Re-Inventing A Wreath

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Making a wreath for the door is always fun.  Coming up with ideas, gathering the materials, pulling it all together, and finally hanging the finished wreath is one way I celebrate the change of seasons.  And not just at Christmas; I make wreathes throughout the year.

I remember many cold December days, when I wandered around the garden with clippers and a large bucket of water, pruning the evergreens in preparation for making Christmas wreathes.  I usually attach bundles of mixed greens to straw wreath forms with U shaped wire pins.  And oh, my hands get so cold and sticky and scratched in the process, though the evergreen branches smell wonderful!

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Holly

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Today has been sun-drenched and passably warm, after the morning’s frost burned off.  As the day wore on, I decided it was a pretty good day for the annual cutting of the greens, and went in search of my supplies.

A spur of the moment decision to make our wreathes ended up demanding yet another trip to the craft store.  I need two wreathes for our front porch, and could only find a single straw form.  This of course drew comment from my partner about the dozen or so retired wreathes hanging in the garage.

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A finished wreath from 2013

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But we headed out to the store anyway, and I searched aisle after aisle for the forms I had in mind.  Finally, in the back corner of the place I found three sizes of straw wreath:  huge, small, and tiny.  None matched the medium wreath form waiting at home.  What to do? 

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A wreath in progress…. 2013

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We walked around the store for another 10 minutes or so with two large straw wreath forms in the cart.  And all the while I was weighing the effort it would take to rehabilitate some not-so-gently-used retired grapevine wreathes resting in the basement, against the too many dollars it would require to buy these jumbo straw hoops.

A look at the long line waiting for check-out clinched the deal.  We left the new wreath forms for someone else, and headed home to see what could be done with what we had.

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Now, the grapevine wreathes waiting for us in the basement  were lovely when they were new.  And I have remade them at least once since.

But the hot glue which once held them together was pulling loose, the bright green reindeer moss had faded to grey, and they were a sad lot, to be kind.  I pulled the remaining shells away and cleaned them up a bit, before taking them out to a patch of sunshine in the front yard.  It was barely warm enough to gild them, but gild them we did.

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2014

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Gold paint makes most things a bit better, or at least a bit more interesting.   I left the wreathes to dry in the sunlight, while I set off with the clippers for a bit of green.

My first stop was the Eucalyptus.  It froze back to the ground last winter, but has come out strong again this year.  Knowing that it might be ruined again by cold weather, I didn’t hesitate to cut quite a bit of the newest growth.

Next, I pruned the lowest branches from a rogue seedling of Virginia red cedar.  The tree is about 6′ tall now and a bit of limbing up did it no harm.

Finally, I gave the large old Rosemary in our front garden a good trim.  The cold will darken this summer’s leaves soon enough.  I cut a generous portion for our wreathes.

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That was plenty of greenery for the design I had in mind, which would allow some of the grapevine and original decorations to show as well.

That said, I quickly realized that the pins I’d gotten last month for the wreathes were going to be a challenge to use on the grapevine frame.  Basically, there is nothing to grip them.  But a bit of tweaking with needle nosed pliers soon bent the ends around the strands of vine, at least enough to hold my bundles of greenery in place.

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If you are making this sort of wreath, simply combine 6 or 7 sprigs into a bundle, wrap it with a bit of wire, and secure it to the form.  Each bundle should be about 5″-7″ long, depending on the circumference of your frame.   I used the same three plants in each bundle, in the same order, for a fairly uniform appearance.  But you might also alternate the bundles for a different effect.

I covered about two-thirds of the form with greenery, leaving the original wreath to show in the open space.  I re-attached some of the gilded moss and woody flowers, and also glued the shells back to the wreath before finishing with a fresh sparkly gold ribbon bow.

I’m rather pleased with how they turned out, and even more pleased that I recycled, rather than retailed, for this project.

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Have you made your holiday wreathes yet?  If not, I hope that you draw some inspiration from this little effort, and craft your own this year.

I ended up buying our front door wreathes last year.  They were beautiful, but I also missed the DIY Christmas I’ve grown to love.

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Making a wreath is simple and satisfying.  I challenge you to DIY this year, and create something uniquely yours.   Once you’ve made your holiday wreathes, please photograph them and share their beauty with the rest of us.  Please post photos on your site, and leave a link in the comments so I can enjoy them too!

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My second wreath today

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We will enjoy a walk through Colonial Williamsburg one day soon to enjoy their beautiful seasonal wreathes.  When we do, I’ll take lots of photos to share with you again this year.  I am always delighted by the fresh takes on using fruit and greens, nuts, cones, shells and other natural (and manufactured) items in the wreathes in the historic district of Williamsburg.

Whether you love glitz and glam at the holidays, or prefer something handcrafted or inspired by nature, there are a million ways to express your holiday spirit.

I hope you will join the holiday wreath challenge this year!

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Apples, Pine Cones and Artichokes: Ornamenting the Wreath

December 13, 2015 CW 213

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What is beautiful?  What is not?

Our answer is often a Rorschach test of our own personality.

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December 13, 2015 CW 126

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Wreathes, a most ancient symbol of eternity and eternal life, come to us from deep antiquity.

We find traces of them in the earliest evidence of civilization we can find.  Whether made from precious metals and ornamented with gemstones, carved in stone, or woven from olive branches; wreathes remain symbols of celebration and commemoration.

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December 13, 2015 CW 176

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Wreathes woven from evergreen branches mark the winter solstice holidays.  They symbolically promise that despite the ever shortening days and cold weather, life goes on and the sun will soon return.  And we decorate these evergreen wreathes with the seeds of new life.

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December 13, 2015 CW 194

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Fruits, cones, berries, cotton puffs, nuts and seed pods, our favorite ornaments for our wreathes, all bear seeds inside them.  They contain the promise of next season’s fertility.

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The early Virginia colonists likely brought branches of evergreen trees into their homes to mark the  Christmas holiday.  But the certainly didn’t construct the beautiful fruit laden wreathes we admire around ‘Colonial Williamsburg’ today.

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To quote Theobald and Oliver, writing on the official Colonial Williamsburg website in an article called, ‘Deck the Doors,’  :

“Never mind that no one in the eighteenth century would have been caught dead with real fruit tacked to his front door.  Anyone hanging fresh fruit outdoors in the middle of winter to rot or be devoured by squirrels would have been thought, at best, highly eccentric by his neighbors. “

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December 13, 2015 CW 168

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The unique handmade wreathes, swags. sprays and baskets, constructed of only natural materials and lacking ribbons and bows, were first created in the late 1930’s; after the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation opened up for business and wanted to attract a crowd in all seasons.

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December 13, 2015 CW 088

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They were greatly admired and photographed.  Soon a contest for the most beautiful wreathes in this style evolved, and the ‘Della robbia’ or ‘fruit covered’ wreath style of Colonial Williamsburg was launched.

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In some ways it makes sense that these beautiful wreathes, constructed of ‘found’ materials, caught on at the end of the Great Depression years in America.  Wreathes in this style may be constructed very inexpensively with whatever may be at hand.

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December 13, 2015 CW 087

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They are also a reaction, at least in part, against the commercialization of Christmas.  They feed our romantic notion of what life could have been like ‘back in the day’ before silver tinsel trees and Christmas ornaments imported from Asian factories became the norm.

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December 13, 2015 CW 118

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But the truth is, even though wealthy residents of 18th century Williamsburg might have eaten pineapples and citrus fruits imported from the Caribbean colonies, they didn’t fashion outdoor decorations from them.

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December 13, 2015 CW 120

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And the Colonial Williamsburg wreathes today ask us to broaden our thinking about what is appropriate as a Christmas decoration.  Dried okra pods?  Skeins of yarn?  Artichokes?  Why not?

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December 13, 2015 CW 027

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Beauty often transcends the materials and shines through the design, the geometry, the harmony, and the  colors used.

The making of these wreathes is a 20th Century phenomenon; not an 18th Century fashion.  But they blend so beautifully into this reconstruction and reinterpretation of a Colonial Virginia town.

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December 13, 2015 CW 091

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If you find them beautiful, please try your hand at making a della Robbia wreath of your own.  Begin with a wire, straw or grapevine base.  Gather some evergreen branches or Magnolia leaves.  Bay leaves and citrus leaves work well, too, if you have them.

Then gather things you find beautiful and meaningful:  fruit, cones, shells, pods, dried flowers, vegetables, nuts and berries.  Use wire, hot glue and floral picks to build your design.

You might even make an ‘edible’ wreath of fruits to serve at a party.

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December 13, 2015 CW 171

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The trick is to express yourself and create a wreath which has meaning for you.  Create something beautiful to ornament your own home at the holidays.

The materials don’t matter, so long as they bring you joy.

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Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a 'Star Wars' theme.....

Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a ‘Star Wars’ theme…..

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All photos were taken in Colonial Williamsburg this December

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'Light Sabers...."

‘Light Sabers….”

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 13, 2015 CW 121

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar,  featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015, is  available now.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Still Playing Around With Wreathes

December 9, 2014 wreathes 011

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Today I’ve translated my ideas for some unusual wreathes into substance.

