Merry Wreaths

In News and Tips, Tips by Charlie Cole

Sleigh bells jingling; children caroling; the warm, sweet scent of treats fresh from the oven: The winter holidays are a magical time filled with goodwill and the good company of family and friends. Such a special time of year deserves to be celebrated with special decorations. So this season, why not move beyond the old balsam wreath with the large red bow and create some holiday sparkle all your own? Just look around your yard and home and you’re sure to find the markings for the very merriest of wreaths.

Instead of selecting traditional greens such as balsam or white pine for the base of your wreath, consider something a little more exotic…perhaps incense cedar, with its flat, green leaves and mustard yellow fruits, or broadleaf evergreens, such as inkberry, holly, boxwood, even rhododendron. Seeded eucalyptus, which displays blush pink or silver gray berries above its faded green leaves, and magnolia, with its glossy green leaves that dry to a matte finish, are other unexpected choices.

If you are using evergreens such as cedar or vines such as ivy, attach these to a wire wreath frame using floral wire. For a wreath of cuttings, first attach the greens to florist’s picks, then insert them into a Styrofoam form. In either case, be sure the wreath frame you select is considerably smaller than the desired finish size of your wreath, as the wreath will expand in size as you add plant materials.

To form the base of the wreath, layer the greens on top of each other, facing them in one direction and attaching them as you go, until the frame is completely covered. Then begin adding your decorations by wiring them, attaching them with floral picks, or hot-gluing them to the greens. Gather sprigs of blue-leaved juniper with its blue berries and lay them atop an evergreen base for subtle contrast. Or scavenge your yard and garden for interesting vines, twigs, and seedpods. The dried brown cones of Echinacea, arranged in groups of three or five, add interesting shapes and textures to a wreath, and the colors of red rose hips or bittersweet, with is split orange capsule and red seeds, look striking set against a dark green background. Clusters of almonds, pecans, and walnuts will lend a woodsy note, while the airy flower heads of plumed or bottlebrush grasses will offer a spectacular contrast of forms. For a sizzling finish, try hot peppers in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and don’t forget to raid the herb garden for bluish green rosemary and silvery lavender.

As you contemplate next year’s garden, consider adding plants that can be harvested for next season’s wreaths. Include grasses, flowering shrubs, and broadleaf and other evergreens in your planting scheme, as well as plants that dry well or that offer architectural interest after the flowers have passed. This way you’ll enjoy your gardens while they are in blooms, as well as appreciate their beauty in wreaths after the flowers have faded. This holiday start a brand-new tradition and decorate your home with the bounty of your gardens.