This is the time of year where I usually stroll through the local markets admiring the hand-made evergreen wreaths and fresh pine garlands, and debating whether or not I can justify spending $50 on a fresh wreath that will become a lovely addition to my compost heap in about a month. More often than not I decide to go wreath-less for the holidays, and to spend my money on Christmas gifts instead. This year I decided to take matters into my own hands with a trip to my local craft store and a walk around my neighbourhood. The result? A beautiful hand-made wreath!
The most exciting part of making your own wreath is sauntering around your neighbourhood searching for materials. It’s amazing how many new plants you can encounter when your “green eyes” are open. The base of the wreath can be made with evergreen plants such as Spruce, Pine, Fir, or Cedar. For my wreath I chose White Pine because it was the most abundant in my neighbourhood.
Master wildcrafter and herbalist SevenSong has developed the most thorough and ethical wildcrafting guidelines that I have ever encountered. On a field trip in southern California one year, a group of us led by SevenSong literally scaled a mountain in order to find a patch of White Sage that he felt was abundant enough to harvest from. A few of his most important recommendations are as follows:
Leave the least amount of impact possible – Harvest so that when you leave the area it will look untouched. This applies to each individual plant as well as the overall patch. Remember to clip the branch or stem right above the node of a plant to minimize damage to the plant. You can also apply a small mud poultice to the part of the plant you clipped in order to protect it from the elements.
Leave the ‘grandparent’ plants – Leave the strongest and most abundant plants in a given area in order to preserve the health and survival of the species. And NEVER overharvest.
Be respectful – Consider the area where you are harvesting from the perspectives of all who inhabit it – plants, animals, and humans – and try to be respectful from all points of vue.
The supplies needed for wreath-making are simple; and if you’re resourceful, then you might not have to buy anything at all! The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a wire frame which you can buy at a local craft store, or make yourself by bending two wire hangers in a circle and attaching them together with wire. I bought my frame for $4 and plan to use it again for several years. The next piece of equipment you’ll need is thin wire to fasten the wreath together. You can either buy floral wire from the craft store for $3 (enough wire to make many many wreaths) or you can use #24 or #28 galvanized wire which you might have lying around your toolkit.
Assembling the Wreath
Now comes the part of putting all the materials together. Start by assembling small bundles of your base materials together and fastening them with wire. Next, fasten the bundles one at a time to the wire wreath. Each bundle should be placed facing the same direction so that the tip of the foliage of one bundle covers the stems of the adjacent bundle. My wire wreath was large enough that it took two rows of pine bundles to fill it. Once the pine core is complete, you can start adding your decorations such as berries, pinecones, bows, ornaments, or in my case, Sumac. I wanted to make a completely natural wreath, and Sumac is one of the more abundant plants in my neck of the woods – as well as one of the only plants that is still red at this time of year. Wrap the base of the decorations with wire and then attach to the frame.
The Finished Product
My beautiful wreath of White Pine, Sumac, and Dogwood cost me a whopping $7 to make, and the supplies I bought will last me for years to come. All the materials were harvested within one mile from my home where they grow in abundant supply. The whole project took one evening to complete, and the most time-consuming part was wrapping the bundles to the wire frame. Overall, the project was simple and relatively quick. Making your own holiday wreath is a great way to reacquaint you with your local plants, save money, and build a fun tradition with friends and family.