and stability, as cones will close again if not warm and dry, so last one standing could be a winner too.

After the season, the cones make great kindling to start a few January fires being full of the pine resins which inflame so easily, or keep them for years, a few might get damaged but they are really tough objects and can last longer than a childhood and will evoke happy family memories in years to come.

Leave the precious Holly and Mistletoe to grow on and thrive, pick up some cones, make stars with the twigs and don’t forget to look up and admire the rich green and blue tough little leaves called needles and see next year’s cones decorating the living Christmas tree wonderland. Merry Christmas everyone!

Grant Jenkins – The Tree Company. If you need any further information regarding this article or indeed any other tree matters please get in touch with us at The Tree Company, Ballydehob, Co Cork or email us at or call our office on 028 37630.

Latest News Articles:

West Cork projects receive Heritage funding
Over 500 attend Kinsale College Graduation Ceremony
West Cork success in national anti-racism competition
Council grants planning permission for Clonakilty Community College extension
Courtmacsherry community shop opens
UCC launches innovative new qualification for the dairy industry
Clonakilty gets a voice
Stage-end finish in Clonakilty for An Post Rás
CoderDojo Clonakilty celebrates its fourth anniversary with Expo in May
Nominations open for Bandon Red Cross Carer of the Year 2016

Join us on Facebook

Don't forget to pop into The Olive Branch in Clonakilty tomorrow (Thursday June 16) between 11am and 3pm. Irish company Holos Skincare (as seen on Dragon's Den) will launch its range of luxurious aromatherapy. There will be lots of helpful advice and info on skincare as well as free mini-facials. ... See MoreSee Less

15th June, 2016  ·  

Sponsored Cycle in aid of Enable Ireland. 20 miles or a 6-mile walk across some of the most scenic roads in West Cork, on Sunday, 26th June 2016, beginning at 3pm from Coppeen, Enniskeane.

A free t-shirt will be given to participants on registration on the day.

All monies raised will be donated to Enable Ireland at the Lavanagh Centre, Cork.

There will be a draw with numerous prizes on the day including 200 euro worth of volchours & free bike & bike accessories for all who participate on the day.

Homemade refreshments will be supplied for all who attend!

Sponsorship cards available from Joe 087 1469473 or Geraldine 0860764926. Sponsorship also taken on the day.

All support will be greatly appreciated!! :)
... See MoreSee Less

15th June, 2016  ·  

The Bandon Music Festival returns for its 20th year this June bank holiday weekend, 3rd to 5th June, with new and familiar faces added to the line-up of musical talent. The festival’s headline acts are two of Ireland’s top rock bands The Riptide Movement and Delorentos with support local act Ruby Jude and Jupe.

Saturday’s headline, The Riptide Movement blew-up the Irish music scene in 2014 with their number one album “Getting Through” and string of Top 10 singles. In a bid to support local talent, The Riptide Movement will be joined by opening act Ruby Jude.

Sunday’s main stage will be home to Choice Music Award winners, Delorentos, a Dublin-based Irish alternative rock band. The band have released five critically acclaimed albums since 2007, with their latest single 'Home Again' taken from their fifth album Night Becomes Light.

Supporting Delorentos will be Jupe. Last year, Jupe released their single, Rocket with producer Billy Farrell (Ryan Sheridan, The Corrs, Brian Kennedy).

This year the festival will also have Music, Street Entertainment and Amusements on Saturday at Riverview Shopping Centre and on the Main Street in Bandon and on Sunday on Oliver Plunkett Street we will have Colin Deady and The Shruggs performing free along with children's activities and amusements.

Tickets are on sale now from O’Farrell’s Newsagents Bandon priced just: €15 per adult day pass, €20 per adult weekend pass, €15 per teenager weekend pass, €10 per teenager day pass, accompanied under 13’s are free. Tickets will also be available from the Bandon Music Festival box office at the venue. Gates open each night at 6.30pm.
... See MoreSee Less

30th May, 2016  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork added a new photo. ... See MoreSee Less

24th May, 2016  ·  

Kilcrohane Music Night in aid of Meningitis charity

Bantry woman, Margaret Murnane is holding a Music Night fundraiser in Eileen’s Bar in Kilcrohane on Friday 20th May in aid of the national charity, Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF). This event will kick off at 9pm and will be filled with live music provided by Roxy John & Frank with special guests, amazing raffle prizes and a great atmosphere. All are welcome and proceeds from the event and the raffle will be used by MRF to raise awareness of meningitis, support families affected by the diseases and contribute to vital medical research.

Margaret decided to support this cause because as she said: “My 8 year old grandson Kye is a tragic victim of meningitis and septicaemia, who has had life-changing, multiple amputations, and is facing months of more surgical procedures and skin grafts. The fundraiser is also to raise awareness of how serious and devastating meningitis and septicaemia are.”

Every year in Ireland, almost 200 people will contract meningitis and septicaemia (the blood poisoning form of the disease). On average one in 10 of those will die and one in three survivors will be left with severe after effects, such as brain damage, amputations or deafness.

MRF Ireland Manager, Monika Marchlewicz, said: “This event is a fantastic opportunity for the community to get involved and support our cause and we are extremely grateful to Margaret and her family for organising this fundraiser. We rely on voluntary donations to fund our vital work into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicemia, so their generosity enables us to continue our work.”

For more information on this event, please contact Margaret on: 087 1326020.

For information on the signs and symptoms of meningitis, please visit the charity’s website: or contact their helpline on: 1800 41 3344
... See MoreSee Less

13th May, 2016  ·  

Jump to: