Many of the craft projects we undertake at Beekman Farm start with a morning walk.  Last winter, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of a hoar frost (click here to see images of this phenomenon), and this became the inspiration for some of our holiday decorations.

How could we re-create something so breathtaking?

Here’s what we did:

Step 1: Collect bits of nature.  Look for things that are sturdy and have an interest form

Step 2: Wire each piece to a wooden dowel

Step 3: Boil several gallons of water in batches

Step 4: In large glass containers, combine water with Sodium Tetraborate (also known as household Borax) About 3 TBS for every cup of water.  Stir to dissolve thoroughly.

Step 5: Suspend the dowel over the edges of the container allowing the object to be submerged, without touching the sides or bottom of the jar.

Step 6: Allow to sit for 12 – 24 hours.  If you are doing this project with kids, here is where the “science” comes in.  What you are actually doing is creating a supersaturation.  The hot water dissolves the sodium tetraborate, but as the solution cools, the particles have nowhere to go so they start joining together to form crystals

Step 7: Remove the object and allow to dry on paper towels.

Pine cones
Blue Spruce
Sedum
Echinacea

Step 8: Once dry, shake off any lose crystals

Step 9: Using a wreath form, or a plain wreath, wire the crystallized objects to the wreath, in a design of your choice.

Step 10: Hang from a door, window, or use as a centerpiece.  Some of the crystals are fragile, so it’s best to place this wreath where it can be admired but not disturbed

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Elaine M.

I’ve done something similar using metallic or colored chenille stems (pipe cleaners). Cut stem into 3 equal parts, twist together to make snowflake shape. Tie a thin gage florist wire to one end. Wrap other end of wire around a pencil and plane “snowflake” in solution and pencil across the top of container. I have snowflakes that are 3 years old, so they will last for years if wrapped in tissue paper and packed away carefully.

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betty benesi

What a great idea! One of my science projects when I was a kid was growing crystals from different stuff. IT was my science fair project.

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Lorica

Hi Brent,

Just saw this great craft/science project. I have a 4.5 year old daughter who is SURE to love this! I was wondering though, are the crystals safe in case she ingests them or gets the solution in her mouth? Thanks so much! Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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Nettie Grimes

I am super cautious and would not use it around children. Adults won’t nibble but kids would be attracted to the “sugar plum” sparkly look.

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Connie Wedding

Beautiful, and I can't wait to try it. Is it safe for wild birds or pets if they munch on it? I mostly worry about my cats licking crystals off thier paws that might have fallen onto the floor. Thanks.

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Denise

How cool is that??? It is beauty and science combined in one!! Can't wait to experiment on all sorts of natural materials. Thanks guys!

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Lisa

Brent, Oh so sorry to have typed your name as Brett! You may call me Linda to make up for it! 🙂

Lisa (aka – Linda)

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Lisa

The pine cones with borax on them when dried completely will also make a wonderful addition to your winter fire. Toss one in the fireplace and look for the colored flames as it burns.

P.S. My daughter, Crystal and I were able to see Brett and Josh at the Southern Living Fair in Stone Mountain, GA and it was wonderful. The cooking demo was great and so very entertaining. Crystal bought your new cookbook and is loving the results that are coming warm and steaming from her oven. Thanks for being there and signing everyone's book!

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Lynne Frey

Hi Josh and Brent – I am going to make a wreaath for a garden club fundraiser. Love this idea. All natural material must be used. This will be beautiful. I have been stumped about how to make something different. Thanks for the idea. Lynne Frey

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Val

Craft idea is beautiful. Will definately try for January thru February, when Christmas has been put away, but its still cold and snowing outside. Could apply to "Valentine" decorations.

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Val

Love the craft idea, it's beautiful. Will definately try it for next Christmas, but sooner…………. Will be great for January thru February, when all Christmas decorations have been put away, but its still cold and snowing outside. Could also apply to "Valentine" decorations.

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Susan

this is great but does it need to be done in a glass container? what about plastic pitcher – like a lemonade pitcher?

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Lisa

Such a great idea! I would love to try this, but I'm just wondering if the crystals would be safe to have around my cats or would they be toxic to them?

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Mary Danette

I love this idea! Can I store the borax mixture in a glass container, if so, for how long? Thanks also, for the very entertaining holiday special. My children loved it as much as I did.

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Natalie

Just Beautiful. I love this project!

I can't wait to try it.

Happy Holiday's

to all your little creatures on the Farm and to you both, Josh and Brent.

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Peg Feltes Dordal

Hello Gentlemen,

Wondering how the glass containers fare after the borax solution is utilized. Safe to toss somewhere on the property right? Do you recommend roasting the pine cones open before dipping them? Should the glass containers be left in the house or is a bit cooler basement alright?

Thanks for getting me in the holiday spirit it's been years 🙂

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Renee

this is truly beautiful. it takes a very special, talented person to be able to look at a pine cone and say, "hey, i can use this to make a reef" or a piece of tree, or some sprigs of spruce. to see that in you mind and know exactly what you are going to do. and then, to make it look snow capped. this takes a special talent, a special heart. John and Brent, you each possess a heart of gold, and and a wealth of knowledge.

you inspire people to look beyond the "pine cone" to see the true beauty in everything.

thank you for sharing and teaching and for inspiring. you are both a treasure, at Christmas and always.

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Nora Rezabek

Amazing. I learned something new today. I lived up north for 35 years and never even heard of hoar frost. Martha has rubbed off on you about educating the public!!! Thanks

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Anniebananie

That is gorgeous! I will have to try this with my kids. We have all kinds of stuff on our property that we can collect and use, and I really like that there is hidden science content in the craft. Thank you!

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