How to make your own Christmas wreath
- Credit: Leigh Clapp
East Sussex-based events florist Nadia Florence-Marshall demonstrates how to create a beautiful festive garland with foliage from your garden
Making your own wreath for the front door is fun, economical and is sure to bring some festive joy. The basis of the wreath is fresh evergreen foliage, such as conifers, holly, ivy, eucalyptus or box, embellished with berries, winter flowers, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, dried fruit or even feathers. Other options include physalis, rose hips, papery hydrangea blooms, mistletoe, vibrant purple callicarpa, viburnum or snowberries. Take a wander around your garden and gather your selection. Be creative and use whatever takes your fancy. If needed, augment with material from your local garden centre or florist - many stock a good selection of Christmas greenery and sundries. You can use a florist’s circle frame, a circular oasis or make your own base with twisted stems of coloured willows, dogwood or any pliable shrub or vine. Use this guide demonstrated by East Sussex-based events florist Nadia Florence-Marshall as a basis and add your own touches of creativity to personalise your wreath.
What you need
Double circle frame
Reel of wire
Green garden string
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Gloves – if you have any allergies to the plants
Base foliage- cypress conifer or similar
Cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon
Dried apple slices
Mini dried pumpkins, available from floristry suppliers
Mini bundles of birch twigs
1. Any evergreen foliage can be used to cover the base, making sure the back is covered as well as the front. Here we used cypress. “This takes quite a lot of material but is less messy than using moss and more economical,” says Nadia. “Bind in bunches in a circular motion always going the same direction.”
2. Cut off any branches sticking out so it doesn’t scratch your door paint. Once you have enough on the base with all the branches sticking out at angles, tie some green garden string and knot leaving a tail that you can tie off when you have completed binding the whole of the wreath. Then using quite a lot of pressure bind over and under the foliage until you reach the start with the tail to tie off. The pressure will slacken as you work, before you tie your last end to the first tail you left, go around again pulling the string quite tight. All of these bindings will help to hold the next set of foliage to your circle.
3. Group your decorative foliage ready to use. Remove lower leaves. Use the string binding you have wrapped around the base and insert the stems of foliage into this. If it needs a second point of binding use a thin wire on a spool
Keep checking the wreath to see the balance of foliage. “If you can suspend your door wreath in front of you or prop it up,” says Nadia, “it makes it much easier for you to decide where to put the rest of the foliage plus all of your festive embellishments.”
4. “When you have finished the foliage part, and I always say if it looks great at this stage then you probably have done enough,” says Nadia. “Some people really like just foliage and nothing else, I finish off with a leaf shine to bring out the berries but it’s not necessary. However, if you want a really luxurious look carry on.”
5. Prepare your embellishments: remember odd numbers are best. “This is where a glue gun comes in very handy,” says Nadia. “Be careful as the glue is very hot so don’t let children use this unsupervised. I have a battery operated one so no need to plug in. If you don’t have a glue gun then the pine cones, cinnamon sticks, peppers will need to be wired into place.”
6. Wire or glue on the decorative touches, holding up the wreath as you go to check how it looks. “A very thick wire on a spool is great for this,” says Nadia. “Remember to tie off around the side of the wreath, or bend the ends into the foliage, so you don’t scratch the door paint.”
7. Your completed wreath is now ready to hang. “Use a covered wire or strong string doubled up to make sure, to hang from your door and finish off with a fabulous bow or lots of raffia,” says Nadia. “You can spray water on your wreath but in December our weather isn’t usually dry enough for this. I have managed to hang a wreath on my door for the whole of December.”
- Remember that you are actually pruning plants when collecting live greenery so take care when cutting and ensure that you retain the form. “Choose the lovely foliage available at this time of year such as berried ivy, holly with red berries if you can. Best to collect this at the beginning of December and put in a bucket of water. If you don’t by the time you want it the birds have taken all the berries,” suggests Nadia
- You may like to make your own decorative fruit adornments. Cut thin slices of oranges, lemons or limes, blot on paper towels, and place on a rack in the oven at the lowest temperature. Leave them to dry out for about three hours, turning every 30 minutes or so, checking until almost dry. Turning regularly also stops them sticking on the rack. Leaving a bit of moisture will keep the orange colour and they will continue to dry at room temperature.
- To dry apple slices, core and slice thinly, about ¼ inch. To prevent browning, soak in a solution of two cups lemon juice and three tablespoons of salt for 15 minutes. Pat dry, place on cookie sheets in the oven at 150 degrees for around six hours. Keep the oven door slightly open for air to circulate and turn the slices when they start to curl.
- To dry chillies and peppers wear gloves, pierce and hang to dry on thread in a warm, sunny, dry ventilated place. Takes about three to four weeks, so a speedier option is to put them in the oven on low heat for around 12 hours, checking regularly.