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Eliza Waters makes the excellent point that we make our wreathes and arrangements for the joy of doing it.  We do it for our own pleasure, and the pleasure of our loved ones.  (in the comments, here)

The judgement or approval of others is not really a factor when we’re just “playing around.”

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And I’m still playing around with using moss, sticks, lichens and ivy in winter decorations.

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My partner likes these, and so do I.

We have so many birds in our garden that most years they’ve tried to build little nests in our wreathes.

We have to be very careful how we open our door that we don’t invite one inside accidentally.

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So we took it to the extreme, and peopled our wreathes with little wooden birds to begin with.

Do you think the real birds will still visit the wreathes? 

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I’m guessing they’ll find the moss irresistible for lining their nests, and I may need to patch these up from time to time!

The sticks are dead branches from Azalea and Mountain Laurel.  I gave the Mountain Laurel a light wash of white acrylic paint for contrast against our door.

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The shells come from the coast of North Carolina, picked up a few years back on vacation.

The moss is all purchased from the crafts store and glued on to the straw wreath forms with hot glue.

The ivy is all alive, roots tucked into a little plastic wrapped package of soil and wet moss.  I hope it will grow additional roots into the wet moss over the  next few weeks.

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We love having  these  living, growing wreaths for Christmas.  They reflect our garden and the things we enjoy. 

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Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

3x3x3

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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Have you noticed that art, like music, is mostly mathematical? 

As you scratch even a tiny bit below the surface of either discipline, you find yourself awash in numbers, fractions, ratios, and the metronome ticking of constant counting.

Take this beautiful wreath, for instance, hanging now in Colonial Williamsburg. 

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 152

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At first glance, you might register the color and complexity of design.    But if you take a deep breath, and hold your focus on the details for a few moments, the “3s” begin to pop out at you.

How many sets of “3” can you find?

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 151

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I only mention this in the hopes of getting your own creative juices flowing a bit. 

(You see, I can count on my fingers those blogging friends who have suggested they might send me a photo of a wreath they’ve made, or a link to their own post about making a wreath.)

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 150

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Until you’ve made one, it looks hopelessly complicated.  That is how I felt when facing my first dress pattern and yards of cloth back in Jr. High school!

But step by step, bit by bit, making a wreath like this isn’t as complex as it might appear.

Yes, you can do it, too!

Do you notice that there are three artichokes, three lotus pods, and three groups of  three oranges?  There are four pomegranates, just to throw us off a little, and five pine cones. The wreath is worked in only five colors:  green, red, orange, brown, yellow, and cream.

This wreath is composed from fruits, vegetables, dried flowers, pine cones, lotus pods, and evergreen branches.  It could be made on a straw, Styrofoam, or wire wreath base.  Any of the three would work, but Styrofoam would be the easiest to use.

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A similiar design hanging a ways down Francis St. from the first.

A similiar design hanging on Duke of Gloucester Street.   Drumsticks and Cinnamon sticks ornament this wreath, made on a grapevine wreath form. The components are attached with light weight florist’s wire and floral “picks,” and possibly hot glue.  Did you notice the three pomegranates, three artichokes, and three groups of three oranges?  See the triangles formed in the design? The color scheme is basically the same as the first wreath.

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Once you had all of the components assembled, it would take you less than an hour to pull this wreath together.

When working with a wire wreath base, thin, flexible wire is first attached to all of the components, and then those wires are twisted onto the base.  You would attach the branches first, then the large cones and fruits, finishing off with bunches of dried flowers to fill in the bare spots.  Small wooden skewers, already attached to thin wire (florist picks) are used to wire the artichokes, pomegranates, and oranges to the wire base.

This lovely wreath features mostly dried flowers and seed pods.  You could make this easily with a hot glue gun.

This lovely wreath features mostly dried flowers and seed pods on a grapevine base.  The green comes from dried hops.  You could easily make this with just  a hot glue gun.

 

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I prefer working on straw bases or Styrofoam.  I use long wire “staples” to attach the green branches to the base, and pieces of thin bamboo “shish-kabob” skewers (from the grocery store) to impale the fruits or vegetables and attach them to the base.  Wire little bunches of the dried flowers together, and attach them with the wire staples, too, as the finishing touch.

Some people use hot-glue in the assembly.  This works, too; especially for the light elements of your design.

I’m doing the mental work tonight on two wreathes I plan to construct tomorrow.  If they turn out well, I’ll share photos in a later post. 

