Holiday decorations part 2: cranberry topiaries

If you are looking for some great holiday ideas and recipes, I would point you to the Chew. My reasons: (1) LOVE those goof balls! (2) their decorating ideas are clutch and (3) their recipes are mega yum. But I have to admit, my favorite section of the show is Clinton’s Craft Corner! Let’s craft! ((Jazz hands!))

Sorry my hands were shaky with my iPhone today. But you get the idea!

One of their most recent “craft corner” session was making cranberry topiaries. It’s a gorgeous decoration, and they only cost ~$9 each. Follow these easy steps to make your own.


  • Styrofoam balls of various sizes.
    • I used a 5″ and a 6″ ball. These will run about $6 each at Joann’s.
    • They said on the Chew that they found the foam balls for $1. You can get them for that price if you buy a multi-pack online, but I haven’t seen that for individual craft balls. If you find a low price for individual foam balls, please share the source in the comments.
  • Recommended but not used in ours: paint for the base of the foam ball. Go with black or deep red.
  • Cranberries. We used almost 3 bags for these two balls. Depending on the season, you can get these for $1-1.5 a bag.
  • Toothpicks. Lots of ’em. We used up more than 2 boxes. Buy way more than you think you’ll need! These are $1 a box.
  • Vases or candle holders of various shapes or sizes. If you don’t like any of the ones you currently have, go to the dollar store! $1 each! Woo!
  • Optional: Spray paint to make your vase your color of choice. I went with a mini silver spray paint.

Directions: Paint the styrofoam balls either black or a deep red color. This is because it’s pretty dang impossible to get the cranberries so close-packed that you won’t see the base color. Using a dark red or black base will make the final product look more clean and professional. We realized this a little too late, so you can see specks of white from our base. I’d recommend a spray paint just for easy coverage and quick drying.

My procedure was a bit different from Clinton’s. Clinton said to put in all the toothpicks first. That seemed problematic for 2 reasons: (1) ouch! try to hold onto the ball with all those toothpicks! and (2) How could you possibly predict the close-packing of the cranberries this way? Rather, I put in a toothpick into the foam ball and then applied the cranberry, eye-side in.

Insert the toothpick and then the cranberry, trying to leave as little space in between as possible.

What did I mean by close-packing? That is a packing of the cranberries with respect to one another. There are several types of packing in the science world. The easiest to visualize for same-shaped objects are square and hexagonally packed objects.

See how the square packed set has more empty space in between the circles? So we’re going for more a hexagonally packed cranberry set. However, because this is on a sphere, you cannot maintain the hexagonal packing throughout. Huh? Well think of a soccer ball. In order to make the hexagons in a soccer ball actually close into a sphere, you need the occasional pentagon.


So what does this mean for you? It means out of necessity the packing of the cranberries will be disordered. So bottom line – just try to get them as close to each other as possible! (I could have said that outright, but that would be way less fun.)

This will take a while…

So set this up while watching Sunday or Monday night football! We didn’t go all around the foam ball because we ran out of cranberries. We left the bottom open for a nesting on the vase. But if you’re using a candle holder, you’ll need to set up the cranberries all the way around the foam ball. So just be prepared with lots of extra cranberries if that’s your plan!

Monkeylimepie loves our cranberry topiaries!

You can use these as a centerpiece at your table, but we’re just using them as a decoration on our coffee table. We also made these a week ago, and they’re still looking beautiful! The other nice thing to know is that they do not drip cranberry juice. (That’s why I put the towel down on our breakfast tray.) The cranberries are just starting to dry out a bit. To prolong the life of your topiary, you can refrigerate them at nighttime. We just don’t have the fridge space! I’ll update this post with a full-time room temperature shelf life as soon as we have it.

Enjoy! And happy holidays!


2 thoughts on “Holiday decorations part 2: cranberry topiaries

  1. Pingback: Our Thanksgiving Table | Heather HomeMaker

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