For this guide, we’ve enlisted the help of Jeremy Warren, nursery manager at New Garden Landscaping & Nursery in Greensboro, who also answers to “wreath magician.” And soon you can, too.
Materials and tools:
- Wreath ring with sturdy, bendable clamps (You can recycle the ring from last year’s live wreath or construct one out of a scrap of welded wire fencing.)
- Thick pliers
- Hand shears
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Wreath bow, store-bought or hand-made
- Floral wire, for hanging from a hook (optional)
- Felt, to prevent back of wreath from scratching door or wall (optional)
Plants and natural materials:
You’ll want greenery that is soft to the touch and holds its needles once cut. Find plants that offer different textures and colors. Bonus points if they smell nice! Examples below.
(** denotes materials used for pictured wreath.)
For the base of your wreath bundles, Warren recommends gathering a large quantity of branches from hardy, fast-growing evergreens plants such as:
- Green giant arborvitae** — Don’t be bashful cutting from this screening plant. You can hardly tell if any branches are missing after you’ve gathered enough of it for a wreath or two.
- Leyland cypress** — Leyland cypress is a touch-friendly, durable alternative to red cedar or other junipers, which Warren warns can be irritating to the skin. In this tutorial, he combines green giant arborvitae and Leyland cypress to give the pictured wreath added depth.
- Fraser fir — Here’s to our state Christmas tree. Its branches make a great wreath and create an iconic Christmas look — don’t forget the red bow.
- Boxwood — For a traditional, minimalistic wreath, stick with boxwood. “You can generally beg, steal, or borrow some boxwood from somebody this time of year,” Warren says.
For additional bundle layering, find some false cypress and magnolia branches.
- False cypress** — Just about any false cypress will do, but Warren likes combining hinoki, golden mop, and baby blue sawara varieties for extra texture and color. They’re slow-growing plants, so you don’t want them to be the main component of your wreath, but they provide a wonderful accent.
- Magnolia** — A Southern classic, the magnolia embodies home. Unless you’re working with an extra large wreath, Warren recommends cutting from a little gem dwarf magnolia since its branches are easier to work with.
- Eucalyptus — This plant has a great smell and works well in a boxwood wreath.
As far as other embellishments, you’ve got your options.
- Winterberry holly** — This plant loses all of its leaves following the first frost but will hold its bright berries all winter.
- Large feathers** — On your next nature walk, collect a few.
- River birch twigs ** — These spindly twigs give the wreath a fun, rustic feel.
- Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
- Small pinecones
- Sweet gum balls
Editor’s Note: Embrace imperfection. “When you’re going for a natural look, you can work against yourself trying to get it perfect,” Warren says. Below is how he made our wreath. Alter directions accordingly if the greenery you’re using is different from what Warren used.
- Collect materials and organize them into piles. It helps to have an outdoor workspace, but a large kitchen table will do just fine.
- If you are creating your own wreath ring using scrap fencing, carefully cut a strip of wire with prongs still attached on both sides. You’ll want the strip to be 20-30 inches in length, depending on how large you’d like your wreath to be. Bring ends of the wire strip together. Using pliers, loop and fasten prongs together to create a sturdy ring.
- Using a piece of floral wire (or two, if your wreath is larger), securely tie a loop around the part of the wreath that you want it hang from a nail or wreath hook.
- If desired, cut a piece of felt that fits the shape of the wreath and fasten to the back of the wreath with hot glue.
- Gather a large, neat handful of branches, each branch approximately 6-8 inches in length, of green giant arborvitae and Leyland cypress. This combination will serve as the base of your first wreath bundle.
- Place bundle between two clamps on wreath ring and layer with a little bit of false cypress or magnolia. The bottom of the branches should hang over the clamp by an inch or two.
- Using your pliers, crimp each clamp against the bundle so that it is secure. Crimping is key. If your bundles aren’t secure, you’ll have wreath that’s sadder than a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. If the bottoms of the branches create too much bulk, trim as necessary.
- Repeat Steps 5-7, laying each bundle in the same direction as the one before it. Alter the greenery slightly each time to create a more natural look. When crimping the last bundle, gently pull back the first bundle to get a better view of your work. Once all bundles are in place, arrange branches to personal preference.
- We’re adorning our wreath with two sets of twigs, one on either side of the bow, to create balance. If incorporating river birch twigs in your wreath, wrap the middle of each bunch with floral wire.
- Working quickly and carefully, cover the bottom of each twig bunch with hot glue and securely insert it into the greenery. Stick between the clamps for extra support, if necessary.
- If using winterberry holly, cover the bottom of each branch with hot glue and securely insert it into the greenery.
- Place and secure bow where twig sets converge, as pictured. A tight bow will help keep twigs and holly branches in place.
- Adorn remainder of wreath as you see fit by attaching feathers; pinecones; and more delicate greenery, such as baby blue sawara, with hot glue. Rearrange any stray pieces of greenery or decorations.
The Finished Product
How’d it turn out? Tag us in pictures of your finished product on Instagram, and use the hashtag #ourstatediy. If you’d like to preserve your wreath well into the holiday season, Warren recommends spraying your wreath Wilt Pruf.