Wreath-making may seem slightly intimidating, especially if you are starting from nothing but raw materials, but it isn’t that difficult. If you can make a circle and have a little patience, you will surprise yourself with the results.
The only gardening tool you will need is a good pruner. Start by checking your backyard for materials. You will need either long bendable branches or vines. Grapevines are one type, but pretty much any vine will work, as long as at least some of the vine material has a little thickness. Willow branches are pliable. Dogwood bushes work very well.
If you don’t have any, you should grow dogwood for wreaths. It makes a very attractive and different wreath. There are red dogwood and yellow dogwood, named for the colour of their bark, and both types like to be pruned. The way to keep its colour is to cut out the older branches to encourage the new, more colourful growth. Keep an eye out around your neighbourhood if you don’t have a dogwood, and maybe volunteer to prune one if you can keep the branches! Dogwood grows in zones 2-8, so it is available in most parts of the northern hemisphere. Just ask permission before you start cutting.
Another tip: Don’t cut the material until right before you are going to work with it. It will start to dry as soon as it’s cut, and then it will be impossible to shape. It might be okay if you soak it in water, but it will be a whole lot messier to work with!
After you have your material, bundle three or four branches (or vines) together and form them into an overlapping circle of the size you want. With one hand, grab and hold the branches at the spot where they overlap. Don’t let go! With your other hand, grab the ends on one side and start weaving them over and under the circle until you have the entire length incorporated. Then turn your wreath, still continuing to hold it at the original overlap, and weave in the other ends of the branches.
Okay. Now you can let go.
Your wreath will probably be slightly misshapen at this point. Just push and tug and squeeze it into the shape you want. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a circle. You might prefer an oval shape for your wreath. Now is the time to decide.
Once you have the shape the way you want it, start adding the rest of the branches. Take two or three at a time, only now you will hold the end of the bundle of branches next to the wreath and, with your other hand, weave the branches over and under around the original shape until the entire length of the bunch is incorporated.
Keep going until all of the branches are used or you have the size wreath you want. Note that if you stagger the starting point with each bundle, it will give a more pleasing result. Also, experiment with changing the direction of your weaving. If you start weaving to the right of your starting point, go left. That will give a crisscross effect.
As you are weaving, there may be some smaller side branches that stick out or maybe the thicker end of a branch just won’t bend the way you want. Don’t worry about it until you are finished. A lot of problems will resolve themselves or be hidden as you weave. When it’s all finished, use your clippers to remove any twigs that aren’t cooperating.
If, after reading this, you are thinking, “No way am I going to manhandle branches into a wreath,” you can certainly purchase a wreath base. They come as a metal frame, which will need to be completely covered with your decorative material, or you can purchase a grapevine or straw wreath. The advantage of these is you can leave as much of the original wreath exposed as you like, and it will blend in with what you’ve added.
So, now comes the fun part: decorating! Once you have your wreath ready, you can use it over and over for years. Just change the decorations to fit the season. Go back to your yard for all the things you will need to decorate it. In the fall, gather the dried grasses and seed heads from your coneflowers and other plants. Dried fall leaves in reds and yellows can be attached.
If you have hydrangeas in your landscape, dry the flower heads to use on your wreath. The husk that covers the ear of corn from your garden will dry to a beautiful creamy white and give a vertical accent. Add colour with rose hips. Wild turkey feathers or even larger chicken feathers can add interest.
For a holiday wreath, go out in the yard again. Now is the time to prune the low-hanging cedar tree branch that you’ve had to duck under all summer when mowing. Any evergreen can be added to your wreath—in fact, the more variety, the more interest. Make bundles of branches and attach them to the wreath base with wire or string. Overlap the bundles until the wreath is covered.
Add some pinecones or a branch of holly leaves and berries. You can attach the decorative items using florist wire. The wire is inexpensive and available at many DIY stores. Some florist wire comes with the cutter built right into the package for convenience.
In the spring, attach a small flowerpot to your wreath that’s filled with live pansies or some herbs. Just don’t forget to water them. Stick with a gardening theme and add a pair of gardening gloves and maybe a well-used old hand tool. Or you could rest a rescued bird nest from last summer in your wreath and add some eggs from the craft store. Add in a few curly sticks from your Harry Lauder Walking Stick shrub.
You can put anything on your wreath to make it one of a kind. Always keep an eye out for interesting pieces in your yard and save them for your next wreath. An interesting piece of wood or bark from an old tree could work. Always collect seed heads and nuts or shells when you see them. Make your wreath reflect your interests or personality and have fun with it!
Have you tried your hand at wreath-making yet? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.