Citrus, cypress and spice – Natural decorations made with oranges, cypress and cinnamon

Photography Amanda Reelick

Oranges have long been associated with the Christmas season, possibly hailing from countries where they were considered exotic, or dating from times when families who couldn’t afford presents gifted these fresh sweet fruits instead. Sliced thin and dried, oranges are transformed into slightly translucent jewels you can enjoy in a celebratory drink or hang as a decoration. 

Cypress foliage has a distinct woody, evergreen scent and cinnamon has been prized since ancient days for its distinctive spice aroma and other qualities. Decorate your home with these natural materials together with zingy dried citrus to enjoy the way they look and their combined festive fragrance.

Drying your orange slices

Use a sharp knife to slice your oranges into thin, even slices. You can also use a star shaped biscuit cutter to punch shapes in any leftover orange peel.

If using an oven, arrange the orange slices on an oven-safe wire rack, allowing space between each slice. Sit the rack on an oven tray and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 70°C on a conventional (not fan) bake setting. Bake the slices for at least 3 hours, then turn them each half hour until completely dried out. Leave to cool.

If using a dehydrator, arrange the orange slices on dehydrator trays, leaving space for air circulation. Set the dehydrator to 70°C. Leave running for 4 to 5 hours, then check each hour or two afterwards. Drying the slices can take between 7-12 hours.

The exact length of time will depend on the temperature your dehydrator runs at and the thickness of the slices.

Store the dried orange slices in an airtight container until ready to use.

Ideas to try:

Ornaments for hanging – Thread a short length of twine or thick cotton through the centre of a few orange slices and tie in a loop.

Garlands – Thread thick cotton onto a large needle and use it to stitch orange slices together to create a garland for hanging in a tree or window.

Spice stars – Use cinnamon sticks of even length glued together to create triangles. Glue two triangles together to make a star. Add star anise for extra spice fragrance. Once dry, attach a twine or thick cotton loop for hanging.

Festive cocktails – Mix together vodka, ginger beer and orange juice to create festive Orange Moscow Mules. Garnish with dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks.

Table settings – Roll up table napkins. Layer with cinnamon sticks, orange slices and pressed flowers and secure in place using twine.

Seasonal wreath – Bend a coat hanger or other firm, malleable wire into a loop. Attach a length of thick twine and wind it around the wire, covering half of the loop. Tuck small pieces of cypress greenery under the twine as you work around the remainder of the loop. Attach dried oranges using pins stuck into the twine.

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