Saturday, December 11, 2010

Going Green - Wreath Making 101 - Part I

When it comes to holiday decorations, my taste is pretty simple. I like a fresh green wreath on the door with a big red velvet bow, pine comes, holly and berries. I like white lights on my tree and candles in each window and that, in a nutshell, is how the outside world views my house during the holidays.

I like to make my own Christmas wreaths. It's something I've been doing for quite a few years now and I usually start the day after Thanksgiving. I used to buy my wreath undecorated at the supermarket or local garden shop and then add my own bow. My friend and former neighbor, Diane, who now lives in Tennessee, always decorated her little log home with festoons of fresh hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), winter berry (ilex verticillata), and white pine (Pinus strobus) that she gathered in the woods behind her cabin.

The planters of colorful annuals that lined the walkway to her door in summer were filled with big bunches of the same greens and birch twigs that she sprayed with white flocking. Tiny white lights twined around the lamp post completed her outdoor decorating. There was no glitz or sparkle unless it arrived in the form of snow from mother nature. The cabin has new owners now but I fondly remember how it looked while Diane and her husband owned it. I loved the look she created. It was simple, joyful and festive and a bit nostalgic. Her influence rubbed off on me and stuck. Before Martha Stewart there was Diane H.

My wreath making doesn't stop when I've adorned my own doors with wreaths. I also make wreaths for my parents, family and friends. Sometimes I even like to play "Secret Santa" and drop a wreath off at a house where I know there's a need. It makes me smile inside when I pass by days later and see that wreath hanging on the front door.

It doesn't take a lot of patience, skill, or materials to make your own Christmas wreath. A 10 or 12 inch wreath takes about an hour to make (assuming you've gathered your greens) and cost-wise if you use your own greens, the materials should run less than $5.00.

My greens of choice still remain white pine and hemlock and holly because that's what I have the most of, but spruce and juniper (though they are a little prickly) also work beautifully if that's what you have growing nearby and that's my point to use what you have available and only purchase what we really need.

Yes, balsam wreaths smell wonderful, but you can't smell them hanging on the door! I've seen lovely wreaths made from blue spruce selling for $30 undecorated and juniper with its gorgeous blue berries is often sold by the bunch so go see what's growing in your own backyard and think how you can incorporate it into your holiday decorating.

Here are all of the supplies needed to make your own wreath. Instructions will follow in Part II.

  • One metal crimp ring slightly smaller than your desired finished wreath. For example a 12" crimp ring will make a wreath about 15 to 18 inches in diameter. Crimp rings come in a lot of sizes from 6" up to 36". I make a 6" wreath every year for my dad's garden shed. It's really cute. (see picture above) Note: this type of crimp ring can be hard to find these days in the regular big box craft departments so check out garden shops and florist supply stores.
  • A workspace and old newspapers to cover it
  • A pair of pruning shears
  • A bucket or box to keep your greens in before trimming and a trash can with liner to toss the stems and twigs into.
  • Garden gloves (so you don't get all the sticky pine resin on your holiday manicure)
  • A spool of green florist's wire
  • Fresh Greens (look in your yard for evergreen shrubs, try non-traditional evergreens too such as Euonymous and golden Cyprus, laurel, there's even some ground covers and vines that are evergreen).
  • Ribbon Bow (your choice). Make sure it's suitable for outdoors and or will hold up to snow and rain.
  • Florist Picks and/or pine cones (available at Michael's or any craft store). Pick colors that compliment or contrast with your ribbon or your house's trim color.
  • Nice to have handy --a pair of needle nose pliers, wire cutters, scissors

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