Marin Master Gardeners
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Marin Master Gardeners

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Making your own wreath is easy and rewarding

December 4, 2010
Dot Zanotti Ingels

A wreath is any assortment of materials that is constructed to resemble a ring. Wreaths have a centuries-long history and much symbolism associated with them. Wreaths have been used by many cultures, traditions and religions as symbols of strength, social rank, occupation, victory, adornment and eternity.

Making a natural wreath is a great way to bring life into your home in the fall and winter. Look in the woods, fields, roadsides and gardens all around you. There you will find all the supplies you will need to create unique natural wreaths and gifts. I like to carry clippers and totes in my car, so I am ready to collect an unexpected find anytime.

Perhaps you have saved some dried herbs or flowers from your summer garden to use in a wreath now.

Keeping your eyes open on your travels will help you find what nature has to offer at that particular time of year. Fall is a great time to collect vines, dried grasses, dried cones, leaves, seed pods, rose hips, Indian corn and nuts. Crafts stores (such as Joann's and Michael's) and the Flower Mart in San Francisco can provide you with inspiration and supplies, too. Local farmers markets are also good places to find natural elements to add to your wreath. With the beginnings of the holidays come wreaths of evergreens and berries.

There are no rules about what constitutes a wreath. Making your own gives you a chance to make it your own. Part of the fun is in letting your imagination fly.

Besides your natural materials, you will need a few other wreath-making supplies including forms (foam, wire, grapevine, twig or evergreen), floral wire, picks, wire cutters, glue gun and glue sticks. Work gloves help to avoid sticky sap and prickly needles from evergreens and prickly thistles from hurting your hands.

Moss is a great way to fill in spaces on your wreath or use it as a cover for twigs, foam or wires. Moss comes in several colors and textures that are fun to explore. It's a nice challenge to make your own base, but takes a little more effort. A simple wire coat hanger can be formed as a circle and made into a wreath. The base you choose will set the tone for the style of wreath you make. You can cover your base with dried materials or, if the base itself is decorative, you can allow it to show through for a different effect.

It is easier to work on a base that is hanging just as the completed wreath will. Find a place to work where you can hang the wreath on a nail, hook or hanger. Wreath making is a messy process, so place a tarp down or work where cleanup is easy.

Once you have collected all your supplies, the fun begins of assembling the wreath. Gather bundles of filler and accent plants in your hand. Adjust the size of your bundles to make each one full and pleasing to your eye. Bring the ends of your pieces together and trim the bottoms so they are even. Start construction at about 3 o'clock on the wreath. This allows you to start and finish the wreath away from the top where your eye is naturally drawn and you want to be its best.

Depending on your base, either glue or wire the first bundle to the frame. Work in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction to give the wreath its flow and make it look more random and natural. Overlap subsequent bundles in the same manner until you are happy with what you see. Large bundles make the wreath fuller and the work go faster, while many small bundles keep the look lighter. It is best to add smaller accent pieces like miniature roses individually after the bulk of the wreath is completed.

When you have completed your ring, stand back and take a second look. You will be able to see spots that may seem off balance or need additions or subtractions to give you the look you want. Sometimes it is best to walk away for a while and then come back for a second objective look. Now you can add the finishing touches, such as ribbons and bows, to truly personalize your wreath.

Natural wreaths enhance any space where they are hung. The options are limitless. Your front door is the most obvious, but over a mirror, above the mantle, in your entry or in your bedroom are great choices, too. They can also be laid flat on a table as a centerpiece. It is important to avoid direct sunlight on your wreath to preserve the color of the natural materials.

A warning -- wreaths are fun to make and, once you get started, you will want to experiment with natural materials from all the seasons. Wreaths of pussy willows are perfect for spring. Living wreaths of succulents or other plants hung outdoors are beautiful.

Sometimes the simplest constructions are the best. There is no need to start big. Just go for it and enjoy the process from collecting supplies, through construction, selecting a place to display and sitting back and enjoying your creation.

The University of California Marin Master Gardeners are sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening, plant pests or diseases, call 499-4204 from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays, or bring in samples or pictures to 1682 Novato Blvd., Suite 150B, Novato.

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