P. Allen Smith: Christmas Wreaths at My Moss Mountain Farm
Photography by Hortus Ltd., Jane Colclasure and Mark Fonville
When I walk into the house and smell the fragrance of fresh-cut greenery, I know it’s the holidays!
Christmas decorating, for me, always starts with a walk outside. It’s a tradition I picked up from my great uncle. We would go out all bundled up to collect everything needed to dress the house for the holidays. We would make all of our garlands and wreaths with things that we found outdoors, like pine, cedar and mistletoe. We had everything we needed right outside the kitchen door, and our decorations were always unique.
While I no longer get all my materials from the surrounding landscape, I do try to make holiday decorating personal. This is especially easy to do with wreaths. Hung on the door or a window, they signal to passersby that the Christmas spirit dwells within.
Wreaths can be made of the traditional evergreen branches and fabric, straw and woven vines. Nutcrackers, tree ornaments, jingle bells and even wine corks can join pinecones, berries, fruit and seeds.
Use lovingly handmade, natural materials from the garden or store-bought items and items cherished through the years — don’t be afraid to mix it up. Look for what’s available and even combine different types of fresh greenery.
The next thing I do is think about the color palette; this helps guide my choices. I like to change mine every year to work with my interior spaces, and I’ll always decide on something that catches my eye. Bark, twigs, berries or whatever I find in the garden can be my inspirations.
Then the third layer I add is the sparkle, something memorable yet understated. That could mean beads, glittery snowflakes, little gold-wrapped boxes, velvety ribbon tied into bows — something that stands out.
How to Decorate an Evergreen Holiday Wreath
Decorating an evergreen wreath for Christmas is easy. You’ll need: ribbon and bows; scissors; florist wire and wire cutters; wire florist picks; and a hot glue gun.
Cut a piece of ribbon twice the length of the wreath’s circumference. Wrap the ribbon around the wreath. Leave gaps of a few inches in between each loop of ribbon to allow the greenery to show through. If you have a lot of items to put on the wreath, space the ribbon a bit wider as you wrap it — you don’t want it to look cluttered. Stop wrapping when you reach your starting point.
Tie the two tails of ribbon on the backside of the wreath together into a double-knotted bow. Cut off the excess, if any remains, so the ends of the bow are even.
Attach your decorations to wire floral picks by wrapping the wire around the object. Before you actually attach decoration, play around with them to get them positioned the way you want. If you want to put on any bows, include them in the arrangement.
Secure the decorations to the picks with glue. Insert the pick into the wreath and press for a second so that the glue can dry. Adding a bow just gives that finishing touch. I like to use a wide variety of colors and sizes of ribbon that coordinate well. Traditionally, ribbon is added in the form of a bow.
I also like to tie pieces of ribbon into small, medium or large bows or ribbon loops. Bows can either be glued on or attached with floral wire. To use floral wire, cut a piece of the wire and slide it through the knot in the middle of the bow, then use that to wrap it around the wreath; this will keep the bow attached.
Pine Cone Wreath
The other day I remembered one of my first school projects: a turkey made with a pinecone and a construction paper cutout of my hand. That little turkey decorated our holiday table until I was well out of high school. The memory of my childhood pinecone turkey inspired me to head out to the woods around the Garden Home to collect pinecones to make a wreath.
Collect dry pinecones ranging in sizes from small to medium. These can also be purchased at craft stores, if you don’t have any pine trees nearby.
Wire a single ring of pinecones on the wreath to create a base, which will give the other pinecones something to “grab” onto and make the hot glue more effective. Just wrap a length of floral wire around the pinecone, twist once to secure, then tie the pinecone to the wreath.
Hot glue smaller pinecones to the wreath. Be sure to hold the pinecone in place for a few seconds until the glue starts to set. Don’t worry if the pinecones don’t fit together tightly, you will fill the gaps with sheet moss.
Glue sheet moss to the backside, covering the wires and any glue. Finish up by poking pieces of sheet moss into the open spaces between the pinecones. Spray with sealant to help preserve the pinecones and add a little polish.
Other Wreath Ideas:
• Single and mixed berry wreaths can also create a big impact, and if edible berries are used, it can serve double duty as feeder for birds. Generously attach berried branches to a small foam wreath form using floral U pins. Other options to consider for this wreath are: crabapples; Chinaberries; Nandina berries; Beautyberries; Pepperberries (also available at florists); Chinese Photinia berries; and holly.
• For a Magnolia wreath — a staple in many southern homes and gardens: take bundles of leaves and tie them to a 12-inch wire wreath to create a stylish decoration. Attach a few lemons for a colorful and fragrant accent. Insert a green pipe cleaner through the lemon lengthwise and then tie it to the wire form. Add a bow, or not, this is a handsome holiday statement.
• Another idea is to make one entirely of Boxwood, if you have a hedge of those. The easiest and fastest way to make this one is by inserting sprigs all around a foam ring. Simple, elegant and symbolic of the season!
Ways to Use a Wreath
I use wreaths both indoors and out. I hang them on my kitchen windows, along the staircase and on the footboards of beds. Outside I put them on gates, windows, and, of course, the front door.
• Using a Wreath as aTable Centerpiece
• Set a wreath in the center of a table and embellish with fruit, glass balls, pinecones … anything you have on hand. You can place candles, a bowl of more greenery or a vase in the center of the wreath.
Personalizing Wreaths for a Gift
Wreaths make wonderful gifts. I like to personalize them, making them unique for the recipient. I buy a wreath already decked out with a bow, berries, etc., and tie on embellishments with green floral wire. I have a friend who collects nutcrackers, so I made a nutcracker wreath for her. She can save the wooden figures for decorating next year.
Make a Bird-Friendly Wreath
This wreath is a festive way to share the holiday spirit with neighborhood wildlife. Birds, squirrels and other animals will love the edible ornaments, and you’ll have fun watching your feathered and furred friends partying around the backyard.
Use an upholstery needle and thin wire to string cranberries into a garland. Slice oranges into rounds. Attach a raffia loop for hanging the oranges on the wreath. The upholstery needle will make quick work of this. Wrap the cranberry garland around the wreath; add birdseed ornaments and orange slices. And lastly, hang the wreath in the garden where you can see it from a window.
Decorating with P. Allen Smith’s Holiday Collection Greenery
Indoors I go all out with a 12-foot Christmas tree and greenery hanging in both the garden and in the house. But everyone is different, whether you are Christmas crazy like me or more on the laid-back side, there are lots of ways to use holiday greenery beyond hanging a wreath on your door. Here are a few examples of how I use the pieces from my Holiday Collection.
• An embellished swath of greenery is just right for a mantel.
• When I’m expecting company, I hang an evergreen candy cane from the foot of the bed out on my sleeping porch as a warm holiday welcome to my home!
The Berry Family of Nurseries make the greenery pieces in my Holiday Collection. One thing about the collection that I’m particularly proud of is that every piece is hand-tied versus machine-made and everything that is collected from the trees is used. Only the tips are removed, and the trees are left to keep growing. I like that the Noble Fir boughs are sustainably harvested — we’re not wasting anything. Material that isn’t used is composted and incorporated into a nursery mix for the Berry Family of Nurseries greenhouses.
I hope I have inspired you to make homemade holiday wreaths to usher in the season for you and yours. Happy Holidays Everyone!!