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Homegrown Holiday Wreaths
by Sandi Crabtree - posted 12/01/17

Dried yarrow, sea holly, milkweed pods and Chinese lanterns are nestled among a base of arborvitae and boxwood creating a Williamsburg-style arrangement.

In a world surrounded by mass- produced goods, there is a special kind of joy that comes from receiving gifts that are hand-crafted or homegrown. Join in the trendy, handmade movement that’s sweeping the country by creating one-of-a-kind wreaths from garden materials.

Gardener Sue Boyle has been creating homegrown, handmade wreaths for years. Her designs are based on those coveted Colonial Williamsburg wreaths seen in the historic area and pictured on Christmas cards. Their beauty comes from a combination of fresh evergreens, dried seedpods and flowerheads, herbs, berries and often fresh or dried fruits and other natural items. These gathered materials make the wreaths desirable for the holiday season and beyond. “It takes less than two hours to create the wreath, from gathering to completion,” Sue said.

An evergreen base of arborvitae and boxwood is created by overlapping and securing 6-8-inch-long cuttings on a wire wreath form with paddle wire.

Colorful flowerheads like sea holly (blue) and yarrow (yellow) and pods from Chinese lanterns (orange) and milkweed (tan)were collected in the summer and dried for wreath making.

By placing larger items first (yarrow and milkweed) the smaller items (Chinese lanterns and sea holly) are able to standout creating a multidimensional look.

A hand-crafted Williamsburg-style wreath showcasing materials grown in the garden lends a unique accent to this home’s façade.

A recent snowfall created pockets of ice between the dried materials on this handmade wreath. To extend the life, this type of arrangement should be kept away from excessive moisture by positioning it in a protected area outdoors or kept inside the home away from heat sources.

Materials Needed:

 •  16-inch wire wreath base
 •  22-gauge florist paddle wire
 •  Wire cutters
 •  Pruners
 •  Hot glue gun
 •  Glue sticks
 •  A mix of seedpods, flowerheads,
    herbs, berries and twigs from the


Gather Materials
Look for available garden materials such as arborvitae, cedar, juniper, boxwood and holly, as well as pine, fir and spruce trees that also provide cones. Choose interesting seedpods such as milkweed, Siberian iris, peony, poppy and hibiscus. Papery hydrangea heads, colorful dogwood twigs, rose hips, winterberries and leathery leaves make good additions.

If you don’t already have some of these plants growing in your garden, consider planting them for next year’s wreaths. Yarrow, sunflowers, celosia, salvia, lavender, gomphrena, strawflower and goldenrod hold their colors well when dried. In the summer, when flowers are fully open, cut them at midday when dew is gone, remove the foliage and hang them upside down or dry them standing upright in a well-ventilated moisture-free area like a shed or attic.

Take 6-8-inch cuttings from several evergreen shrubs (and remember, you are pruning, so keep the overall shape of that shrub in mind). For the wreath shown here, Sue noted, “You’ll need about a half-bushel of evergreens; I used a mix for interest.” If you don’t have evergreens, maybe a neighbor would allow you to trim some in exchange for a sample wreath (wink-wink).

Assembling the Base
Secure the paddle wire on the back of the wreath form, then place an evergreen cutting flat on the front of the form. Using the paddle wire held in your hand, with wire extending between your middle and ring finger, use the paddle to help pull the wire snugly around the frame, securing the greenery in place. Lay the next cutting on top of the first so the greenery covers the previous stem and wrap around the frame with wire. Continue this technique until your wire form is covered with greenery. Tie off the wire, and then make a hanging loop on back. Remember to pull the wire snugly so evergreens don’t fall out as they lose moisture.

Decorate the Wreath
Cut stems of dried flowers and seedpods long enough to allow the items to nestle in among the evergreens but not flatten them down. Then add some hot glue to the end of the stem and insert it in between the evergreen stems to secure. Here you will need to create some balance by placing the items around the wreath on the front, sides and inside the center. Continue filling the wreath with your selection of materials until you have a visually pleasing arrangement and then stand back in awe. You may decide not to give away your beautiful creation.

Caring for the Wreath
For outdoor use: Keep your wreath in a protected area away from rain and snow. Depending on the weather, it should keep for several weeks in the cold.

For indoor use: If the wreath is kept dry indoors and hung on a wall away from heat sources, it will slowly dry and retain its shape and flower color for a few months to a year.

No matter where it is displayed, eventually, the greens of the wreath will fade to a golden brown.


A version of this article appeared in a November/December 2015 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Sandi Crabtree.


Sandi Crabtree is a garden designer and member of the Garden Writers Association who profiles gardens. She advocates natural methods of gardening at Crabtree Gardens, LLC and at