Clip-and-Snip Holiday Wreaths
Venture into your backyard and gather materials for these fresh and easy-to-make decorations.
By Teri Dunn, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Sometime after the colorful holiday lights get draped over the bushes or festooned along the porch rail, but before it's time to go out and get the Christmas tree, it hits you...you need a wreath.
It's such a nice way to decorate the front door. But store-bought wreaths tend to be so unimaginative and dull, even if you add a colorful ribbon. Here's my solution—make your own!
All the materials you need are in your backyard. What could be easier? And it's the perfect way to tie your holiday decorating into the landscape.
The best part about making your own holiday wreath is that you can use all sorts of plant materials—no need to limit yourself to the standard balsam fir or spruce twigs.
Granted, early winter is not the time to be pruning any trees or bushes, not even evergreens. The best time is late winter or early spring. But rest assured that the selective snippings you will be taking here and there will barely alter your plants' appearance or harm them. If you're worried, just cut down low or from the back of a plant. And make sure you clip from a variety of sources so no one plant takes the brunt of your trimmings.
Armed with Pruners
To get started, go outside with sharp pruners and a collecting bag. Mid-morning is ideal because any overnight frost or snow has probably cascaded off by then. Plus, the plants contain the greatest amount of moisture at this time.
Go to the evergreens first, They're traditional, plus they always make a good base or backdrop and are durable. Seek out a range of textures and keep an eye on color; hunt for a variety of hues, as well. Arborvitae, fir, Douglas fir, cedar, false cypress, juniper and various kinds of spruce trees are excellent choices, as are short-needled pines. I avoid longer-needled ones because they're lankier and harder to work with.
While you're out, you'll notice other potential sources of attractive additions. Holly sprigs, with or without berries, bring an irresistible sparkle to a wreath. Even spent flowers and pods clinging to plants are worthy choices.
For a final burst of color, don't forget berries or fruits of the season—barberries, rose hips, winterberries, juniper berries and so forth—and cones. As you cut, try to get a bit of base on these extra items to help with attaching.
My most important suggestion: Cut long stems, between 3 and 6 inches where possible. This gives you more to work with and keeps your trimmings well anchored throughout the holidays.
To make your wreath, follow these simple steps:
- Make a wreath frame. For a wreath that will last, you'll need a sturdy frame. Store-bought frames are perfect and inexpensive. You can also make your own from a base of sphagnum moss and a wire wreath frame (below). Just dump the moss into a bowl or pan and moisten it slightly, then press it into the frame. Wrap it in place by winding green nonadhesive floral tape around it until it is secure. Overlap each turn by only about 1/4 inch, or the plastic layer will be too thick for poking twigs through.
- Assemble by layers. Choose one or two types of substantial cuttings for the base of your wreath. Strip the ends of the stems and poke the sprigs into the moss (remember to give them long enough stems to stay in place). If the stems are too short, wrap them with florist wire and poke them in place. Work your way entirely around the frame at least once. Each twig will hold in place, especially if its stem is long enough to stick deep into the dampened moss. In frigid weather, the twigs will be frozen in place.
- Add layers. The wreath will be more attractive if you work with one sort of plant material at a time and at least once around. The final goal is make the wreath so full that the base is completely hidden from view (below). Add decorative flourishes—berries and cones—last. If you tuck them in too soon, they can get obscured from view. Make a hook from a loop of wire. Hang it and stand back. Fine-tune your composition, adding a bow if needed. Then proudly hang it in the most prominent place—the front door.