As thoughts turn to festive decorations, garden centre expert Alex Cawley gives us a crafty Christmas masterclass.

The Christmas tree is up, the festive houseplants are blooming, and all you need now is a centrepiece to give your dining table some wow factor.

Alex Cawley, plant area manager at Squire's Garden Centres, offers the following guide to help you make a gorgeous centrepiece using natural foliage and other garden materials...

What you'll need To make the job easier, you can buy ready-made pine wreaths which will form the circular base for your candle centrepiece.

Alternatively, buy a wire frame and fill it with moss (which you can buy from a garden centre or lift from your own lawn), wrapping florists'

wire around the frame to secure the moss, then add Christmas tree or other clippings (all facing in the same direction) to create the base for your decoration.

Use a pair of needle nose pliers to help you secure small decorations to the wire frame.

Use real foliage Take a walk around your garden to find berries, leaves and flowers to add to your natural wreath.

Ideal specimens include pyracantha, which often has berries on it, holly, the white foliage of eucalyptus, conifers, wax leaf privet and the winter flowers of viburnum. If the weather has been mild, you can use tight clumps of black berries from ivy.

If you have to trim your Christmas tree, use offcuts from your Nordmann or Noble to create the frame or help fill in the gaps. Pine cones you may have gathered from a country walk can also be used, or you can buy them from garden centres.

Add other natural-looking additions Other items you may want to use include dried orange circles - which you can make yourself by cutting the orange into slices then placing them on a tray in a barely warm oven for a few hours, until they are dried but not completely shrivelled.

You can buy cinnamon sticks, lotus flower heads, artificial berries and ribbon in neutral colours if going for a more natural look, with a simple church candle for the centrepiece; this can be placed on a glass candle holder, which will be hidden by the foliage of the centrepiece.

Odd numbers are best Your centrepiece needs to be well balanced, so position the items at equal distances from each other and play around with them before deciding where to secure them. Odd numbers always work better, so do combinations of threes or fives for the best effect.

Avoid big bows on flat centrepieces as they take the emphasis away from the rest of the decoration, unlike a wreath on a front door, where a big bow placed on the top can be the focal point and brings the whole thing together.

Play with the order Start with the largest items, such as pine cones. It you want some focal points, wire together a lotus flower, cinnamon sticks and an orange slice to create a single addition.

Use a long piece of wire to secure the items, and then push the wire through and fold it around the frame, making sure you fold the wire back up into the frame so you don't scratch your table.

If you are using natural flowers such as white viburnum, make sure the stalk is long enough to secure to the wreath easily. If you need to make the cutting smaller, snip off a little at a time, as you don't want to cut off so much that it becomes unmanageable.

A novel idea is to use thin gold florists' wire all the way up to the flower, which not only gives it a little shine but makes the flower stem more bendable.

Keep it fresh Mist the centrepiece regularly to keep the leaves looking their best throughout the festive season. If some of the flowers fade before Christmas, replace them with new ones just before the big day.

While some people use hairspray to keep indoor decorations in place and to help retain their shine, don't do that with a candle centrepiece, as hairspray can be very flammable.

Squire's Garden Centres are running Christmas masterclasses, where you can create a traditional wreath for your front door, or a candle centrepiece for your dining table, on Nov 30 and Dec 5, 6 and 8 at selected Squire's Garden Centres nationwide (