We are decorating our community center for the holiday season this weekend. We are making the wreathes ourselves this year with greenery cut from our own gardens. I volunteered to make one of the three wreathes, and other neighbors will hang the other two tomorrow afternoon.
My friend cut Magnolia from her garden yesterday for our efforts. Some of the Magnolia became the base for this wreath, and more will be used tomorrow as we decorate the windowsills inside.
Making an evergreen wreath is not only easy, but it allows you to use exactly the greens you want. Your mailbox is probably as full as mine of catalogs offering wreathes, swags, and centerpieces handcrafted from box, cedar, holly, juniper, and yew. These beautiful pieces are so expensive.
They are lovely gifts for loved ones out of town and for those who have no way to cut or purchase greenery locally. But for those of us blessed to have gardens full of evergreen shrubs, it is easy to make our own seasonal decorations.
Cut the greens a day ahead of when you plan to make the wreath so they can condition overnight. Fill your container half full with warm water and any of the many floral preservative products according to the mixing instructions on the package. Warm water is absorbed more quickly into the cold branches, and helps hydrate the leaves and branches before you use them in your arrangement.
Cut what you have readily available.
Box, yew, cedar, and juniper are good dense, bushy materials to cover the wreath. Rosemary holds up well as it dries and smells wonderful mixed in with the other greens. Sage, lavender, and thyme also work well in wreathes, but dry out more quickly than Rosemary. Sage will visibly wilt, while lavender and thyme will dry in place without wilting.
Anything with berries looks lovely mixed in for accent. Cedar often has powdery blue berries. Holly and Nandina have red berries, and Pyracantha has orange or yellow berries. Good holly is beautiful made into wreathes when you have it. Yellowish or bluish evergreen foliage also looks beautiful worked into a wreath.
Your centerpiece will probably be made in a container you can refill as the greens drink. A wreath or swag made with freshly cut greens must last the season without additional water, so it is important to condition the greens before making the wreath.
This wreath begins with a straw wreath form from the craft store.
They generally cost between $2 and $3, often cheaper on sale. The greens are stuck onto the wreath with metal staples, available at craft stores and floral suppliers. Other materials you might want are wire and floral picks to attach decorations to the wreath.
I like to begin by covering the straw form with Magnolia leaves. This gives a nice living, green base underneath the other greenery you choose to use.
I cover the inside, outside, and front of the wreath with overlapping leaves. The staples are hidden by the leaves layered on top.
Decide early on where the “top” of the wreath will be. Attach a loop of wire for hanging to the wreath form with a floral staple. Make sure this is secure enough to hold the weight of your finished wreath.
After covering the entire form with Magnolia leaves, make up a bunch of mixed greens 6″-12″ long and about 5″-7″ wide. Layer the largest material on the bottom, and shorter accent material on top of the bunch. Secure the bunch to the form with a floral staple, making sure to catch all of the stems under the staple.
Make additional bunches, and secure each to the form so that the top of each bunch covers the staple securing the previous bunch. Make sure the last bunch of greens is secured to the wreath under the tops of the first bunch so its staple is also hidden.
This forms the main body of the wreath, and can stand alone with no additional decoration, or with a simple ribbon if you wish.
Once the entire wreath is covered, add any decorations. You can wire on fruit, Christmas ornaments, pine cones, seed pods, ribbons, leaves, flowers, or most anything else with floral wire, floral picks, or floral staples. Light items can be hot glued onto the greenery.
I chose to make a garland of cranberries, kumquats, and hot chili peppers for this wreath. To get this effect, secure one end of a piece of floral wire to the back of the wreath with a floral staple. Not knowing how long a piece of wire I would need to do the entire wreath, I began with a piece about 4′ long, securing it to the same staple that already holds the loop for hanging.
I put a second staple over the wire where I wanted my first cranberry to lay. (There is no need to have fruit on the back of the wreath which could get crushed against the door.)
Straighten the wire as much as you can, especially at the very end, and then firmly push the end of the wire through the cranberry from end to end, with the wire exiting where the stem attached. Push this first cranberry, gently, the length of the wire to rest against the staple.
String five or six more cranberries to cover the wire as it comes across the top of the wreath. Use only very firm cranberries, discarding any already soft. Where your garland comes across the face of the wreath string a Kumquat, followed by chilies, and then resume with the cranberries. I strung more cranberries until the point where the wire passes to the back of the wreath, and secured the wire with a floral staple just behind the last berry.
Repeat this process, securing the wire at the top of the wreath before the first berry and at the inside bottom just after the last berry as you loop the garland around the wreath. If you begin to run out of wire, tie the wire off to a staple on the back, and begin a new piece wrapped onto the same staple. Finally, tie off the end of the final wrap of wire to a floral staple and secure it out of site inside the wreath.
This wreath will hang outside through the New Year. I hope the fruit will stand up to such a long display. It is important to use fresh, firm, fruit to get the longest life from the arrangement you can.
Wreathes are symbols of eternal life, abundance, and the turning year. They are well loved in our holiday decorations, and so simple to make and personalize for ourselves.
A wreath from our own hand and our own garden reflects our own tastes and interests. And, this wreath smells wonderful. The deep spicy aromas of cedar and rosemary blend beautifully with the citrus kumquats.
What a wonderful gift to make for your own family, or for a special loved one this holiday season.
Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that.
She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment.
Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow.
Some green she thinks so good for our eyes that, like blue, she never banishes it entirely from our eyes, but has created evergreens.
Henry David Thoreau, Nov. 8, 1858
All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013
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