I recently completed a tutorial over on the “Home & Garden Club” blog (where all my blogging mojo is going these days) on how to create a FREE Fresh Greens Wreath using plant materials from around your own yard. Though I work for a botanical garden, the VAST majority of the greens used in my wreath were gathered in my own yard. There is no way I was going to risk the wrath of our Garden Manager by having my way with some shears in the public Garden! In any case, I thought I may as well share the tutorial on this neglected blog as well so we can all enjoy SOMETHING that’s free this Christmas season!
NOTE: I don’t recommend that you get your cuttings from your evergreen trees, they don’t recover as well from this process. Shrubs are a better alternative!
I learned the simple technique for creating these wreaths from Lou Chant of the Garden Club of Sandy & Draper way back in 1996 and I’ve made them nearly every year since. Don’t limit yourself to just wreaths- the same techniques can create garlands and other Christmas decor! Thanks to Lou, I can share the project with you and we can ALL enjoy a brighter (and cheaper) Holiday season!
Wreath Form– this can be a used one you have laying around (which is what we used) or an inexpensive straw wreath which can be purchased at any craft store.
Floral Wire– Any gauge you have lying around but green wire is best.
Floral Pins– These are optional, you’ll only need them if you want to “pin” on some berries or other items. They can be purchased at any craft store for a dollar.
Clippings– You’ll need 30-40 cuttings (maybe a few more or less depending on the size of your wreath) that are between 4- 6 inches in length. We recommend using 6-9 different kinds of clippings if you can find that many.
Accents– This could be ribbon, pine cones, berries or whatever suits your fancy!
Most of the clippings we used were filched out of my own home garden (and that of an unsuspecting next door neighbor- shhh)! We did gather some pine cones and sprigs of Hawthorne berries from the botanical garden (Conservation Garden Park) but we weren’t going to cut the plants there and hope no one else will either! Make sure you have permission to clip on someone else’s property if you plan to do that and take your clippings from inconspicuous locations on the plant no matter WHERE you get the materials from. If you are adverse to clipping anything, you can purchase fresh greenery to use for the project.
Suggested Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs
- Oregon Grape
Suggested Needled Evergreen Shrubs
- Yew (This plant is poisonous if ingested).
- Juniper (comes in several different colors, we used this as one of the main components)
- Arborvitae (we used clippings from a golden form of this shrub)
- Mugo Pine (a shrub version of a pine that always grows a little bigger than you’d like)
- Spruce (if necessary- take small clippings from inconspicuous locations)
- Hawthorn Berries (large orange)
- Pyracantha Berries (clustered small orange)
- Ornamental grass stalks (used to make the loops) or seed heads
- Seed heads from Sumac trees
- Red or Yellow Twig Dogwood sticks
- Contorted Filbert sticks (curlicue)
We also used some clippings from herbs (Culinary Sage) and from the evergreen perennial Euphorbia “Ascot Rainbow”
1. Set up your work space and place each clipping type into piles.
2. My free wreath forms are a bit of a visual mess as they are recycled from a previous project. If your wreath is going on a front door, it won’t matter if the back looks messy as no one will see it. Two of our wreaths will be placed on glass windows so the unsightly backside is an issue. To improve that appearance, we covered the wreath forms in strips of burlap. You could also use green ribbon. This is optional and is only needed if you feel the appearance of the back needs improving.
3. You can pre-group your sections if you wish by putting 3 different clipping types together then forming several different kinds of groups. I did not do this.
1. Wrap your florist wire around the wreath and tie off the ends. Don’t cut the wire! You’ll continue to wrap it around the greens and wreath until you have filled the entire surface- it’s easiest if you simply wind the wire around without having to tie on and off frequently.
2. Splay 3 types of clippings across the wreath surface then wrap around them 3 times with the floral wire.
3. Move down 2″ or so then do step #2 again with a different grouping of clippings.
4. Repeat all the way around the wreath.
5. Tuck the edges of the last set of clippings under the first set.
6. Tie off the wire on the back side of the wreath then cut the wire free from the roll of florist wire.
7. Add accents using either florist wire or floral pins to secure on top of the leaf base, be sure to tuck the stem ends behind the underlying foliage. It’s best to put the accent or bow or whatever you’re using at the location you started/ended placing the foliage on the wreath to help it appear more seamless.
- If you’re making a set, be sure that the accent area is OPPOSITE. You may even want to lay the foliage on the opposite direction (we did not do that).
- The wreaths will last the whole Christmas season outdoors.
- If using the wreaths indoors, mist with water weekly.
Kathryn and I had such a great time making the wreaths that we got together later and used up the leftover clippings from my yard to make us each a wreath. This would make a fun “girlfriends” activity because, as you can see, wreaths made by different people will always look a little different even if you are working with the same choice of clippings. Alternatively, make a couple extras to take with you as a “hostess gift” at Christmas parties this season and we’ll all smile and nod while pretending you paid top dollar for it!