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Country Christmas

Make Your Own Fresh Holiday Wreaths and Garlands!

You can decorate your country home or rural farm with fresh holiday wreaths, garlands and swags from living plant material in 3 easy steps! Fresh holiday greenery will enhance both the inside and the outside of home and makes an attractive, welcome gift.

1. Collect the plant material and supplies: One of the great advantages of living rural is the fresh and abundant supply of holiday greenery right at your fingertips, be it on your own property or in an adjacent wooded area. Just take a walk around and you may be amazed at the available materials right on your own property. 

Choosing Greens and plant material: Cone bearing or needle evergreens are commonly used in holiday decorations. You can prune them from your home landscape or wooded area. Some of the most suitable types are: Balsam fir, Douglas fir, False cypress, Austrian pine, Ponderosa Pine, White and Scots pine. Avoid using hemlock and spruce for indoor use since they drop their needles quickly.

Broad-leaved evergreens are also attractive to add and include many of the common hardy plants found in most rural landscapes such as: Ilex (holly), Buxus (boxwood), Berberis (barberry) both the red and golden varieties, Mahonia (Oregon holly-grape), Pyracanthra (pyracanthra) and Rhododendron. Special care should be taken when harvesting this type of material not to damage the ornamental value of the plant. Ornamental grasses also offer texture and color to your wreaths and swags. Try trimming the plumes from Calamagrostis Karl Foerster also know as Feather Reed Grass, Avalanche or Overdam to add a wheat-colored accent to your designs.

Supplies needed for making holiday wreaths and garlands:

Pruning shears, knife, or old scissors
Wire, No. 9 (wreath hoops)
No. 22 or 24 and/or strong twine (binding greens)
No. 20 (binding accents)
Cones, berried branches, ribbon, etc.

2. Assembling your holiday wreaths, garlands and swags:


The first requirement is a frame. Frames can be purchased from florist or craft and hobby stores, or you can construct your own. At the farm we make our wreath and swag frames all season long whenever we trim slender sift stemmed plants such as: Salix Hakuro Nishiki, privet, lilac, grape vines, Red Twig Dogwood or wisteria.

First find a form to shape your wreath frame around. To make a form you can use just about anything round, being a nursery we typically use a 3 or 5 gallon empty container as a form.

Trim and gather branches and stems to be used. When trimming branches, cut a long enough stem to wrap at least 1 ½ times the inner diameter of your wreath form. For shorter pieces bind the ends together with No. 20 wire before wrapping around the form.

Continue to wrap around your form periodically binding the branches together with strong twine or No. 24 binding wire.

Once you have intertwined enough branches to form a wreath secure enough to hold the weight of the greens you will attach to it, hang in your barn or on a fence to dry. Note: A 10-15 inch diameter frame will make an average sized wreath. Before any branches are bound to the frame, attach binding wire to the frame at even intervals.

Cut all the greens before you begin in 4” – 6” lengths for a 15” wreath. For bulky needle types, remove 1” of the lower needles from the stem bases. Lay three or four sprigs along the frame with the tips facing backwards and the cut ends forward. Bind the cut ends with two or three turns of the wire. Then position the next set of sprigs so that it overlaps the first like shingles on a roof, and fasten again. Be sure to pull the binding wire tight each time. Continue the procedure until the frame is completed covered with greens. Do not skimp on greens. To finish attaching the greens, hold back the first sprigs and bind the last bundle. This prevents binding down the tops
of the first sprigs.

To complete the wreath, add trimmings and accent decorations such as cones, berries, ornaments, bells, or ribbons. Attach wire to each decoration separately and then wire each one to the frame

Holiday SwagSwags:

Swags are an artistic bunching of one or more evergreen branches. Swags are one of the easiest and most effective decorations for doors, gates and fences. You can make a simple swag by wiring three or four 18-inch-long to 30-inch-long branches together, tips down. Decorate with cones, ribbons, bells, seed pods, ornaments, gourds or fruits.

Festoons or Roping (Garlands):

Festoons or roping are made with the same binding method as wreaths except the greens are bound to a heavy, flexible cord of strong hemp or clothesline. While binding the greens, fasten the cord to a hook or a doorknob so that it can be stretched taut. Be sure the binding wire is firmly secured to the cord so that it cannot unravel. Garlands can be used inside or out along banisters, mantels, over doorways, on fencing, gates or barns.

3. Displaying fresh holiday wreaths, swags and garlands:

Outdoor wreaths, swags and garlands can be attached to barns, fencing and gates with No. 22 wire or strong twine. Wreaths hung on entry doors can be secured with an over the door hook available at most large hardware stores. Over the door wreath hooks are a great way to display wreaths inside and out without damaging the door!

Fire Retardant and Preservative Sprays

Evergreen decorations can be a fire hazard. As a flame retardant, spray your decorations with a mixture of 4 tablespoons boric acid and 9 tablespoons borax dissolved in 2 quarts of water. An alternative mixture is 5 tablespoons borax and 4 tablespoons Epsom salts dissolved in 2 quarts of water. However, the best precaution is to remove or replace greens when they loose their freshness.