how to make a christmas wreath
Go on a forage and see what’s still looking good outside, picking anything colourful and decorative to add to your wreath, such as brilliant-pink spindle berries, agapanthus seed heads, orange Chinese lanterns (physalis), mini Pumpkin ‘Munchkin’, still-plump rosehips, hydrangeas, intact grass seed heads, catkins and orange-berried Iris foetidissima or Cyperus eragrostis or Lablab bean seed pods. Then top up with a visit to the greengrocer.
You will need:
- Our Make Your Own Wreath Kit. This includes: double-ring wire frame (diameter 35cm, which I think makes the perfect size), 6-7 handfuls of sphagnum moss, florist reel wire, moss pegs, green coated stub wire (to make a loop to hang the wreath and wire any veg or fruit).
Ideally forage for the list below, but you will need to go with the flow a bit, depending what you have available in the garden:
To add to the wire base:
- 5 x 60cm Silver birch twigs, cornus, willow or 12 -15 sprigs of Rosemary
Zone 1 – the really colourful things
- 3 small oranges (and the cloves to go with them to make pomanders)
- 7-9 mini pumpkins or ornamental gourds (depending on size – get as small as you can)
- 5 stems of Chinese lanterns (or orange chillies on a stem available from good florists)
- 12 green and red finger chillies
- 9 chrysanthemums (added for an evening)
Zone 2 - a lighter mix of ingredients
- 10 stems of agapanthus (or peony heads)
- 5 branches of Spindle seed heads (or callicarpa. Rosehips or sloes)
- 5 stems Cyperus or lablab bean seed heads (or sedge or other grasses)
How to Get the Look
- Pad out the frame. For this, the best material is moss which is included in your pack. Lay an even and generous layer over the frame, putting the same amount all round, using up all that we’ve provided. Wire this padding to the frame with florists’ wire, (thin wire on a spool) binding it quite tightly. Aim for the padding to be about 7.5cm across. Don’t get much wider than this, or it looks too heavy.
- Add a loop of wire with which to hang up the finished wreath and mark this by tying on a piece of string. It’s easy to loose the hoop without this string marker when the whole thing is completed and full of stuff.
- Now cover the moss with silver birch or cornus twigs or some sprigs of rosemary – rich, dark-green and scented. They help create a more generous look and strengthen the frame. Push the stem ends in hard so that they jam into the moss and then, every so often, bind them in a curve on to the base with reel wire.
- Make your pomanders. The scent of pomanders is fantastic and will fill a room with smells of Christmas if you use this wreath as a table centre, but it will last better outside on a door. Use a fruit zester or potato peeler and cut a spiral into the peel of a small orange (or tight-skinned clementine). Then poke cloves into the line you’ve cut.
- Now start to add the colour to your base. I add colour to the wreath in two ‘zones’. Zone 1 is strong and dramatic, with 3–4 bright ingredients, repeated 3 times at around three, six and nine o’clock in a sort of triangle. Zone 2 is the intermediate area in between. This needs to have some colour, but not so much that it will compete with zone 1.
Start with zone 1. If you’ve got decent stems on whatever you’re adding, push them firmly into the moss and twig base. If they don’t have good stems, poke wire through them and bend it round the base. For the heavy things like oranges and pumpkins, push a length of strong stub wire in to the middle where the stem once was, inserting it to at least half the fruit’s depth. Poke in another length at right angles to the first, about a third of the way up the fruit. Bend both ends down and twist them round the central wire. This triple thickness makes a stalk strong. If the fruit is smaller still, like single finger chillies, kumquats, crab apples and cranberries, thread them like beads onto a chain, leaving a decent length of wire bald so that you can attach the chains to the wreath and push them in.
Then fill in zone 2 with the lighter mix of seedpods and leaves. Keep going until you have covered your whole wreath base. For a party, you can add fresh flowers – such as chrysanthemums – trying to make sure the stems are in the moss to keep them alive as long as possible. Chrysanths anyway last for a couple of days out of water.
- You may want to protect the surface of the door, so you’ll need to back it with some plastic (a black bin liner is fine) which you attach with the moss pins. Cut up the black plastic dustbin bags into several strips about the width of your wreath. Attach the first strip to the back with moss pegs, used like large staples. Pleat the plastic, to and fro, pinning it on to the back of the moss as you go. Then add another strip, until you’ve covered the whole of the back of your wreath.
That’s it! You now just need to hang it. I add a length of brightly coloured ribbon covering my loop of wire.
Rehydrate the moss if it dries out by floating the wreath in a sink of water for half an hour every week or so. It will last at least a month, kept cool, hanging outside.