Step by step guide to making a natural Christmas wreath
Sue Sharman of Swann’s Nursery shows you how to use foraged berries, twigs and more to dress your front door this December.
With Christmas just a few weeks away, there’s no better way to help you get into the festive spirit than by crafting some of your own decorations in the run-up the big day.
Suffolk resident Sue Sharman is a big fan of handmade natural wreaths, and this year shares her expertise to help you craft your very own. She explains the benefits of natural wreaths, what to use in them and how to create your own.
Why should I opt for natural over artificial this year?
“One of the main appeals of natural wreaths over artificial is that they reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. Biodegradable foliage and natural materials such as oranges, fir cones, cinnamon sticks and acorns are much more eco-friendly. Artificial wreaths can be reused each year and may last for a period of time, but may eventually get discarded, so will end up in landfill for a very long time. Natural wreaths don’t have to be stored, and also give you a different display each year, as well as a vibrant smell of pine, cinnamon and oranges.”
How long will a natural wreath last for?
“Natural wreaths should last over six weeks, but it does depend on what is in them and what base you use. I wire mine together, so I use Nordmann fir and holly - these last much longer than other soft evergreen foliage. If the wreath is in the sun, it may dry out much quicker but in cold, damp conditions, the foliage should last longer.”
What sort of natural materials should I use?
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“To keep it looking fresh for a number of weeks, I use Nordmann fir which holds onto its needles much longer than Norway spruce, and is also less prickly. For a more modern twist, you may want to use eucalyptus and other materials to give it more interest. Holly is useful as it lasts, doesn’t dry out and gives a very festive look to the wreath. Variegated varieties add colour, but plain green foliage can be used too with great effect.
“Berries inject that festive red colour into the wreath, while birch twigs and alder catkins can look great alongside fir cones. If you are doing an oasis-based wreath then you can add Christmas roses. Using dried oranges and cinnamon with fir cones will give a Christmas feel to a wreath, as well as that mulled wine and fir aroma. Do note that some large wreaths with a lot of foliage can become very heavy, so sometimes less is more. Use two to three foliage varieties for the base, and then add a few cones and features - this will make it less fussy and tidier.”
Where would I source my natural materials from?
“I recommend going foraging for your materials. You can get pine cones and foliage tips from around heathlands, and if you are buying a Christmas tree, cut off the bottom branches and use those in your wreath. Additionally, neighbours or friends may have a holly tree you can offer to prune for them. Pieces such as dried oranges, lotus heads and cinnamon sticks can be purchased from any garden centre or florist.”
What else can I add to my wreath to truly personalise it?
“A good ribbon bow can really set your wreath apart - I often use natural materials such as hessian and raffia. Personal items can also be added to your wreath, such as toys and bobbles - just remember to remove these when disassembling your wreath for recycling.”
How do I keep my wreath alive?
“I use a straw and moss-covered base for my wreaths. They are dunked into water and this keeps the foliage cool. You shouldn’t have to water the wreath unless it is in full sun and drying up too quickly. If it is, just spray some water over it, or dunk the base into water. If you want to use a wider variety of foliage then use an oasis wreath, although it is not eco-friendly and more expensive. An oasis wreath can be watered and the foliage can stay fresher for longer.”
How do I make my wreath?
1. If you’re using a straw and moss base wreath, start by dunking the wreath into water.
2. Next, select your base materials. I would go for Nordmann fir and holly tips. Cut them 10cm in lengths using secateurs or floristry scissors.
3. Take three pieces of fir and a sprig of holly, and arrange them on the base. With the binding wire, tie around them, leaving a ‘tail’ to attach the ends once finished.
4.Overlay more materials and wind the wire tightly as you go around. Add twigs, alder cones and catkins as you go.
5. Once you’ve wrapped the wire completely around, twist the wire with the ‘tail’, and cut. The base foliage is finished.
6. To add your adornments, select your materials and place them around the wreath, ensuring you’re happy with where they’re placed.
7. Using thicker wire, attach it to the base of the fir cones and twist to hold them on. Push the wire through the base to secure it. It is fiddly but if too difficult, you can thread it through the foliage and then pierce the end of the wire back into the base so you don’t have any spikes sticking out.
8. Add the bow and a hanging stripe if required, and enjoy your Christmas wreath. You can hang it on a door, a fence or a wall.
9. Once you are finished with your wreath, dismantle it by taking out the wire and anything else not biodegradable, and recycle responsibly. The wreath base can then be dried out and reused the following year.