“And here’s one I prepared earlier…” I’ve always wanted to say that!
One of the simplest and most satisfying things you can make for Christmas is a natural wreath – made exclusively from foraged or garden-grown greenery, it would cost you a fortune in a florists, and can be made for pennies or free at home. I am going to share the instructions for a basic wreath base, but once you’ve got the base made, the world is your oyster. You can do minimalist, tasteful, kitchen, edible, over-the-top, traditional, colour-themed or anything else that takes your fancy.
The base is willow, not moss or Oasis, so the stems are not in water – to make them last longer, stand your foliage in water overnight, and it should keep for a couple of weeks in cold temperatures. Mine probably won’t last until Christmas as I’ve done it early to demonstrate, but I don’t really care as I can just make another one! It is a pretty basic, traditional one (mainly because it was perishing cold outside and I didn’t want to be away from the fire for more than ten minutes), but you could take much longer and get a really fabulous result.
You will need 6 or 7 thin, whippy willow stems: these should be quite easy to find on the top of a hedgerow, or 1 year-old hazel or cornus (dogwood) is a good alternative. Any thin, straight, bendy woody stems will do, but willow is easiest. As far as tools are concerned, just secateurs and scissors are needed. I used thin wire, but you could use string. I also used a bit of snow spray, and you could use gold or silver spray, white spray, baubles or any other decorations or ribbons you fancy.
Take your first stem, and bend it round into a circle, winding round itself to hold. It will be a bit wonky at this stage, but don’t panic, as it will even out as you add more stems (see picture for step-by-step).
Take your second stem, and starting a little bit along from where you started last time, wind it round and round the first one. Tuck the end in as you finish to keep it together. Do the same with 5 or 6 stems, and you should have a sturdy ring.
That is the difficult bit done – from now on, anything goes! For a traditional wreath, start with a base of conifer, either Christmas Tree trimmings or Leylandii work well (now is the time to raid your neighbour’s hedge). Holly is traditional, but I tend to leave it until last, for the sake of my fingers! There may be a good holly bush nearby covered in berries, but don’t get your hopes up: if there is the slightest cold snap, the birds will strip a holly bush of its berries overnight. Any red berries will do – rose hips, cotoneaster, or anything you can find (just be aware that some will be poisonous, so always wash your hands afterwards).
I have added some blue spruce from the garden, and a few fir cones which I tied around with wire and tied on. This is very difficult if your fir cones are tightly shut – I find ten minutes in a low oven opens them up nicely, and dries them off too, if you are using them indoors. You can add whatever you want now – it really is totally up to your taste and imagination, and if you can spare several hours, take a look at Pinterest for inspiration. I have added a sprinkle of fake snow, as I can’t quite resist a bit of Christmas cheesiness, but the rules on tastefulness are entirely up to you!
Some variations are:
Everlasting: No greenery, just pine cones, old man’s beard, cinnamon, ribbons, decorations
Woodland: Fir cones, twigs, old man’s beard, log slices, nuts, beech mast cases, acorns
Traditional: Conifer, holly, ivy, fir cones, bay leaves, berries, ribbon
Minimalist: Any one of the above, or just ivy, or greys such as eucalyptus. Spray the base, and just add a sprig or two.
Foody: Cinnamon, oranges, dried chillies, nut, candy canes
Kitch: Kids toys, Christmas decorations, loads of snow!
The beauty of this is that anything goes, and as it uses stuff that you already have or can gather from the hedges, it’s free. If you make the base, it’s easy for a child to embellish, and it as its free you can gather all the bits and bobs and make one each!
If you need some help, there are lots of places offering wreath-making workshops, but I reckon most people could probably have a pretty good bash at it themselves.
One of the things I enjoy most about Christmas is making things, so much that last year my New Years’s Resolution was to more of my ‘Christmas’ things (crafts, cooking, trips to see friends & family etc) all year round, rather than just crammed into one hectic month. Little things like a home-made wreath can be a nice way to spend a bit of time alone or as a family, and just the foraging walk beforehand is fun too, so get out there and see what you can rustle up. And I’d love to see some pictures on my Facebook page!