Christmas Wreath-Ordinary to Extraordinary

p1110828

Decorated Christmas wreaths are a snap using a pre-made wreath base from a garden center or grocery store. The pre-made wreaths created with basic greens make a fine base but adding some additional greens, berries, and ribbon, takes the ordinary to extraordinary.  Below is my base which I purchased at a local store-basic fir branches wired onto a base. Nothing wrong with it all-just could be better!

Starting with a basic wreath base
Starting with a basic wreath base

After trolling through my landscape which has quite a few evergreens and berried shrubs, I added incense cedar, boxwood, and magnolia leaves which really add a textural improvement. My containers grew a bumper crop of Eucalyptus which I preserved with a glycerin solution and I wired some clumps up for a grey green hue. Some variegated white pine added some additional color and texture. Big difference….yes? Oh, and I hot glued all of this onto the base. No wiring, which takes too much time and effort. I find gluing is efficient and quick.

Wire your clumps together before gluing onto the wreath
Wire your clumps together before gluing onto the wreath

p1110792

After these additions to the base materials, it was time to amp up the color with berries and ribbon. Gold is one of my favorite colors for wreaths and other decorations, so I chose this beautiful gold wired ribbon and added nandina berries for color and staying power. A find at my local craft store, the gold leaf ornaments added some glitter and dimension. Again, these were all glued in place.

Christmas wreath

Hung and ready for the holidays
Hung and ready for the holidays

For more ideas on wreaths, go to my post A Tapestry of Holly-McLean Nursery. Below is a masterpiece made to order at McLean, using the signature McLean hollies and winterberry.

019

Turnips???
Turnips???

Boxwood -The Ultimate Green for Christmas

box

Ripping out 50 failing English boxwoods on a landscape job this year turned into a decorating opportunity. Rather than taking the old shrubs out and chipping and shredding them, I decided to use the still green parts for some boxwood Christmas trees.

Boxwood tree before decorating
Boxwood tree before decorating

A traditional decoration, boxwood trees are simple to make but time consuming. Boxwood sprigs  inserted into saturated oasis lasts for at least 2 months in a green fresh looking form. After the holidays, you can even keep your tree which will dry nicely, and spray it gold for next year. Boxwood trees are easy to make and inexpensive if you have boxwood on hand. If you have to buy it though, it is expensive. I own several shrubs that need some attention and wait until early December to give them a thinning so I can use all those fresh greens and not throw them away.

'Green Velvet' Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my 'go to' boxwood
‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood, a gold award winner from the Pennsylvania Hort Society is my ‘go to’ boxwood

When I thin my boxwood, I just grab a bunch of boxwood and snap it off at the woody stem. I call it ‘snapping boxwood’ and savvy gardeners do this to keep all their boxwood healthy. Beautiful boxwood requires periodic thinning to let air circulate throughout. Most people will sheer their shrubs which just stimulates the boxwood to grow in even thicker, blocking air flow.

Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears
Boxwood clipping with two-handed shears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Snapping off hunks of the foliage, creates spaces within the boxwood which aids in air circulation and leads to a healthier shrub. When I talk ‘boxwood’, I am referring to both English, American, and Korean. Though the English is superior for making wreaths and trees, I use any kind that I can get.

Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees
Fastigiate boxwood or upright boxwood produces long straight stems for trees

Boxwood Tree Directions

  • Soak your cut boxwood in a tub of warm water overnight to hydrate the greens and keep them fresh longer

  • Choose a small plastic container and add a chunk of oasis for the base. Tape in with florist tape and add some picks.

  • Insert your cone on top of the picks

Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece
Select a small container and chop off a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom: tape in with florist tape and add some picks to attach the larger piece
  • At this point I add a few wood picks from the side of the cone into the base to make sure everything is secure

Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks; you can also add a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape
Insert an oasis cone on top of the picks;  alternatively you can use a large block of oasis and shave it into a cone shape
  • I pick out a nice looking boxwood piece to form the peak. Once I stick that piece in, it gives me a guide to green up the rest of the tree.

Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first
Establish the contours of your tree and add the top pieces first
  • Starting at the bottom, I break off pieces of boxwood and insert them into the oasis around the edge of the container first and move up. I added another variety of green (thujopsis) to the tree to give more textural interest. But if you are a purist, stick with boxwood

I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood
I added some other greens to the mix to make it more interesting; or you can keep it all boxwood
  • Add floral touches, like white pom poms, red roses, and small Christmas balls directly into the oasis; be sure to leave gaps to insert these elements

  • Insert your pieces of boxwood and flowers with care; If you insert them too densely, you could break apart the oasis

Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container
Insert your completed boxwood tree into a pretty container; here I used a footed mercury vapor container
  • Spray the tree with an anti-dessicant, like Wilt-Pruf to keep the tree fresh for weeks

  • For care, I will mist it with water maybe once a week, and make sure that the oasis is thoroughly soaked through to keep it green and fresh

Add roses and white pom poms
Add roses and white pom poms

Succulent Creations

Succulent wreath
Succulent wreath

Succulents are so popular now, that you see them everywhere, where you would least expect it. I have bought some of my best ones from Wall Mart and Home Depot! They are inexpensive and easy to care for, so are the perfect candidate to make your own living wreath, which at a florist would set you back by at least $100. The material cost for this wreath was around $45.00.

 Succulents come in a huge variety of shapes and colors
Succulents come in a huge variety of shapes and colors

Step By Step

  • Gather your materials-potting soil, wire wreath ( I used a large 18″), liner, sphagnum moss, and lots of small succulents with a variety of colors and textures
  • Place the frame on a large flat surface and line it with the fibrous lining
  • Fill the frame with potting soil, pressing down to firm the soil
  • Plant the succulents, starting with the large succulents first, filling in with smaller ones
  • Repeat the varieties all around the wreath, I used about 6 or 7 varieties
  • Don’t fill in the entire surface, as you want the succulents to have room to grow
  • Stuff handfuls of sphagnum moss in between the succulents covering the wire wreath frame
  • Water the succulents until the wreath is saturated with a fine spray, so that you don’t disturb the plantings
  • DIY succulent wreath
    DIY succulent wreath

Care

I keep my wreath outside in full sun in the summer, and place it on a tray in a sunny window in the winter. Water more sparingly in the winter, letting it dry out between watering.

Marion from Mullan Nursery making a wreath
Marion from Mullan Nursery making a wreath
Succulent topiary
Succulent topiary

 

Go Simple

Simple is good. Try using one variety for a handsome wreath.

Succulent wreath from Rebecca Sweet's garden
Succulent wreath from Rebecca Sweet’s garden

succulentwreath

Other Shapes

There are countless ways to use succulents. Go to http://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/transforming-a-patio-an-outdoor-living-space-that-looks-like-home/ to see my sphere planter.

Sphere planter
Sphere planter
Succulent Garden
Succulent Garden

Garden Hose Wreath

Completed wreath, ready for hanging
Completed wreath, ready for hanging

I am amazed at what you can do with old garden hoses! Here is another project to make using a small garden hose of 25 to 50′ in length. Take a piece of hose including the nozzle end and roll it into a wreath shape, a size that will fit on your door.  Fasten it securely together with bark wire, a wire that is covered with a covering to look like bark. I get this at a craft store. Wind the ends around a pencil to mimic grapevine tendrils.

Wind the hose up and fasten with bark wire
Wind the hose up and fasten with bark wire

Then start adding your accessories. I used a trough, gardening gloves, a watering can, burlap, and a flower pot.  Attach firmly using the bark wire. I also made a loop on the back for hanging.

Add gardening paraphernalia
Add gardening paraphernalia

I finished it off with some burlap ribbon and wound some of the bark wire around the entire wreath. You are done! This will last for years.

This would also be fun using different colors of hoses, like yellow.

Garden Hoses
Garden Hoses (Photo credit: Adrian Maidment)