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 034

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This fairly unusual wreath we spotted last week on our walk through Colonial Williamsburg inspired my design idea…

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Early December tends to be a creative time of the year for many of us.  We’re decorating, cooking, and maybe even making a few gifts.

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This wreath is formed on grapevines and a hollowed out gourd.

This wreath is formed on grapevines and a hollowed out gourd.  Okra pods, berries,  oranges, and dried flowers add color and interest to the design.  This hangs on Francis Street, west of the old Capitol.

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We enjoy making things for the coming holidays. 

Actually, the lights and evergreens help distract me from the grey skies, fog, and cold winds this month brings.

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By focusing on beauty, it makes the wintery reality of December a little easier to endure.

What are you creating this December?

Take whatever comes to hand, and please, make something beautiful!

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

 

The Season of Wreathes

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It is December in Williamsburg, and wreathes are appearing on front doors everywhere.

I love early December when it is still warm enough to walk around the colonial area and enjoy these unusual and beautiful decorations.

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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Known as “della Robbia,” these unique decorations are made from natural, easily accessible materials which would have been available to the residents of Williamsburg during the 18th Century.

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These wreathes, garlands and sprays reflect the evergreens and berries available in our Virginia woods, shells collected from the James River and Chesapeake Bay, feathers from local birds, dried flowers and pods grown in Colonial gardens, and the many fruits and vegetables either imported from the Caribbean colonies, or grown locally.

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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No, we don’t grow pineapples, lemons and oranges in Virginia.  But these exotic fruits were readily available to the colonists through trade with the rest of the British Empire.

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation produces all of the wreathes and decorations used on their buildings each December.

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It is a huge undertaking for their staff each year, and draws visitors from across the United States and around the world.

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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I was in good company with lots of other photographers as I took photos on the eastern end of things, near the Colonial Capitol, yesterday.

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We’ll make another trek to capture the decorations on the western end of Duke of Gloucester Street, near The College of William and Mary, one day soon.

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 145

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Some of my companion photographers planned to use their photos to produce their own Christmas cards.  Others just wanted souvenirs.

I’ll share photos with you over several posts during December.

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I’ve made the first of my own wreathes for this year, in the della Robbia style, and they are hanging now at our neighborhood community center.

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I made this wreath on Saturday.

I made this wreath on Saturday.

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These are made on purchased straw wreath forms.  I begin with a base of Magnolia leaves, then add mixed bunches of evergreen which includes Cedar, Rosemary and Lavender  from our garden, and trimmings from the Christmas tree we purchased on Saturday.  Step by step instructions, with photos, may be found here….

These wreathes are trimmed with pine cones collected near College Creek on Saturday afternoon, Red Delicious apples, and some feathers from the craft store.

I hope you’ll construct some beautiful wreathes of your own this year, using whatever materials you can collect locally.

Colonial Williamsburg 2014

Colonial Williamsburg 2014

Please send me photos of your creations (by December 13)  to include in a round-up post later this month.  I can’t wait to see what you come up with! 

If you blog, please send a ping back and I’ll include a link to your post from mine.

This is a tiny little rebellion against Christmas “Made in China.”  Let’s make our own Christmas cheer, from the materials close at hand, just as our grandparents did.

It is a lot more interesting, and a lot more fun!

 

Colonial Williamsburg 2014

Colonial Williamsburg 2014

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

Holiday Wreath Challenge

Last year's creation.

Last year’s creation.

I love making holiday wreathes.

Wreathes date back millennia as one of our most ancient floral decorations.

They symbolize eternity.  Wreathes, as perfect circles, have no beginning and no end.

They symbolize the circular progression of the seasons;  our Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Traditionally made from cut greens, they symbolize eternal life.

Wreathes have been given as trophies to the victor.  Wreathes have been hung around the necks of horses, worn as a head dress, hung on front doors, used as table centerpieces, and sent as gifts.

Wreathes may be made of living plants, cut greens, vines, straw, wire, cloth, paper, plastic, porcelain, or fruit.

This week, I’ve been  planning and sourcing materials for  a set of wreathes which I’ll construct later in the month.

And I am interested in seeing what wreathes you make, this holiday season, as well.

Nov 9 wreathes 005

And so I’m issuing a “Wreath Challenge” to my community here at Forest Garden.

Post a photo of a wreath you make this holiday season  by December 13.   Tag your post, “Holiday Wreath Challenge,” and include a link back to this post.

Please let me know in the comments that you plan to participate so I can be watching for your post.

I’ll pull together a “holiday blog hop” of all the posts you create.

Your post can show how you constructed the wreath and describe the materials you used, or can simply include a photo.  It would be great for you to describe your wreath and explain why you chose the materials you did.

