Two of the things I most look forward to about the holiday season are decorating with evergreens and the smell that comes from decorating with evergreens. I usually just head down to Costco after Thanksgiving to pick up a decent-quality $15 wreath, but this year I didn’t. This year I made my own.
When I was growing up my mom used to make a huge six-foot-across wreath out of branches and greens from the yard and hang it on the peak of our garage, complete with big red bow and lights. It took a lot of work, but looked really great (and was the snazziest decoration on the block, which is sometimes what it’s all about, right?). All that to say, my mom knows what she’s doing, so when she suggested a small wreath-making party a couple weeks ago, I was all in. Because here’s the thing: making your own wreath is super easy. And cheap. And fun to do with other people. You just have to be willing to cut some branches down in your yard (or knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for some of theirs).
Here are the things you need:
loppers (for serious branch cutting)
wire wreath form
ribbon, pinecones, floral picks
All told, the basic supplies should only cost about $5 because, ideally, your evergreen branches are free. If you’re from around here, perfect–Washington is replete with evergreens and any trimming you do to get branches is probably necessary anyway. If you’re not from around here, you might have to work a little harder or go outside your idea of what a typical wreath looks like.
When you set out to gather branches, get more than you think you’ll need. Wreaths have a lot of greens compacted together, so you will use more than you expect. Don’t be afraid to mix different greens–mine has fir, cedar, boxwood and laurel together. Using different shaped and textured leaves and branches adds depth makes a more interesting wreath.
1. Lay out your branches by type so you can see what you have, it’s easier this way. Also, plan to work over a floor that you won’t mind dropping lots leaves and branch bits on (like a garage or driveway).
2. Because branches grow wide and spacious, not close and compact, you can’t just wire a branch onto the wreath form, even if it look like it would be perfect. Instead, use your pruners and clip off a few 5-6 inch sections of a branch you like, then stack them together to make a hand-sized clump.
3. Wrap the end of your floral wire around the clump four or five times, about an inch or two from the bottom, to make a small bouquet. Do not cut the wire. Now lay the clump on the wreath form, angling slightly to the outside, and wrap the still-attached wire around the clump and the wreath form four or five times.
4. Now you just keep repeating making clumps and attaching them to the wreath all the way around. To add other varieties of evergreens, try alternating clumps of different types of branches or just include different types in each clump. When you have finished, cut the end of the wire, then weave through the wires on the back of the form to secure.
5. When you have all the evergreens on, it’s a good idea to hang up the wreath and see how it looks upright. Make any adjustments, then add embellishments–pine cones (wrap wire around the base and then attach to the form), bows (put wire through the bow and attach, or just tie the bow around the wreath), and floral picks (just shove right into the wreath, easy peasy).
A few extra pointers: make sure you overlap each new clump over the last clump so that none of the wreath form or floral wire shows. Keep an eye on the shape of the center and the outside edge to make sure that it’s not so bushy that it no longer looks round. If you mess up, you can always go back and wire in another clump in a bald spot or give your wreath a haircut in a bushy spot. Or, add an embellishment over an ugly spot. No one will ever know.
Once you’ve finished, you’ll be so amazed at how easy it was and you’ll be totally thrilled that you made something so fantastic. And if you’re fortunate like me, you’ll also get to enjoy a yummy goat cheese snack that your really thoughtful friend brought over.
What about you, do you make holiday wreaths? Or purchase them? Or decorate purchased wreaths?