Often, the simplest holiday decorations can be found right in your own backyard.
Small evergreen boughs or nandina fronds with berries make a mantle look instantly festive.
Small pine cones and acorns can fill a glass bowl with seasonal style.
A vase full of shiny green foliage mixed with red berries can be a quick and easy centerpiece.
So can shiny red apples or pomegranates, resting in a cheery green bowl.
No cedars or firs in your yard? Trimmings from the Christmas tree’s bottom branches can be turned into an inexpensive and fragrant wreath. So can juniper or cypress stems, snipped from these common landscape shrubs.
Or get creative with less-traditional foliage such as magnolia or persimmon leaves, nandina or sword fern fronds. Your “greenery” doesn’t have to be green. Colorful autumn leaves, such as scarlet oak or red maple, look sensational, too.
With deep roots in Germany and other parts of Western Europe, wreath-making is a holiday tradition that dates back more than four centuries. Early American colonists made evergreen wreaths much like we do today (except they used twine, not tape).
Making a wreath with gleanings from nature can become a family tradition. The whole process takes little time.
Hung on the door, the finished wreath brings weeks of cheer. Created together, its memories last far longer.
▪ Start by gathering your greenery, leaves, berries and other natural materials – the fresher, the better. The greenery depends on what you have available; you’ll need enough to cover the whole wreath. Among the possibilities are magnolia, persimmon, boxwood, holly, pine, cedar, purple hop bush, rhododendron, balsam fir, olive, bay, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, heavenly bamboo and ferns.
▪ If using autumn leaves, choose firm and glossy types such as magnolia or persimmon (they’re less fragile). Soak them in water for an hour, so they’ll be supple and clean. With a paper towel or a cloth rag, wipe each leaf off individually; this polishes the surface so they’ll look shiny and bright.
▪ Then, pick some accents: Fruit (especially small apples, kumquats and pomegranates), berries (such as holly, nandina, heavenly bamboo, pyracantha and toyen), rose hips, pine or fir cones, seed pods or acorns.
▪ Next, you need a base for your wreath. Commercial forms are available at crafts stores. But a pair of coat hangers can make a quick, cheap wreath form. Tape the hangers together at the top and stretch the wire down to form a square. Tape the two wires together at the bottom. Then bend the wires together into a circular shape. If it’s still squarish, that’s OK; the foliage will make it look circular. The hooks at the top also make the wreath easy to hang.
▪ For tools and supplies, you can get by with scissors and electrical tape, but some other items (such as wire and pliers) allow for flexibility. (For example, it’s easier to attach fruit and berries with thin wire than tape.)
▪ Make clusters of two to five leaves, wiring or taping them together at the stem. Use floral tape (it’s thin, green and flexible) or electrical tape (also thin and flexible; it’s stronger than floral tape and works well with heavier materials).
▪ If using evergreens, cut pieces about 6 to 8 inches long. Make clusters of three or four stems, taped or wired together at the base.
▪ Attach the leaf clusters to the form. Working clockwise, wire or tape the leaf or evergreen clusters to the ring, one cluster at a time. Overlap them as you go, spacing them a few inches apart. (The closer the clusters, the more dense and full the wreath will appear.) The last clusters will be tucked under the first.
▪ Then, add other decorations and accents. If using berry stems or small pine cones, twist a piece of thin wire around their base. Thread the wire between clusters of leaves and anchor onto the ring. (If using thicker wire, pliers come in handy.)
▪ Add a bow and other decorations if desired. Tie them on with more wire. If working with a wreath form, use a double piece of ribbon or thicker wire attached to back of the wreath to hang.
Once hung, your backyard wreath will greet guests with homegrown holiday cheer and stay fresh at least through New Year’s Day.
Make your own wreath
Here’s what you need:
▪ Wreath ring, base or form (two wire coat hangers taped together works fine)
▪ Thin wire (22-gauge is preferred)
▪ Floral tape or electrical tape
▪ Pliers (optional)
▪ T-pins or other long floral crafts pins
▪ Sharp paring knife
▪ Greenery, leaves, berries, etc.
▪ Other decorative items (optional)