McKenzie River Reflections - Make the McKenzie Connection!

Invent your own festive wreath


December 12, 2015

WreathBy Kym Pokorny

Wreaths hung on the door with care call out a festive “Happy Holidays.”

Share that message in a special way by making your own circle of cheer with plants clipped from the garden or gathered from friends and neighbors.

“A good part of the fun of making your own wreath is going around the neighborhood, collecting plants and talking to people,” said Susan Hoffman, who has been a master gardener with Oregon State University’s Extension Service since 2012.

Be sure, she added, to ask before you clip.

At the entry to almost every store, simple wreaths are stacked up for sale. They’re made with some greenery, a bow and perhaps a lonely pinecone. And they’re not cheap. Those fashioned by your own hands cost almost nothing and are limited only by imagination and available plants.

Some of the plants used at a recent master gardener wreath-making affair at the Benton County Fairgrounds included long-lasting selections like traditional Douglas fir, fragrant incense cedar and red-berried holly. Other types of fir and cedar, as well as yew, blue spruce, boxwood, laurel and lavender were there for the taking. For color, texture and berries, the wreath-makers added nandina, pyracantha and purple beautyberry. Of course, there are many other options.

“You can use absolutely anything you want,” said Jana Tindall, a master gardener and organizer of the event.

If a wreath seems too intimidating, a swag is a very simple alternative, Hoffman said. Just gather up some plant cuttings, tie the stems together, add a bow and decorations and that’s the end of that. Even easier is a bouquet of plants for a centerpiece. In a vase, place a piece of florist’s foam soaked in water and stick in your choice of plants. In a clear vase, hide the foam with moss, lichen, small pinecones or red and/or green marbles found at craft stores.

“They’re really easy and quick,” said Tindall. “You can make them in less than half an hour in time for a party.”

To make a wreath is not much harder, though it takes more time. One piece of advice from Tindall - have a table available. Bending and kneeling can be hard on the back and knees.

How to make a wreath from the Benton County Master Gardeners:

Tools and materials

  • Clippers

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Wire (at least 22 gauge)

  • Wire or grapevine frame (available at craft stores)

  • Gloves

  • Plant clippings

  • Pinecones, small pieces of wood, bows, ribbon, Christmas tree decorations (optional)


  • Design wreath by laying out in a circle on the table, using heaviest-textured plants in the back. Or, if you’d rather, design as you go.

  • Transfer background layer of plants to frame. Leave wire on the spool it came on. Twist one end of wire to the frame with your fingers or pliers. Wearing gloves is recommended.

  • Wind wire around the plants and frame in a clockwise direction, pulling it tight to keep plants from falling off. When you’ve come back to where you started, twist wire to frame behind plants. Alternately, gather a group of plant clippings together in a clump like a bouquet. Wind wire around stems and twist ends together. Then secure each clump to the frame, overlapping stem ends to keep them from showing.

  • To create a second layer, slip stem ends into the first layer and wrap and attach wire the same way as the first layer. Fluff out small pieces of plant so wire doesn’t show.

  • For small, lightweight pieces of plant, slip snugly into wreath. If they feel wobbly, wire them on.

  • If using pinecones, wood and decorations secure a length of wire to them, leaving long ends. Wrap those ends around frame or piece of plant stem and twist tightly.

  • To make a hanger, cut a small piece of wire. Secure one end and then the other to the frame to form a loop. Be sure to position the loop so that you’ve got top of the wreath where you want it.

Image above: Photo by Kym Pokorny. To make a statement, Kathi Tucker, an OSU Master Gardener, used a whole raft of unusual plants, including variegated pieris, burgundy-leaved nandina, variegated euonymus and beautyberry.


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