Tag Archives: holiday decorations

Holiday Wreaths

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. The garden's been put to rest for the winter covered with a nice blanket of compost. The recent wind storm provided me with lots of material to make a beautiful holiday wreath for the front door or swag to decorate a window. Wreaths are easy and fun to make. They cost virtually nothing and make wonderful gifts for family, friends and neighbors, too.  I was invited to a neighbor's 8th annual holiday wreath making party.  I could hardly wait.

Kinda like a barn raising party without the barn, this fun group gets together for the first two weekends in December each year to inspire each other to create wonderfully unique wreaths and other decorations from natural materials. Each crafter is encouraged to invite another friend or relative and as many as 32 people will be joining my neighbor, Barbara, for the fun over the next two weeks.  Some will come from as far away as Folsom and Roseville and include both men and grandchildren who take part in the festivities.

Creative people amaze me. Amidst dozens of downed branches, the wreath makers started to work. Barbara and her husband started collecting foliage and berries weeks ago in their pick up truck. She laughed when she told me that this year they were very sad because they were unable to get trimmings from their favorite variegated holly as it was being guarded by a pit bull. Mostly they collect from neighbors trees. Green waste cans of friends might supply a wonderful mix of hydrangea flowers and other pruned goodies. Monterey cypress and pines from the Davenport area are coveted along with Hollywood junipers, cedar, leptospermum, eucalyptus sprays and variegated pittosporum foliage. Large piles of English laurel, purple hopseed bush, rosemary and bottlebrush surrounded us. Last year was the first for acacia branches as they didn't know if it would hold up but it worked great and is now a staple. Tristania leaves and berries are another new addition to the wreaths.

Barbara explained that she once took a floral making class at Cabrillo. "I got hooked", she says,"now I'm obsessed". Some "wreathers" as we're called work fast putting together bundles of mixed foliage with lightening speed and attaching them to the frame with wire on paddles. Others are more meticulous grouping each bundle of various foliage with exactly the same mix. That's pretty much it for required tools- gloves, clippers, a frame and paddle wire. A hot glue gun is a nice too for attaching accents like cones, berry clusters, driftwood, lichen, feathers, shells or flowers. Floral picks work nicely for small fruits like Meyer lemons, clementines or small pomegranates.

The record for most wreaths made in a single season is apparently held by Martha who created 7 in the course of two weeks to decorate her home and to give away as gifts. Our hostess, Barbara, holds the record for making the largest wreath which measured in at 36" and graced her front door last year. Wreaths for a front door, she explained, should be able to hold up to constant movement so she is careful not to use berries that might loosen and fall. California pepper and nandina berries usually work in this location. You can bet her front door this year will sport another marvelous creation.

Look outside your door for different shades of foliage and spent flower heads, With just a couple of bags worth of materials you can make wreaths with your kids for many of those on your Christmas list.

Holiday Decorations from Nature

December is all about decorating for me. I usually have several craft projects going at once. Right now I’m working with all the small shells I brought back from Mexico.  My poor relatives. After so many years, their walls are covered with art projects but they always look forward to one of my wreaths to brighten up the front door or an inside wall.

I make several styles of wreath. The quickest and easiest is made by attaching dried hydrangea flowers to a grape vine wreath or a metal frame.  Even a coat hanger can be bent to make a frame.  If you have grapes or honeysuckle vines, you can make a frame yourself. Coil several 3-6 ft lengths of vine together then wrap with more vines until you get a wreath as thick as you want. Allow the wreath to dry. Then attach the flowers with thin floral wire.  You don’t even have to cover a natural wreath frame completely and if your blossoms aren’t completely dry when you harvest them you can finish them off inside.  I also tuck hydrangea flowers into my Christmas tree and use some to decorate an evergreen outside.

From the redwood canopy to the forest floor there is an abundance of foliage, berries and cones that make beautiful holiday decorations. Choose long lasting foliage from juniper, Southern Magnolia, redwoods and pines.  Deodar cedar and spruce drop their needles too quickly.  Be sure to prune to a well placed branch that is at least a third as big as the one you are pruning. Boxwood, citrus leaves, English laurel, red-trig dogwood branches and camellia leaves also hold up well in a wreath or swag.

Berries provide color in the winter garden, food for birds and other wildlife and are attractive in wreaths, swags and arrangements inside as well.  English holly is a classic but stems of cotoneaster, iris foetidissima and nandina berries will hold up well indoors for 10 days or more.  Toyon, a California native shrub, is covered with red berries at this time of year which look beautiful against the handsome green foliage.  If the robins don’t get them, the berries also hold up well inside.  For best berry production, clip branch tips lightly after berries finish but before buds form.  Berries for outdoor color includes Strawberry tree, crabapples, beautyberry, Hawthorn trees, pyracantha and skimmia.

Pointsettias also hold up well inside either as a cut flower or a living plant.  They need a very bright spot in the house and allow the soil to dry slightly but not completely between waterings .   Deprive them of either of these requirements and the lower leaves will yellow and drop.  Also be sure they aren’t sitting in water at the bottom of the container.  Pointsettias are brittle but if you break off a branch, sear the end of the stem with a flame and it will hold up quite well in a vase or arrangement.  It’s too cold here in the mountains for pointsettias to survive outside at night usually.

But aren’t pointsettias poisonous?  Ohio State University conducted extensive research and concluded that although pointsettia leaves and flowers might give you a stomach ache if you ate them, they wouldn’t kill or seriously hurt you.  With this in mind, you should still keep pointsettias out of the reach of small children.

Happy Holidays to all my faithful readers.