Making a Holiday Wreath – Symbol of the Season
For those of us who love nature, gardening and the holidays, displaying beautiful wreaths on our doors and around our homes is a time-honored tradition at this time of year. If you’ve never attempted to make a wreath yourself, it’s not too late to make one for the holidays or for the whole winter season. Depending on the type of wreath, it can take you right into January and beyond!
Wreaths have a long and rich history. Featured in the myth of Apollo and Daphne, Apollo wore a laurel wreath as a symbol of his love for her. As far back as the 8th century BC, Etruscan kings wore wreaths of laurel, ivy, olive, oak and wheat leaves as crowns. Ancient Greeks and Romans presented wreaths as symbols of a person’s accomplishments. Pagans included wreaths in celebrations of the winter solstice with hope for the return of light and the coming of spring. Christians adopted the wreath as a symbol of Advent. The type of materials used in wreaths held special meaning: for example, oak leaves meant wisdom, the laurel depicted love or celebrated athletic triumphs, and evergreens were a symbol of growth and eternal life.
Learning how to make a wreath may seem a little daunting at first, but with advance planning, the right supplies, and some patience, it can be a fun and rewarding experience. Even more fun with some family members or friends participating! There are really just a few simple steps to winter holiday wreath making.
First, decide the type and location of wreath you’d like to create, which will help you determine its dimensions, as well as items you’ll use. Your choice might be a totally natural wreath, a traditional holiday or contemporary style, an artsy design or another type. Choose the decorative items that appeal to you. Let your imagination be your guide!
Next, obtain the supplies you’ll need:
- a wreath form (wire or straw)
- greenery (evergreens, like pine, holly, juniper, laurel, magnolia leaves)
- natural decorations (pinecones, holly or juniper berries, dried fruit or flowers, seed pods, wheat sheaves)
- any artificial items (bows, ribbons, artificial flowers, ornaments)
- roller wire (22 or 24 gauge)
- wire cutters or scissors
- floral picks (essentially sturdy picks with wire attached to one end) and floral tape
- gloves, if your greenery is prickly
- A door hanger or hook for wall mounting
Take the opportunity to glean evergreens and other items from your yard or nearby natural areas, visit a florist or purchase from a local arts and crafts store.
Find a good location to start assembling the wreath (hint: being outside makes cleanup easier). Set up a table and chair, since adding the greenery takes some time. Make small bundles of foliage (3-4 pieces) in a fan shape, wire the stems together and attach each bundle to the wreath form, securing it tightly to the form. Work your way around the wreath in one direction until it is completely covered with foliage. Use one type of greenery or mix and match. Make sure each additional bundle covers up the wires from the preceding bundle. The tips of the bundles should point upwards to counteract gravity. Add a wire loop at the top of the wreath where the wreath will be hung. This will remind you where the top is when you add design features!
Then the most fun part – use the wire to attach the decorative items you’ve chosen, keeping in mind the style you’ve chosen. Think about design elements like balance, light and dark contrast, consistency, colors, and accents. Position items slanting at an upwards angle and without overcrowding. Add a bow or ribbons and presto! In the spirit of the season, a wreath is born!
Many of us would like a more “hands on” description before venturing into the realm of wreath making, particularly before starting the “greening” up of the wreath form. This explanation of making balsam wreaths provides a good guide for using all kinds of evergreens. In addition, wreath making workshops, like the one sponsored by Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festival and others offered by various farms, nurseries, and Cooperative Extension units, abound. Just do a Google search of wreath making in Charlottesville or Central Virginia for events in late November and early December each year, along with many YouTube videos. And, once you get started, you may find that your friends and neighbors are turning to you for wreath making advice and tutorials! It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday season and have something to show for it!
“Wreath History and Workshop,” Kathy Low, UC Master Gardeners, University of California, 2018.
“Winter Holiday Wreath Making with UC Master Gardeners,” Tracy Ceelio, UCCE Master Gardener Coordinator.
“Making Balsam Fir Wreaths,” Mark Cercone and William D. Lilley, Bulletin #7012, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, 2015.
“Heritage Harvest Festival,” Hosted by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.