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In fact, for this Holiday Wreath Challenge, there will be two separate categories of wreathes. 

One category will be of wreathes made entirely of natural materials.

There is a strong tradition in Colonial Williamsburg of fresh, living wreathes hung on each building.   Visitors come from all over the world each December to view these unique wreathes.

Made entirely of fresh, living materials, our “della Robbia” wreathes include: evergreens, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and cones, feathers, herbs, seed pods, leaves and twigs, shells, and dried flowers.  

The wreathes often include symbols of a particular person or trade.  Since they are made from whatever is close at hand, they are very personal and use materials in novel ways.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

The della Robbia wreathes displayed each year in Colonial Williamsburg are inspired by engravings  of 18th Century Virginia holiday decorations, and are made only from materials available in the 18th Century.

Ribbons traditionally are not used on these wreathes.

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

A second category will be for wreathes which include modern man-made materials.

If your wreath includes ribbons, floral picks, Christmas ornaments, and other fabricated items it will fall into this other category.

You may use any materials you like to enter a wreath in this group, and may be as creative and unconventional with your  wreath as your imagination allows.

Many of the wreathes I've made over the years begin with grapevines.  This one includes silk ivy and  porcelain birds.

Many of the wreathes I’ve made over the years begin with grapevines. This one includes silk ivy and porcelain birds.  I can keep this one and use it year to year.

I’ve included a few links to inspire you and get you started with your own wreath making:

Step by step instructions on constructing an evergreen wreath maybe found here, along with photos of a wreath I made last year.

The history of wreathes, and more photos of wreathes I’ve made are here.

A tour of della Robbia wreathes from Colonial Williamsburg may give you some ideas. (Two separate links)

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center.  The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center. The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Now, I feel as though I’m leaving some of you out.

Some of my blog visitors don’t have a blog of their own.  You might want to share your wreath, but not know how to do it.

And I want you to include you, too. 

So for you non-bloggers, please email photos of your finished wreath to me at :  woodlandgnome@zoho.com  and I will include photos of your wreathes in my post.  Please tell me in your email whether I may use your name and where you live.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.  Each live Christmas tree  has its own little water dish to keep it fresh until it is sold.

Ready or no, here the holidays come, once again.

Whether you love them or endure them, they are as perennial as mosquitoes in a Virginia summer.  So lets just decide to enjoy them this year, plan ahead, and have some fun. 

I hope you will accept my challenge to make a beautiful wreath for yourself this year, and share it with the rest of us.

Who knows, you might have so much fun that you decide to make a bunch of them!

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Making an Evergreen Wreath

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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.

Magnolia branches, from my friends garden, soaking in a bucket of warm water and floral preservative to condition them before we decorate our community center for the holidays.

Magnolia branches, from my friends garden, soaking in a bucket of warm water and floral preservative to condition them before we decorate our community center for the holidays.

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.

Fresh cut cedar and Rosemary soak in this job of warm water and floral preservative so they are conditioned for the wreath.

Fresh cut cedar and Rosemary soak in this jug of warm water and floral preservative so they are conditioned for the wreath.

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.

This straw wreath form forms the base for the wreath.

This straw wreath form forms the base for the wreath.

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.

These floral staples secure everything to the wreath.  Simply push each into the straw from with your thumb.

These floral staples secure everything to the wreath. Simply push each into the straw form with your thumb.

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.

Secure the first Magnolia leaf with a floral staple.

Secure the first Magnolia leaf with a floral staple.

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.

Each new leaf hides the previous staple.  The final leaf is secured under the tip of the first leaf so all staples are hidden.

Each new leaf hides the previous staple. The final leaf is secured under the tip of the first leaf so all staples are hidden.

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.

Now that the form is covered in Magnolia, we can build onto this base.

Now that the form is covered in Magnolia, we can build onto this base.

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.

Make bundles of evergreen branches and secure each bundle to the base with a floral staple.

Make bundles of evergreen branches and secure each bundle to the base with a floral staple.

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.

Secure additional bundles so each previous staple is hidden.

Secure additional bundles so each previous staple is 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.

After securing floral wire to the back of the wreath, begin stringing fruit for the garland.

After securing floral wire to the back of the wreath, begin stringing fruit for the garland.

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.

Cranberries, Kumquats, and dried chillies strung on floral wire garland this wreath.

Cranberries, Kumquats, and dried chilies strung on floral wire garland this wreath.

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.

Secure the wire to the back of the wreath at either end of the strung fruit.

Secure the wire to the back of the wreath at either end of the strung fruit.

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.

The finished wreath is ready to hang.

The finished wreath is ready to hang.

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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