by Jan Cashman 11/21/10
Wreaths have been used for decorating for thousands of years; their unending circle symbolizes eternity. Wreaths worn as headdresses were used as awards in the ancient Olympics, or to celebrate religious holidays. Germany, the initiator of many of our Christmas traditions and decorations, started the Advent wreath, where a candle is added to a wreath on a table for each of the Sundays in Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. Today we hang wreaths outside our doors as a “Welcome,” not only at Christmastime, but during all seasons.
Creating your own custom wreath can be fun and give you beautiful, unique results. If you’re ambitious, start from scratch by cutting easy-to-work-with Douglas fir boughs, found abundantly in our surrounding forest. Group together 3 or 4 small branches cut 6 to 8” long and wrap onto a wreath ring with wire. I don’t recommend spruce boughs for a wreath; they dry out quickly and their needles are prickly. Or you can save time and simply purchase a plain evergreen wreath.
For color and texture, add other kinds of evergreen boughs to your wreath, such as deep green, long needled pines, flat green arborvitae, or bluish juniper boughs with their blue-gray berries. You might be able to find some of these in your own backyard. Tuck these boughs well into the wreath facing the same direction as the original boughs and secure with a hot glue gun.
Large Ponderosa pine cones make a perfect addition to your wreath. Long, thin spruce cones are hard to work with but small Douglas fir cones are interesting because of the little bracts sticking out between each scale on the cone. Or use three or more tiny larch cones wired together so they don’t get lost in the wreath. Secure the heavier pine cones onto your wreath with wire, rather than gluing them.
Shop the craft stores or buy themed tree ornaments for decorations to make your wreath’s theme come to life. Most of these decorations can be easily attached to your wreath with wire or a glue gun. Here are a few popular themes:
Flies, lures, and bobbers make a wreath with a fishing theme.
Tiny cowboy hats, ropes, spurs, and a red and black plaid bow can make your wreath truly ‘Montana made’. Tuck in a little sage-brush for its contrasting gray-green color along with red twig dogwood branches.
Candy canes, ribbon candy or peppermints make great wreath decorations. (Add some dried apples and oranges or a string of cranberries to make it healthier.)
For the gardener in your life, glue on small garden tools, tiny terra cotta pots, and colorful seed packets. Dried flowers complete the theme. My favorite wreath is one full of colorful flowers I’ve dried from last summer’s garden. I sometimes leave the bow off, so the wreath transcends the seasons — I keep mine up until after Valentine’s Day.
Here are some favorite dried plants that can be glued on to enhance your wreath:
- Rose hips give your wreath a splash of red-orange color.
- Steel blue globe thistle flowers will last all winter.
- White baby’s breath or perennial statice create a delicate look.
- Dried hydrangea flowers are stunning in a wreath. When dried, the large flowers are off- white or light green.
- Yarrow, annual statice, even zinnias hold their bright colors when dried in their peak of bloom.
- Dried herbs, seeds, and pods give your wreath a natural, country look.
Wire on a full, fluffy bow for the finishing touch to your wreath. My husband, Jerry, thinks a Christmas wreath needs a bright red bow. However, many beautiful colors and prints of ribbon are available today, from plaids to prints to metalics, to deep reds and greens. Use wire ribbon to easily create a bow that makes a statement. Keep the bow in scale with your wreath—big wreaths need big bows. If your wreath is going to be outside, make sure your bow is made of weather-proof material.
To help your wreath last longer, especially if it will be kept inside, soak it in water before you start to decorate, or spray it with ‘Wilt Pruf’ anti desiccant.