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Wednesday, January 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Branching out for the holidays

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 1, 2019

’Tis the season to deck your halls. Sure, you could go out and buy something already made, but it’s much more fun – and economical – to create holiday décor using natural materials from the garden. It’s easy to make a wreath for your front door, a centerpiece for the table or a holiday swag to display and enjoy.

Strolling through your yard looking for potential materials is half the fun. Greenery from conifers such as pines, firs, spruce, yews and junipers makes an excellent base for wreaths and swags. Cuttings from shrubs that that don’t lose their leaves make wonderful contributions, as well. Examples include sprigs of rhododendron, boxwood, laurel or holly.

If your garden is lacking in suitable materials, however, there is nothing wrong with asking a friend or neighbor if you could judiciously take a few cuttings from a tree or shrub. Better yet, why not invite them to join you so you can create holiday decorations for your homes together? That’s a wonderful way to visit while celebrating this special season.

For those who don’t have access to evergreens, visit a Christmas tree lot. Since the employees often trim tree branches for customers, they would probably be happy to let you have all the branches you can use.

In addition to natural materials, you will need a few craft supplies to make your creations. There is a list of suggestions in the information box. Wreaths and swags can be as simple as you like, or you can add a little pizazz with holiday ornaments, glittery snowflakes, jingle bells, sparkly pinecones or bird ornaments. The possibilities are endless, so go for a theme that appeals to you.

Before getting started, cover your workspace with a plastic tablecloth to keep the debris confined to a small space. Let’s go through the steps for creating festive décor:


Start by attaching a loop of floral wire to the wreath for eventually hanging it. To make the top of the wreath easy to find during assembly, temporarily tie a length of ribbon to the wire loop.

Grapevine wreath forms are the easiest to work with because you can push small branches into the nooks and crannies rather than having to wire everything onto it. The second easiest form to use is made from extruded foam into which you push your materials.

There also are wire wreath forms where you make a small bundle of evergreens or other materials, wire it together, set it aside and repeat until you have made several. Then wire the individual bundles to the wreath form, slowly working around the perimeter while creating a dense layer of greenery. While it’s effective, it is a bit tedious.

Once you have a base of natural plant materials on your wreath form, it’s time to include accents. This might be the above-mentioned evergreen sprigs, seed pods, berries or decorative items. The finishing touch is usually a festive ribbon.

Hang your wreath, adjust it as necessary and admire your work. Natural wreaths will last until spring.


Swags are so simple to make, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made any before. Gather evergreen materials in the length and density you want. If desired, add interesting branches and securely wrap them together a few inches from the top using floral wire. Make a bow, and hang the swag where you can enjoy it.


Soak a block of oasis floral foam in water until it becomes saturated, then place it in a watertight container. Insert a candle holder or two into the top of the foam and start pushing fresh evergreens or other cuttings into it. Continue adding materials until the foam is no longer visible. Add accents as desired, as well as the candles. Moisten the foam as necessary over the holidays to keep the arrangement looking nice.

You can watch step-by-step instructions for these projects and more in this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video on

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at

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