Simple, elegant wreaths & garlands

Use purchased evergreens, colorful berries, and fall leaves to bring the season home
Jil Peters

Each Christmas, my mother makes an elegant wreath for the front door. She uses magnolia leaves from the tree in the backyard - the same kind of leaves my cousins and I strung together to make hula skirts when we were kids. I always look forward to seeing the wreath for what it signifies: the holidays, and that we're home to celebrate with family and friends.

Sunset's wreaths and garlands also capture the spirit of this magical season. Stylish, welcoming, and understated, they can be assembled without too much fuss, with purchased evergreens as the starting point. You can use whatever greenery is available; we used noble fir for its thick, dense needles as well as lush cedar. The addition of the simplest pod, berry, or leaf can transform plain greens into enchanting decorations.

You can probably gather many of these natural embellishments right in your own neighborhood. The examples here are intended as guidelines - use your imagination and local resources to make your own memorable creations infused with a sense of place.

Maintaining wreaths and garlands

As soon as you get the greenery home, spray it with an antitranspirant, available at most nurseries. This will hold in moisture and help prevent foliage from falling from the branches.

You can expect fir and cedar wreaths and garlands that have been sprayed with antitranspirant to last for approximately two weeks inside and at least a month outside (assuming they are not in direct sunlight). For interior use, consider purchasing a spare wreath and keeping it outside in a cool, shady spot until it is needed.

Noble fir, magnolia leaves & hazelnuts

What you'll need:

• One 24-inch conifer wreath

• About 30 magnolia leaves

• About 30 hazelnuts

• Glue gun

Apply dabs of hot glue to ends of magnolia leaves, then tuck leaves in between fir branches.

Use the same technique with clusters of hazelnuts.

Noble fir & eucalyptus pods

What you'll need:

• One 24-inch conifer wreath

• One garland

• Eucalyptus branches with about 300 pods

• Floral wire

Cut the eucalyptus branches with pods into 3- to 4-inch stems. Attach each stem to a sprig of fir by wrapping the two together several times with floral wire.

Repeat the process, evenly distributing the clumps of pods along the garland. Use the same technique to decorate the wreath.

Noble fir & miniature carnations

What you'll need:

• One 12-inch conifer wreath

• About 12 white miniature
carnations

• About 12 floral water tubes

• Floral wire

Trim carnation stems to fit into tubes.

Fill tubes with water, insert flowers, and tuck them into the greenery.

Secure them to the wreath with floral wire.

Next: 2 more wreath and garland ideas

 
Cedar, eucalyptus bark & dried moss

What you'll need:

• One garland

• ong strips of eucalyptus bark

• Dried moss

• Glue gun

To make eucalyptus ribbons, soak strips of bark in water for several hours so they become malleable.

Straighten the garland so it will be easier to work with.

Remove a bark strip from the water, blot it with a towel to remove excess water, and use hot glue to connect one end of the bark to the back of the garland.

Wrap the bark loosely around the garland until you reach the end of the strip, then attach its end to the back of the garland with more hot glue.

Start the next strip where the previous one ended and repeat the process until you reach garland's end. Rub vegetable oil onto bark to preserve its color. Hot-glue clumps of moss for additional decoration.

Design: Jeffrey Adair, J Floral Art, Menlo Park, CA

Noble fir & nandina berries

What you'll need:

• One garland

• One 30-inch wreath

• Several bunches of nandina berries

• Floral wire

Use red berries, such as nandina, for a traditional red and green combination.

Leave a few inches of stem on the berries and tuck them securely into the greenery. Distribute clumps of color evenly for a dramatic appearance.

To create the pendant at the center of the garland, group several berry stems together and attach them with floral wire.