Luca Della Robbia

Luca Della Robbia, an Italian sculptor from the 15th century, is somewhat responsible for my passion for decorating with fruit at the holidays.  Known for his glazed terra cotta rondels, he and his family sculpted voluptuous swags of fruit-the interpretations of which are still treasured by gardeners everywhere.  Hand made Italian terra cotta pots ornamented with lemon swoops and mixed fruit swags in his style- sign me up.      

Perhaps more responsible for my love for the holiday fruits is Louise Fisher.  Put in charge of flowers and decor at Williamsburg in the mid 1930’s, she had a considerable hand in creating what I call the Williamsburg holiday look.  Colonial Williamsburg was decorated for the holidays for the first time in 1936.  Within a few few years, her research at the Library of Congress regarding American colonial holiday expression prompted her to sponsor a holiday decorating contest-the rest is history.     

I grew up on those pictures of Williamsburg homes so beautifully decorated for the holidays.  Each display was hand made-each incredibly thoughtful and beautiful.  I was enchanted by the fresh garlands with tie backs of fresh fruit.  The evergreen wreaths with an in-circle of apples-gorgeous.  There is a long history of fruit ornament in this country.  Vintage beaded fruit, glittered or sugared fruit-a sure sweet sign of the holidays-American style.

OK-I did make an evergreen wreath with fresh fruit for my front door.  The second I finished piercing and wiring on all of my fruits, I was pleased.  What came later was the dripping juice that froze on the porch-and the inevitable rot.  Fruit can last a very long time.  Once pierced, decay is initiated.  I do not have the time to replace the fruit in my della robbia wreath 4 times over the holidays.  I am thrilled that the faux fruit available to me now is incredibly beautifully done-convincing.  These fruits have a plaster core-for weight.  Who knows what material is used to create the surface.  Who knows how the color is done.  These faux fruits are astonishingly real in color and texture. 

The fruits on this mantle will last the entire holiday season.  They can be boxed and stored-and used for any number of holidays to come. When I use the fruits on a mantle, I pierce the skin with a long pick-that pick provides ballast.  Each fruit is true to color and texture to a specific variety.  Granny Smith apples, and pomegranites, lemons, limes and plums-they look delicious.

An evergreen garland attached to a stair rail-a beautiful and fragrant nod to the season. My fruits, acorns, pine cones and ribbon wired in now and then, and at the newel posts-a traditonal American holiday expression.    

The back door wreath features mixed greens, a hemp rope bow, pine cones, red eucalyptus, reindeer moss, and bark wire garland.  My faux fruits-the cherries.  That red is intense.  That each cherry needs to be glued on individually speaks to hand made.  
A red and white wreath for the front door-this my client requested.  The red comes from the Michigan holly stems, the cherries, a few red roses constructed from wood shavings, red twig dogwood, and some faux Washington apples.  A red double faced satin bow-beautiful.  The white-dried cirrus dusty miller and white glass ornaments.  The intermediary-white variegated oregonia, green reindeer moss, and green/brown acorns.

The faux apples and pears in this wreath-they do fine.  This holiday wreath has a broad mix of real, right from the garden, and faux. The double faced red satin ribbon has no problem handling the weather.  The magnolia wreath came from a long ways away, but seems perfectly at home here.  Faux fruits-they have come a long way too.  They are really convincing.  They do their part to help me express my admiration for Luca Della Robbia.


  1. Very inspiring and beautiful post!

  2. Your wreaths are gorgeous; thank you for sharing.


  3. Betty Shalhope says

    Loved your post–the arrangements are lovely. I share your love of using fruit for decorations but I can’t seem to find a source for quality faux fruit.
    I used to be able to buy it through the Williamsburg Catalog but apparently they no longer carry it. Our dance group is having a Williamsburg Christmas Ball and I need more fruit to do 16 centerpieces. Could you possible refer a supplier?
    Thank you for your attentio

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